The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Political Science

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you to recognize and to follow writing standards in political science. The first step toward accomplishing this goal is to develop a basic understanding of political science and the kind of work political scientists do.

Defining politics and political science

Political scientist Harold Laswell said it best: at its most basic level, politics is the struggle of “who gets what, when, how.” This struggle may be as modest as competing interest groups fighting over control of a small municipal budget or as overwhelming as a military stand-off between international superpowers. Political scientists study such struggles, both small and large, in an effort to develop general principles or theories about the way the world of politics works. Think about the title of your course or re-read the course description in your syllabus. You’ll find that your course covers a particular sector of the large world of “politics” and brings with it a set of topics, issues, and approaches to information that may be helpful to consider as you begin a writing assignment. The diverse structure of political science reflects the diverse kinds of problems the discipline attempts to analyze and explain. In fact, political science includes at least eight major sub-fields:

  • American politics examines political behavior and institutions in the United States.
  • Comparative politics analyzes and compares political systems within and across different geographic regions.
  • International relations investigates relations among nation states and the activities of international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and NATO, as well as international actors such as terrorists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multi-national corporations (MNCs).
  • Political theory analyzes fundamental political concepts such as power and democracy and foundational questions, like “How should the individual and the state relate?”
  • Political methodology deals with the ways that political scientists ask and investigate questions.
  • Public policy examines the process by which governments make public decisions.
  • Public administration studies the ways that government policies are implemented.
  • Public law focuses on the role of law and courts in the political process.

What is scientific about political science?

Investigating relationships.

Although political scientists are prone to debate and disagreement, the majority view the discipline as a genuine science. As a result, political scientists generally strive to emulate the objectivity as well as the conceptual and methodological rigor typically associated with the so-called “hard” sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, and physics). They see themselves as engaged in revealing the relationships underlying political events and conditions. Based on these revelations, they attempt to state general principles about the way the world of politics works. Given these aims, it is important for political scientists’ writing to be conceptually precise, free from bias, and well-substantiated by empirical evidence. Knowing that political scientists value objectivity may help you in making decisions about how to write your paper and what to put in it.

Political theory is an important exception to this empirical approach. You can learn more about writing for political theory classes in the section “Writing in Political Theory” below.

Building theories

Since theory-building serves as the cornerstone of the discipline, it may be useful to see how it works. You may be wrestling with theories or proposing your own as you write your paper. Consider how political scientists have arrived at the theories you are reading and discussing in your course. Most political scientists adhere to a simple model of scientific inquiry when building theories. The key to building precise and persuasive theories is to develop and test hypotheses. Hypotheses are statements that researchers construct for the purpose of testing whether or not a certain relationship exists between two phenomena. To see how political scientists use hypotheses, and to imagine how you might use a hypothesis to develop a thesis for your paper, consider the following example. Suppose that we want to know whether presidential elections are affected by economic conditions. We could formulate this question into the following hypothesis:

“When the national unemployment rate is greater than 7 percent at the time of the election, presidential incumbents are not reelected.”

Collecting data

In the research model designed to test this hypothesis, the dependent variable (the phenomenon that is affected by other variables) would be the reelection of incumbent presidents; the independent variable (the phenomenon that may have some effect on the dependent variable) would be the national unemployment rate. You could test the relationship between the independent and dependent variables by collecting data on unemployment rates and the reelection of incumbent presidents and comparing the two sets of information. If you found that in every instance that the national unemployment rate was greater than 7 percent at the time of a presidential election the incumbent lost, you would have significant support for our hypothesis.

However, research in political science seldom yields immediately conclusive results. In this case, for example, although in most recent presidential elections our hypothesis holds true, President Franklin Roosevelt was reelected in 1936 despite the fact that the national unemployment rate was 17%. To explain this important exception and to make certain that other factors besides high unemployment rates were not primarily responsible for the defeat of incumbent presidents in other election years, you would need to do further research. So you can see how political scientists use the scientific method to build ever more precise and persuasive theories and how you might begin to think about the topics that interest you as you write your paper.

Clear, consistent, objective writing

Since political scientists construct and assess theories in accordance with the principles of the scientific method, writing in the field conveys the rigor, objectivity, and logical consistency that characterize this method. Thus political scientists avoid the use of impressionistic or metaphorical language, or language which appeals primarily to our senses, emotions, or moral beliefs. In other words, rather than persuade you with the elegance of their prose or the moral virtue of their beliefs, political scientists persuade through their command of the facts and their ability to relate those facts to theories that can withstand the test of empirical investigation. In writing of this sort, clarity and concision are at a premium. To achieve such clarity and concision, political scientists precisely define any terms or concepts that are important to the arguments that they make. This precision often requires that they “operationalize” key terms or concepts. “Operationalizing” simply means that important—but possibly vague or abstract—concepts like “justice” are defined in ways that allow them to be measured or tested through scientific investigation.

Fortunately, you will generally not be expected to devise or operationalize key concepts entirely on your own. In most cases, your professor or the authors of assigned readings will already have defined and/or operationalized concepts that are important to your research. And in the event that someone hasn’t already come up with precisely the definition you need, other political scientists will in all likelihood have written enough on the topic that you’re investigating to give you some clear guidance on how to proceed. For this reason, it is always a good idea to explore what research has already been done on your topic before you begin to construct your own argument. See our handout on making an academic argument .

Example of an operationalized term

To give you an example of the kind of rigor and objectivity political scientists aim for in their writing, let’s examine how someone might operationalize a term. Reading through this example should clarify the level of analysis and precision that you will be expected to employ in your writing. Here’s how you might define key concepts in a way that allows us to measure them.

We are all familiar with the term “democracy.” If you were asked to define this term, you might make a statement like the following:

“Democracy is government by the people.”

You would, of course, be correct—democracy is government by the people. But, in order to evaluate whether or not a particular government is fully democratic or is more or less democratic when compared with other governments, we would need to have more precise criteria with which to measure or assess democracy. For example, here are some criteria that political scientists have suggested are indicators of democracy:

  • Freedom to form and join organizations
  • Freedom of expression
  • Right to vote
  • Eligibility for public office
  • Right of political leaders to compete for support
  • Right of political leaders to compete for votes
  • Alternative sources of information
  • Free and fair elections
  • Institutions for making government policies depend on votes and other expressions of preference

If we adopt these nine criteria, we now have a definition that will allow us to measure democracy empirically. Thus, if you want to determine whether Brazil is more democratic than Sweden, you can evaluate each country in terms of the degree to which it fulfills the above criteria.

What counts as good writing in political science?

While rigor, clarity, and concision will be valued in any piece of writing in political science, knowing the kind of writing task you’ve been assigned will help you to write a good paper. Two of the most common kinds of writing assignments in political science are the research paper and the theory paper.

Writing political science research papers

Your instructors use research paper assignments as a means of assessing your ability to understand a complex problem in the field, to develop a perspective on this problem, and to make a persuasive argument in favor of your perspective. In order for you to successfully meet this challenge, your research paper should include the following components:

  • An introduction
  • A problem statement
  • A discussion of methodology
  • A literature review
  • A description and evaluation of your research findings
  • A summary of your findings

Here’s a brief description of each component.

In the introduction of your research paper, you need to give the reader some basic background information on your topic that suggests why the question you are investigating is interesting and important. You will also need to provide the reader with a statement of the research problem you are attempting to address and a basic outline of your paper as a whole. The problem statement presents not only the general research problem you will address but also the hypotheses that you will consider. In the methodology section, you will explain to the reader the research methods you used to investigate your research topic and to test the hypotheses that you have formulated. For example, did you conduct interviews, use statistical analysis, rely upon previous research studies, or some combination of all of these methodological approaches?

Before you can develop each of the above components of your research paper, you will need to conduct a literature review. A literature review involves reading and analyzing what other researchers have written on your topic before going on to do research of your own. There are some very pragmatic reasons for doing this work. First, as insightful as your ideas may be, someone else may have had similar ideas and have already done research to test them. By reading what they have written on your topic, you can ensure that you don’t repeat, but rather learn from, work that has already been done. Second, to demonstrate the soundness of your hypotheses and methodology, you will need to indicate how you have borrowed from and/or improved upon the ideas of others.

By referring to what other researchers have found on your topic, you will have established a frame of reference that enables the reader to understand the full significance of your research results. Thus, once you have conducted your literature review, you will be in a position to present your research findings. In presenting these findings, you will need to refer back to your original hypotheses and explain the manner and degree to which your results fit with what you anticipated you would find. If you see strong support for your argument or perhaps some unexpected results that your original hypotheses cannot account for, this section is the place to convey such important information to your reader. This is also the place to suggest further lines of research that will help refine, clarify inconsistencies with, or provide additional support for your hypotheses. Finally, in the summary section of your paper, reiterate the significance of your research and your research findings and speculate upon the path that future research efforts should take.

Writing in political theory

Political theory differs from other subfields in political science in that it deals primarily with historical and normative, rather than empirical, analysis. In other words, political theorists are less concerned with the scientific measurement of political phenomena than with understanding how important political ideas develop over time. And they are less concerned with evaluating how things are than in debating how they should be. A return to our democracy example will make these distinctions clearer and give you some clues about how to write well in political theory.

Earlier, we talked about how to define democracy empirically so that it can be measured and tested in accordance with scientific principles. Political theorists also define democracy, but they use a different standard of measurement. Their definitions of democracy reflect their interest in political ideals—for example, liberty, equality, and citizenship—rather than scientific measurement. So, when writing about democracy from the perspective of a political theorist, you may be asked to make an argument about the proper way to define citizenship in a democratic society. Should citizens of a democratic society be expected to engage in decision-making and administration of government, or should they be satisfied with casting votes every couple of years?

In order to substantiate your position on such questions, you will need to pay special attention to two interrelated components of your writing: (1) the logical consistency of your ideas and (2) the manner in which you use the arguments of other theorists to support your own. First, you need to make sure that your conclusion and all points leading up to it follow from your original premises or assumptions. If, for example, you argue that democracy is a system of government through which citizens develop their full capacities as human beings, then your notion of citizenship will somehow need to support this broad definition of democracy. A narrow view of citizenship based exclusively or primarily on voting probably will not do. Whatever you argue, however, you will need to be sure to demonstrate in your analysis that you have considered the arguments of other theorists who have written about these issues. In some cases, their arguments will provide support for your own; in others, they will raise criticisms and concerns that you will need to address if you are going to make a convincing case for your point of view.

Drafting your paper

If you have used material from outside sources in your paper, be sure to cite them appropriately in your paper. In political science, writers most often use the APA or Turabian (a version of the Chicago Manual of Style) style guides when formatting references. Check with your instructor if he or she has not specified a citation style in the assignment. For more information on constructing citations, see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial.

Although all assignments are different, the preceding outlines provide a clear and simple guide that should help you in writing papers in any sub-field of political science. If you find that you need more assistance than this short guide provides, refer to the list of additional resources below or make an appointment to see a tutor at the Writing Center.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Becker, Howard S. 2007. Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article , 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cuba, Lee. 2002. A Short Guide to Writing About Social Science , 4th ed. New York: Longman.

Lasswell, Harold Dwight. 1936. Politics: Who Gets What, When, How . New York: McGraw-Hill.

Scott, Gregory M., and Stephen M. Garrison. 1998. The Political Science Student Writer’s Manual , 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Study Political Theory

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A Student Companion to Graham and Hoffman, Introduction to Political Theory

Intended learning outcomes – developing your transferable skills.

University courses have what are called ‘intended learning outcomes’ (ILOs). An intended learning outcome is what a student should be able to achieve on the completion of a course and can be tested through, for example, tutorial/seminar participation, unseen written exams, seen exams (‘takeaway papers’), multiple choice questions, and course essays. There are at least four different kinds of ILO: transferable skills; generic academic skills; cognate academic skills; and, subject-specific skills. This guide concentrates on the last of these: the skills specific to the understanding of political theory (the ‘10 rules’). However, it is worth saying something about the other three kinds of ILO:

Transferable skills

These are skills useful in employment situations. Specifically, the study of political theory should strengthen the following:

  • General reasoning abilities – recognising valid and invalid arguments.
  • Capacity to make valid conceptual distinctions – the consistent use of concepts.
  • Writing skills.
  • Oral skills – the ability to argue a case through, for example: (a) defending your own position; or (b) playing ‘devil’s advocate’.
  • A deeper understanding of social relations, including the ability to abstract from everyday situations – reflection on ‘case studies’ is particularly important here.
  • Ethical reasoning.
  • Empathy – the ability to recognise other people’s points of view.

Generic academic skills

These are skills which can be ‘transferred’ to other university subjects, especially in the arts (or humanities) and social sciences. They include the skills listed above under ‘transferable skills’, but additionally:

  • The ability to write grammatically and syntactically correct and properly referenced academic essays.
  • The capacity to construct arguments under examination conditions – that is, in a specified time and without notes.
  • The framing of an oral argument and ability to defend it in group discussion.

Cognate - subject academic skills

Political theory ‘interfaces’ with a number of other disciplines, or sub-disciplines, and skills gained in the study of political theory are ‘transferable’ to these other sub-disciplines. Cognate disciplines and sub-disciplines include:

  • History, especially the history of ideas.
  • Economics – e.g., welfare economics and rational choice.
  • Law – e.g., legal philosophy and legal theory.
  • Sociology and anthropology.
  • Social and public policy.
  • Literature – e.g., textual analysis.
  • Biology – e.g., sociobiology.

It is important to recognise that different disciplines pose different questions and these should not be confused. However, it is also important to avoid arbitrary distinctions between disciplines – knowledge, understanding, and skills acquired in one discipline can be transferred to another.

Ten rules for studying political theory

Rule 1: think for yourself.

So long as you acknowledge alternative positions, it is better to present your own arguments rather than a boring list of alternative claims. Have confidence in your own position! There is, however, a difference between presenting your own argument and engaging in a polemic: you must provide a reasoned defence of a particular position. Furthermore, while political theorists disagree, it does not follow that political values are ‘subjective’ – you are giving other people reasons for accepting a certain claim and not simply banging the table and saying (in effect) I feel strongly about something (you can, of course, communicate reasons and feel strongly, but the reasons are crucial).

Rule 2: Use concepts with precision

Concepts are central to all academic disciplines, but especially the humanities and social sciences. Some political theorists claim we can agree on the meaning of concepts, such as (say) freedom or democracy while disagreeing about the value attached to each, or how we settle conflicts between values. Other political theorists argue that disagreement pertains to the meaning, as well as the value, of concepts. Whichever view you take, it is important to define your concepts, even if other people may disagree with your definition. You must also be consistent in your definition and application of concepts.

Rule 3: Recognise the importance of everyday experience

Even before you began studying political theory you had engaged in ‘political theory’: reflections on the fairness or unfairness of wealth distribution, or the legitimacy or illegitimacy of restrictions on freedom, involve theorising about politics and morality. Although few politicians read works of political theory (or philosophy), they often (implicitly) make moral judgements about ‘political issues’. Case studies are a particularly good way of drawing out the moral implications of everyday experience. These contrast with artificial thought experiments, where the aim is quite deliberately to remove contingent elements or to force you to think in a certain way – both case studies and thought-experiments can be useful.

Rule 4: Be critical of everyday assumptions

While everyday experience is valuable – because it demonstrates the relevance of political theory – it is also important to be critical of everyday assumptions. The ‘person in the street’ might say ‘it’s just common sense that such and such is (ought to be) the case’. It may be that after critical reflection you come to endorse the ‘common sense’ view, but then in defending the view you would not be appealing to common sense.

Rule 5: Read texts critically

There is a great deal of published work in political theory, some good and some bad. Even the work of the greatest and most respected political theorists are open to challenge. In studying political theory think of a building. Buildings have ‘stress points’ and ‘loadbearing’ elements, and so do theories – but the precise location of these will vary from one theory to another. When you read a work of a great theorist, such as Hobbes or Locke or Marx, you need to identify the stress points, because these are the points that are most open to attack.

Rule 6: Learn to analyse texts

Continuing with the building analogy, just as a building can be deconstructed so can texts. While it is important to respect the text as a whole rather than pick out the supposedly ‘good bits’ from what may appear to be a great deal of ‘padding’, nonetheless, some sentences carry greater weight than others, and the more you engage with texts the better will be your ability to identify the central arguments.

Rule 7: Engage with the argument

Some theories will appeal to you, others will not – indeed, you may even find some arguments obnoxious. While there is nothing wrong with disliking a theory (see rule 1), it is important to engage with it, which means trying to put the most credible interpretation on it. It is also important to avoid ‘naming’ an argument as a substitute to criticising it: for example, some people might regard the term ‘classical liberal’ as derogatory. They then identify a particular thinker’s work as ‘classical liberal’ as if that were a sufficient ground for rejection. Genuine criticism involves drawing out the truth of an argument – it is not simple rejection

Rule 8: Employ lateral thinking

It may be quite challenging to employ lateral thinking at an introductory level, but some moral problems in politics look intractable because we make false assumptions, or because there are considerations at play which are not obvious from the way the problem is explained (a ‘problem’ is here defined as a puzzle). Lateral thinking involves looking at a problem from new and possibly strange angles. In political theory, the term is rarely used, but nonetheless, there is much lateral thinking, and it often takes the form of analogical thinking – using something from outside politics to explain a political problem. The Prisoner's Dilemma is a classic example, for it helps elucidate the problem of why people who are in profound conflict with one another might cooperate.

Rule 9: Argue cogently and coherently

Arguments in political theory do not always depend on ‘logic’ in the strict sense of the word – that is, conclusions do not follow in a linear manner from a set of premises. There is reliance on empirical claims about the nature of human beings and society, which can reasonably be challenged. Nonetheless, there are standards of cogency and coherence, and while an argument will always be open to challenge, it is usually obvious when a person has advanced obviously contradictory claims.

Rule 10: Form matters

Writing grammatically and syntactically correct sentences is not only an important transferable skill, but can be indicative of cogent and coherent argumentation – form (good writing) and substance (good arguments) are not independent of one another. Writing comes more easily to some students than others, but it is important to take pride in what you write.

Using the Graham & Hoffman resources

This part of the guide explains the various features of the textbook and the Companion Website and how to use them most effectively.

Case studies

Each chapter begins with a case study. Your tutor/instructor will provide further guidance on how to approach them, but there are some general points to be made about the case studies:

  • Tackle the case study before you read the rest of the chapter.
  • Engage in a ‘brainstorming’ exercise: write down anything relevant to the case under consideration, then:
  • Go through the list, deleting what, on reflection, you think is unimportant, and put the remaining points in categories according to the type of argument or claim being made (e.g., factual versus normative, or ‘evaluative’), and then rank the points in order of importance.
  • When you have read the chapter, return to the case study and consider whether your views have changed (it may be that your conclusion has not changed, but that you have revised the arguments which lead you to that conclusion).

There are further case studies on this website.

Web resources

Web resources can be found on this website. Obviously the idea of the web is that one website leads to another and your journey through the web may take you to some weird and wacky places. Some academics are quite dismissive of websites, and although this may be partly a reflection of age and generation, there are some dangers with web resources:

  • Although a great deal of rubbish appears in print, there is greater ‘quality control’ on books and journal articles than on web-based material. After all, it takes no more than ten minutes to start a blog. On the other hand, there are many intelligent blogs, often with links to interesting articles and websites. Be discerning in your use of web-based materials.
  • Arguments should be assessed on their merits rather than ad hominem from their source, but given limited time, there are some tests which can help you discriminate useful and useless websites:
  • How well-established is a website? The longer, the better. How many ‘hits’ has it got? The more, the better. How many other websites link to it? The more the better.
  • What is the quality of the backlinks (that is, links from the website)? High status web extensions are .edu and
  • Is the material available in published form? Some websites, such as are, in effect, online libraries, where everything on the website is available in hard copy in university libraries. Other websites contain legal documents, which, likewise, are available published in hard copy.
  • You should avoid excessive reliance on websites in writing course essays (see section on writing essays).
  • You should not break any laws or regulations in your web search. Some of the topics discussed in the Graham & Hoffman textbooks are controversial, and using certain keywords, such as ‘pornography’, will produce web pages which contravene your college or university regulations, if not laws. The same issue may apply to ‘guns’. If you have any concerns, you should contact your course tutors/instructors.

Further Reading

At the end of each chapter is a guide to further reading. Practices vary between countries, but in Britain lecturers tend to put more items on their reading lists than they expect students to read, with the intention being that students can choose what to read. Items may be more or less relevant depending upon what essay question you are answering. (Furthermore, there can be intense pressure on libraries, so that having a fairly long reading list to some extent reduces that pressure).

In other countries, students assume that everything on a reading list must be read. We have followed the British practice.

Finally: note-taking

Note-taking in lectures and from books is an important skill. Lecturers’ styles and approaches vary greatly – some lecture without notes and/or PowerPoint, while others have detailed notes and overheads which are made available to students. Do not be obsessed with overheads – many lecturers use them simply to give some visual structure to the lecture and it is not intended that students write everything down. It is important to listen to lectures. If you do take notes then consider whether or not a ‘linear’ technique is the best – sometimes ‘trees’ with branches leading from one point to another is better than writing sentences.

Taking notes from books is quite different to note-taking in lectures. Try to avoid writing very long notes – try to condense the argument. If you photocopy from books then avoid underlining or highlighting large chunks – when you come back to the text you want to be able quickly to identify key arguments (do not write in or mark library books!).

Writing essays (papers) in political theory

In this section, we provide guidance specific to writing essays (papers) in political theory.

Some important general points:

  • There are no ‘model answers’ to essay questions – two students can answer the same essay question and both get A grades, but their essays may be very different in style and argument.
  • Answer the question asked and not a question you would like to have been asked – be relevant!
  • You should express your own reasoned views.
  • You should develop your own style of writing, but pay attention to grammar, syntax and spelling.
  • Think about the structure of the essay.
  • Read carefully and with discrimination – develop note-taking skills. Do not read too much.
  • Organise your time – there may be many students on your course and a great deal of pressure on library and computing services.
  • Be aware that plagiarism is a serious offence.

Essays should have a beginning, middle, and end. Very roughly speaking, the beginning, or opening part, should constitute about 10-15% of the essay and tell the reader what the essay is going to say. The middle part, or ‘core’, should be about 70% of the essay and contain the central arguments and discussion, while the end, or concluding part, should provide a strong conclusion, and may be slightly longer than the opening part (say, about 20% of the essay).

Here is an example, but please note this is not presented as a ‘model answer’, but rather is intended to be an illustration of a well-structured essay:

Question: Should the state prevent people harming themselves?

• Introduction and Core:

  • Define the concepts in the question: state (= coercive); prevention (= interference); harm to self.
  • Introduce the concept of paternalism.
  • Discuss ‘extreme cases’ of harm to self. Pose the question: could anyone reasonably argue that the state should not intervene?
  • Is there a danger of a ‘slippery slope’ from extreme to ‘moderate’ cases of harm to self? Discuss the ‘moderate’ cases.
  • Could we consent to paternalism?

• Closing part: tell the reader what you think – but the conclusion must follow from the arguments set out in the 'core'.

Referencing – house style

Different academic departments recommend different forms of referencing (‘house styles’). A relatively easy one to use is the Harvard System, which is the one adopted in the Graham & Hoffman textbooks.

Whatever style you adopt, you should:

  • Use a house correctly and consistently – if you are unsure look at a book on the Further Reading lists and follow its style of referencing.
  • Always reference – failure to reference may open you to the charge of plagiarism.

Other style issues include:

  • Margins and spacing – always give the marker space to write comments. There should be reasonably sized margins and at least 1.5 spacing, if not double spacing.
  • Font – use a clear and attractive font. Arial, Calibri and Times New Roman are good fonts.
  • Use a reasonable font size – the size will depend on the font used, but anything smaller than 11 point is probably too small.
  • Avoid excessive use of bullet points.
  • Depending on the length of the essay, it may be appropriate to divide the essay into sections with section headings. A section should run for at least a couple of pages.

Grammar, syntax and spelling

Do not assume spelling and grammar checks are infallible – there are many mistakes which they will not identify. There is no alternative to checking the essay yourself. Below are listed some common errors made in politics and political theory essays:

  • English, like any other language, has different ‘registers’: using English in an academic essay is quite different to using it in a bar. This is obvious. However, sometimes there is a slippage between levels. For example, in lower registers, such as conversation, we contract: I am becomes I’m ; they are becomes they’re . In higher registers, such as essay writing, we avoid such contractions. Likewise, colloquialisms should be avoided.
  • Use of the ‘first person’: I and we . There is a division of opinion here – in political theory it is common to write in the first person (single or plural), whereas in political science it is not regarded as good practice. So long as the use of the first person does not lead to a lazy spouting of unjustified claims it is acceptable.
  • Confusion of possessive and plural – this arises because both use the s. The possessive uses apostrophe + s: Mill's argument not Mills argument . The plural does not use an apostrophe: workers of the world unite not worker’s of the world unite. Regular plural + possessive is expressed with an apostrophe after the s: workers’ rights (but not with irregular plurals: women’s rights not womens’ rights ).
  • Its and it’s : its is a possessive pronoun – the government’s policies = its policies. An apostrophe is not necessary because there can be no plural of it and hence no confusion of plural and possessive. It’s is simply a contraction of it is .
  • Latin and Greek endings: the standard ‘Anglo-Saxon’ ending is with s but as well as Anglo-Saxon irregulars, such as women, children, mice, geese, there are also Latin and Greek endings: criter ion > criter ia ; strat um > strat a ; spectr um > spectr a . However, there is a tendency to standardise: referend um > either referend a or referend ums (both are now acceptable, although the Oxford English Dictionary argues that referendums is the correct plural). If unsure, check the plural in the dictionary.
  • Principle and principal are often confused.
  • Some people write loose , when they mean lose .
  • There and their are sometimes confused.
  • A normal sentence should have a verb (in the indicative): Mill attempts to reconcile utilitarianism and individual rights.
  • Number agreement. A subject in the singular should correspond to ('govern') other elements (verbs, pronouns) in the sentence – so a singular subject should be complemented by a verb and pronoun in the singular.
  • Subjunctive: this is a mood of the verb which expresses an unreal condition. It has virtually disappeared from the English language but is retained in the verb to be: if I were a woman not if I was a woman.

Paul Graham

Revised July 2022

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Some Notes on Writing Political Theory

These notes are intended primarily for undergraduates in political theory classes. Comments and questions are welcome at [email protected] .

" ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." -- George Orwell, "Politics and English Language," A Collection of Essays (San Diego: HBJ, 1981).

Political theorizing is not the same as writing political pamphlets, but Orwell's advice is worth keeping in mind when writing papers in this course. Technical jargon is tempting ("If theorists can hide behind obscurity, well, heck, why can't I?"), but do resist it. Long sentences and big words are not stylistically desirable, no matter how much academics might use them. It is much better to write with a style and vocabulary with which you yourself are comfortable (although, of course, papers shouldn't be transcripts of how you talk). This is a controversial point; there are people who disagree. As you can tell from these notes, I am of the school of thought that regards a relaxed use of language as completely acceptable. In addition, try to remember the following points:

1 . All papers should be neatly typed. Include your name on the paper and number the pages. Cover pages and extra pages are a waste of space; they are not necessary. You must submit your paper electronically; I do not accept actual paper.

2 . Do not try cover the whole world in your paper. Stick closely to your topic , and stay focused. A careful exploration of one issue, no matter how narrow, is often more desirable than aiming at breadth.

3 . Structure your paper around a thesis you intend to defend. Forget (for now) what you have been told in creative writing classes and suchlike, and believe me when I say stylistically boring clear papers are better in political theory courses than stylistically ambitious endeavors. It is OK to begin a paper with something like:

Hobbes's account the state of nature is implausible and therefore threatens his whole theory. In this paper, I will argue that Hobbes is a bad psychologist.…

and not OK to write:

It was a stormy night, and trouble was on its way. His mind light years away, Montesquieu scratched his chin, tightened the belt of his robe, and stared into the rain. On the desk lay the Bible, with cigar ashes on it…

4 . Organize your thoughts so that your discussion supports your thesis . It is always helpful to make an outline in advance, listing the points you want to make and the order in which to present them; be sure your thesis, and your arguments for it, are evident in your final version.

5 . Whenever possible, give reasons for the claims you make . Your paper will be judged largely on your mastery of the material and the strength of your arguments. Strive for clarity of thought and expression (see #13).

6 . Address possible objections to the view you are supporting. Bring up a possible criticism of your position and respond to it. You don't need to take up every possible counterargument; you can choose one or two of the critiques you find most interesting or most pressing. (Responding to the simplest criticisms while ignoring the harder ones is a cop-out - give your opponents a fair chance.)

7 . In a scholarly paper you should be dealing in arguments, not opinions . Avoid statements such as: "I am an atheist so I think Locke is full of it." Construct an argument you think might have a chance of convincing your opponents. Remember, arguments are a form of communication: you want your opponent to understand you, and this often means looking for some common ground or 'shared understandings' to serve as a basis.

8 . So write with a critical reader in mind - someone who isn't initially sympathetic to your thesis, but who will listen to reason. You need not defend every assumption you make (most of us agree the Earth is round), but try not to assume something very controversial ("Since capitalism is obviously evil, there will never be social justice for all in the United States."). As a rule of thumb, imagine your reader is another member of the class who disagrees with you and will challenge your points.

9 . Remember the "No Idiot" principle . The people we read may occasionally sound bizarre, but the fact that they have been published means someone has taken them seriously. Try to do the same, and don't make people sound like half-wits in paraphrasing their views.

10 . If you want to attribute a view to someone we have read, make sure you interpret them carefully . On controversial points, it helps to cite textual evidence, either by quotation or by giving the page numbers of the relevant text in parenthesis or in a footnote. You must indicate when you are quoting or paraphrasing from someone else's work, and you must cite texts and page numbers. This is particularly true for secondary material, if you choose to use some. (I recommend you don't, though.) Refer to some accepted manual for appropriate ways to cite (MLA, Chicago, etc.). Any generally accepted style is OK, just stay consistent. 

11 . Acknowledge other debts as well. The general rule is that whatever is not a product of your own brain should be acknowledged. You might want to consult my brief guide on plagiarism . [These notes have been inspired by similar notes for philosophical writing by Ed Curley (Univ. of Michigan), Sally Haslanger (MIT) and Steve Yablo (MIT).]

12 . Quotes can be helpful , especially when you attribute a claim or a position to some author. However, don't overdo it: five, or seven, or 10 pages aren't, after all, that much. The paper should be by and large in your own words.

13 . Read over your paper after you have written it. Make sure you addressed the topic and made good of your initial promises. (Sometimes it makes sense to write your intro last: Then you know what you have been able to argue for in the paper, and you won't make promises you can't keep.) Rewrite any parts which might be difficult to understand. Remember, you will be only given credit for what you actually say, not what you intended to say (but didn't). We can read your words, not your mind. No one can tell you are thinking clearly if you are not writing clearly. Correct errors in grammar, spelling and typing. Using a spell-checker is recommended, but not enough: proofread ! Grammar, syntax and vocabulary matter.

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Last updated on 19-Sep-09.

Political Theory Essay

Table of contents, expert advice on how to write a political theory essay, political theory paper topics: new ideas for creative writing, political theory paper topics in comparative politics.

  • Free Political Theory Essay Sample!

The process of writing a political theory essay is different to writing a politically motivated pamphlet, and there is some advice worth bearing in mind if or when you have to write this type of paper. It is tempting to use technical terminology and/or jargon e.g. “why cannot I conceal myself behind obscurity if renowned theorists can do it?” From a style perspective, big or fancy words are not desirable nor are overly long sentences, regardless of how popular these are among academics. It is far better to use a vocabulary and writing style you feel comfortable with. By the same token, however, your paper should not be a transcript of how you speak. This point is quite a controversial one since some people do not agree. You should additionally try to bear these points in mind:

Political Theory Essay

  • Every paper should be typed in a neat manner. Add your full name and page number at the top of every page. Cover or title pages and spare pages are unnecessary – a waste. Your paper should be submitted electronically. A lot of tutors will not accept hard copies.
  • Try not to cover all the world’s problems in your essay or paper. Keep your focus and adhere to the topic. A thorough examination or analysis of a single problem, even if it is narrow, is better than being too broad ranging.
  • Your paper should be developed and structured around the thesis you will be defending. Try to forget – for the moment – what you learned in classes on creative writing and the like because papers that have a boring style are more welcome in a political theory course than a style that is too ambitious.
  • Your thoughts and ideas should be organized so that your thesis statement is properly supported by the ensuing discussion. It helps to draft an outline before you begin writing. This should include a list of the points you intend to make and in the order you intend to make them. Make sure your thesis statement and supporting arguments are clearly presented in the completed version of your paper.
  • Where possible, justify your claims or assertions. The persuasiveness of your arguments and how well you have mastered your materials will be the factors on which your paper will ultimately be judged. Make sure you express your thoughts clearly throughout.
  • Be ready to address any possible opposition to your views. Consider what criticism may be levelled at your stance and devise a suitable response. You need not try to work out every potential counter-argument, but you should choose one or perhaps two of the opposing views you find most urgent or interesting. It is a cop-out to respond only to the easiest opposition and ignore the more difficult ones. You should give those with opposite views a reasonable chance.
  • When writing any academic text, you should build arguments rather than give opinions. Therefore, the arguments you construct should be designed to convince those who might oppose you. Do not forget that arguments are a means of communicating. Your aim is to get opponents to understand your thinking, which often involves finding common or shared ground as a foundation.
  • Therefore, considering the above point, your writing should be geared towards the critical-minded reader – the ones who are not at first sympathetic towards your position but are willing to hear you out. Every assertion you make will not need to be defended. For instance, most people agree on the shape of the earth i.e. that it is round. However, you should not make any assumptions about a controversial subject, e.g., “Because capitalism is clearly an evil practice, social justice will never prevail in the USA.” As a general rule, think of your readers as fellow students who might not agree with you and may challenge your claims.
  • Do not forget the principle of “not idiots!” While some of the material we read can often sound strange, the fact it has been published suggests it has been taken seriously by someone. So avoid doing the same and do not insult people’s intelligence by paraphrasing their work, ideas or opinions.
  • If or when you need to attribute an idea, opinion or view to another person, be careful to interpret these accurately. Where a point is controversial, it can help to cite evidence or excerpts from the text. To do this, use quotations or reference the page number(s) where the citation can be found – place these in parenthesis or add them as a footnote. It is imperative to acknowledge instances where you quote or paraphrase another person’s work by citing the texts and relevant page number(s). This applies especially to secondary source material if you use any. However, some experts recommend you do not. To cite sources in an appropriate manner, check the applicable style manual e.g. the APA, Chicago or MLA style guides. Any popular style is acceptable provided your use of it is consistent.
  • It is important to acknowledge everyone you are indebted to. A good rule to follow is to acknowledge anything that is not your own work. Otherwise, you may be accused of plagiarism.
  • Using quotes can be a great help, particularly where you can attribute a viewpoint or claim to a respected author. Nonetheless, you should not over-use this option. After all, five to 10 essay pages is not that much and it should mostly be your own effort.
  • Once your paper is written, you should read it over. Check that you have properly addressed the question or topic and delivered on your early promises. (NB: Sometimes it is helpful to write the introductory paragraph at the end because by this time you better understand the scope and nature of your argument so you can keep any promises you make.) If any parts seem confusing, rewrite them. In addition, do not forget that you will only receive credit for what you have actually said and not what you meant to say but forgot or did not say. People may be able to read the written word, but they are not mind readers. Readers will not understand your thinking if you do not write your thoughts clearly. If you find any spelling, grammar or typographical errors, correct them. The use of a spell-checking program is recommended but it is not entirely reliable. Therefore, you need to manually proofread in order to catch any glitches in terms of vocabulary, syntax, and grammar usage.

If you are a student majoring in Political Studies, you will be definitely assigned essays in political theory and other adjacent topics. Therefore, you need to make sure you are aware of original and creative political theory paper topics that will help you succeed in your course. Normally, good political theory paper topics should cover the history of the Political Studies or Political Theory in particular and focus on different approaches in Political Science. Among the phenomena that reflect the history of the discipline are the following: the onset of neo-institutionalism, the behavioral revolution or the post-behavioral critique. When it comes to the approaches in Political Studies, one could outline the following: political psychology, rational choice, and principal-agent theory among others.

Check out the following approaches outlined in Political Studies:

  • Post-modernism;
  • Political psychology;
  • Rationality and rational choice;
  • History of political science;
  • Neo-institutionalism;
  • Straussians;
  • Principal-agent theory.

When you want to come up with a good topic adjacent to comparative politics, you need to know that these topics should be related to the following branches:

  • Political violence (ethnic conflicts, coups, terrorism; civil wars, etc.);
  • Comparative methods (case studies on the similarity and difference in numerous approaches);
  • Political development (statism, the theory of development and dependency, and modernization theory among others);
  • Political culture and civil societies (topics related to ethnic identity, comparative politics, ans religion politics among others);
  • Political institutions (the impacts that federalism, electoral laws, comparative judicial politics, and presidentialism have on different political establishments).

The list of original and creative topics in the sphere of comparative politics:

  • The theory of structural functionalism.
  • Ethnic and religious conflicts.
  • Modernization in politics and political development.
  • Civil wars.
  • Political parties and the principles of their creation.
  • Military and political coups.
  • Development and dependency within the political realm.
  • Principles of the comparative judicial politics.
  • The modern social movements.
  • Gender issues within the sphere of politics.
  • Political culture.
  • Electoral systems and the principles of their functioning.
  • Unitary systems, federalism, and confederalism.
  • Similarities and differences between parliamentarism and presidentalism.
  • The impact of religion on politics and political systems in particular.
  • Democracy models.
  • Comparative methods in the sphere of politics.
  • Authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

How to Write a Political Theory Paper in the Scope of International Relations

If you need to provide an essay on politics within the realm of international relations, consider the following categories of essays and research papers:

  • Papers on liberalism, realism and neo-realism.
  • Papers on foreign policy analysis.
  • Papers on the world-systems analysis.
  • Papers dealing with wars and international conflicts (focusing on the discussion of the balance of power, interstate wars, international rivalry, democratic peace, etc.).
  • Papers on the global governance (international law, international regimes, and international organizations).
  • Papers on international political economy (trade, rentierism, complex independence, and resource scarcity among others).

Research Paper Topics on the Methodology of Political Science

Some of the most frequently discussed research paper ideas within this realm are the following:

  • Papers covering philosophy of science (namely with the focus on positivism, constructivism, and empirical approaches together with their critique).
  • Papers on game theory.
  • Papers on qualitative and quantitative techniques (content analysis and experimentation).
  • Papers on formal modeling approaches within the scope of political science.

Research Paper Topics in Political Thought

Apart from political thought as it is, these papers should also focus on political thought in different corners of the world. As such, students should not merely investigate the Western classics but also put emphasis on the Asian thinkers, Christian political thought, and also Islamic political thought among others. Among the frequently discussed Western classical political thought are the following kinds:

  • Ancient political thought;
  • Enlightenment;
  • Neoclassical liberalism;
  • Early modern and classical liberal political thought;
  • Conservatism;
  • Nationalism;
  • National socialism;

how to write political theory essay

Topics on the American Politics

If you have to submit a paper dealing with the American politics, you need to investigate the political structures, establishments, and institutions of the USA. Particularly, focus on the Congress, the state and local parties, the bureaucracy, the presidency, the media, and principles of federalism among others. Among the other topics that are popular nowadays are those dealing with LGBT issues, religion and politics, queer theory, as well as race and ethnicity. Check out the other options:

  • American bureaucracy;
  • Political campaigns;
  • Pluralism and interest groups;
  • Political socialization;
  • Voting behavior;
  • Politics and its interconnection with religion.

Hopefully, these topics will provide you some fresh insight into the investigation of the political theory and political science in general.

Check Out Our Free Political Theory Essay Sample!

The concept of social equality by aristotle.

Aristotle is commonly regarded as a father of political theory. He is a creator of one of the most powerful theoretical background in the question of politics and government. His book Politics has significantly contributed to the development of the political study. In his books, Aristotle described the problems of states, communities, the types of governing and ruling. In addition, Aristotle paid a special attention to the types of states and ways of maintaining stability within the country. In fact, his finding is very important for the understanding of the basis of the contemporary politics. Therefore, there is a need to pay attention to Aristotle’s works in order to realize the main political regularities and issues. The problem of social equality plays a special role in Aristotle’s finding. The philosopher considered it to be a guarantee of the government’s stability and state prosperity. At the same time, he clearly distinguished between different the types of equality, including social and natural, numerical and proportional. The problem of social equality is closely connected with revolutions and rebellions. Therefore, we can observe a twofold nature of equality. On one hand, it is a pledge of stability. On the contrary, the lack of equality or the desire of inequality can lead to the coup d’états. All this may let us suppose that this question is one of the major ones in the political theory. Not surprisingly, Aristotle paid the special attention to this problem, dwelling on its nuances and subtleties.  Read more…

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How to Write Political Essay

A political essay deals with political or governmental issues. It is a piece of writing made as a way to practice in interpreting specific political theories. It is usually composed of historical information and statistics and is somewhat similar to  writing a rhetorical analysis essay . The purpose of which is for students to demonstrate their ability to argue effectively and logically within defined theoretical frameworks. We've got some tips for you in order to make your writing easier.

Guidelines to Write a Political Essay

Create an argument. Political essays often deal with normative issues. The goal of the student is to give a concrete treatment of the basic interpretative facts and give his thoughts on the theoretical problem. As it is an opinion, there is no correct or wrong answer. The student just simply has to persuade his readers by developing a compelling argument which is well substantiated by a comprehensive and insightful interpretative work.

Develop a thesis. The goal of the student is to develop a thesis which he should sustain during whole paper. A political essay should be organized in such a way that it will be a thesis emphasizing a conceptual argument. That is, the student should choose a position which is clearly stated, and assemble references to offer the readers some sense of credibility. The textual references will ensure the readers that the student has observed the question in a thoughtful manner.

Apply theories learned in the course. Political essays and essays, in general, are technically the application of all the lectures and seminars attended by the student, all the discussions, and all the of the assigned readings. The student then should be able to apply all these theories and lessons learned in school.

Define your terms. Political essays are scholarly written documents that give a new perspective on the conceptual sides of main political theories and problems this is why a student who is writing a political essay should define terms used in the document with great precision.

Cite sources. When making an argument, the student has to ensure that he substantiates it with facts that are properly cited in the footnotes. The reason for this, aside from not plagiarizing these authors, is to refer the readers to a particular factual claim to its proper reference should they want to read about it further. It also helps to write an essay  that is more interesting and informative.

Write an outline and several drafts. A good political essay is not crafted overnight. It takes a great amount of critical revisions. The outline should also have a timeline to ensure that you have ample time to make revisions and finalize it accordingly before the due date. Editing and proofreading eliminate weak paragraphs and illogical transitions, and ultimately makes the political essay a well-research and well-written one. 

Other Reminders on Writing a Political Essay

Be analytical. A political essay is not just a simple collation of all data and information related to political theories. The student must emphasize an informed argument and ensure that he has made a thorough research so he has enough tools to use for independent and creative thinking. As an example, you can include obvious meanings to arguments, as well as the subtle and even contradictory dimensions of it.

Keep it scholarly. The student author must avoid casual language and sloppy argumentations. He has to remember that political essays are an academic type of discourse. A scholarly tone will give the readers the impression that the essay is going to be informative and interesting, without compromising the kind of words and arguments to be included in the essay.

Comment on quotes. At some point, the student will have to quote sources and references to build an argument. But after providing the direct quotation, he must ensure to make a commentary on it. After all, the paper has to be an analysis of your research, not a simple compilation of it.

Be concise. For a student to avoid filling the political essay with too many quotes, he can paraphrase passages, using paraphrase tool . Although, he has to remember that plagiarism is no way acceptable in the academe and must still cite the original source. The rule still applies that the student has to include a commentary of the paraphrased passage. This is to avoid making your paper strike a reader as a plain summary as it is not supposed to.

Explore texts carefully. While the student may oppose arguments, he must avoid bias and recognize both its strengths and weaknesses to engage in advanced forms of interpretative work.

Assume non-experts as readers. In writing political essays, make sure to limit the use of jargons and complicated terminologies. And when the student does use it, he must define the terms thoroughly. A good political essay must not only present a well-researched and well-written paper but should be able to educate the reader about political theories. To do so, the student then should craft in a way that is easy to understand by the common mind.

Embrace objections. Not everyone will agree with your thesis or arguments. When a reader raises an issue, accept it and rebut accordingly. This process should be able to develop your political essay in a way that you can spot weaknesses and instead make it richer and more penetrating.

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Technical Requirements of a Political Essay

Ultimately, the requirements will be coming from the professor or instructor assigning the political essay. General rules, however, apply starting from presenting the different parts of your argument in a logical order, footnoting original sources used or writing a bibliography for references not included in the footnotes, avoiding plagiarism at all cost and practicing proper citation, meeting the deadline set by the professor or instructor, and following the format prescribed.

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Best Guide on How to Write a Political Essay

How to Write a Political Essay

Politics has a tremendous impact on how we shape ourselves and our cultures. Almost every element of our life is impacted by it. Students that study the principles of politics learn about a wide range of crucially important political problems, including ecology, justice, democracy, nationalism, globalization, and others. Due to the variety of issues and the requirement for in-depth information and critical thought, writing a political essay can be a challenging endeavor. When you write a political essay, you are critically analyzing a particular political idea, historical moment, political position, or legal document. This type of writing is a practice in understanding political theory, which frequently also touches on philosophical territory. If you're just starting out, allow us to reassure you that writing a political essay is a talent that becomes better with practice. So, don't worry if you have to write a paper about it; simply learn more about "how to write a political essay" by exploring both online and offline resources.

An unquestionable advantage of studying ' how to write a political essay ' is the development of critical thinking and the capacity to assess topics from the past, present, and future that matter in the world. By writing about them, one may demonstrate a unique approach to issues that are shared by all people and provide their own perspective to the understanding of global and local events.

A student must allot enough time to the politics paper in order to perform in-depth research and assess all the associated ideas. Discover "how to write a political essay" by reading the following instructions.

Basic Format of Political Essay

Introduction : The opening section presents a logical argument and a clear design for the paper structure. For a brief essay, this portion can be condensed down into a few lines or paragraphs. A large document's introductory section may cover many pages. The thesis statement for the paper must be carefully considered and must be relevant for all components of the project.

A serious political essay should include a part on literature reviews to demonstrate how your established thesis is founded on earlier research. It can be included in the introduction or any other portion of the article's body. It is up to you to choose which strategy is most suited to the study you are conducting.

Sections of the Body: The number of body parts can be decided according to the demands of the topic. Each particular feature of the topic is treated in a distinct body section. Depending on how many are required to communicate the desired argument, it may consist of one, two, three, or even more paragraphs.

The focus of the writing must remain consistent throughout, and the sections must flow naturally into one another.

Effective methods for structuring the body paragraphs

Thesis: What is the main idea of this paragraph, according to the thesis? This major point should be stated in the first statement, which should be closely related to the last sentence. Keep your thoughts flowing smoothly!

Analysis and proof : Please be aware that it is improper to reference the quotes and then analyze each one separately. The proper strategy calls for presenting the necessary proof and doing analysis simultaneously. If you mention the House's reaction to a Senate amendment to a bill, you should also provide a comment regarding the President's reaction to the same amendment.

Transitional and summary sentences : When stating a concept, don't forget to conclude in the same paragraph, either in that sentence or the one after. Include all the necessary transitional language to connect the various paragraphs and topics, as well as all the necessary explanations.

Conclusion When writing a conclusion for a political essay, keep in mind that it shouldn't only restate the thesis but should also be relevant to it. Before drafting the conclusion, check at the essay another time. Make sure the thesis statement connects to every section of the essay. Make sure the evidence used to support the argument is relevant to the thesis. If everything checks out, you may start working on the summary paragraphs. However, if you believe that there should be any adjustments made, make the necessary revisions and update the thesis.

If you want to be a competent writer, you must understand exactly how to repeat the thesis, rather than just copying it straight from the introduction and another paragraph of the conclusion. The last phrases of the essay should be a summary of the entire piece. You must take advantage of this opportunity to restate your viewpoint and underline the essential argument. Be cautious not to include any new information in the conclusion. Your job here is to clarify and offer a wider context for the material that has been presented, not to add to it.

How to Write a Political Essay: Guidelines

  • Construct an argument : Normative concerns are a common topic in political writings. The student's objective is to provide a concrete exposition of the fundamental interpretive facts and to provide his opinions on the theoretical issue. There is no right or incorrect response since it is a matter of opinion. Simply said, the student must persuade his readers by crafting a strong argument that is well supported by a thorough and insightful interpretive effort.
  • Construct a thesis : The student's aim is to create a thesis that he will stick to throughout the entire paper. The structure of a political essay should be such that the thesis emphasizes a conceptual argument. To put it another way, the student should select a perspective that is clearly defined and gather references to provide the readers a sense of confidence. The textual references will assure readers that the student has considered the question.
  • Put the theories you've learned in class into practice : The result of a student's involvement in all lectures, seminars, debates, and assigned readings is technically an essay, whether it be a political essay or another kind of essay . The student should then be able to put all of these concepts and what they learned in school to use.
  • Specify your conditions : Academic writing pieces called "political essays" offer a novel perspective on the intellectual facets of the most significant political concepts and topics. The vocabulary employed in a political essay should thus be carefully explained by the student.
  • Provide references : When delivering an argument, the student must make certain that it is backed by facts that are properly referenced in the footnotes. Aside from preventing plagiarism , the goal is to lead readers to the appropriate reference for a certain factual point if they want to learn more about it. It also contributes to a more interesting and informative article.
  • Be concise : To keep from placing the essay with too many quotes, students can use a paraphrase tool to rewrite them. However, plagiarism is not tolerated in academia, and students have to reference the original source. The student must also include an opinion on the paraphrased passage.
  • Create an outline and numerous drafts : An effective political essay does not come together immediately. A lot of important adjustments are required. The plan should also include a timeframe to ensure that you have enough time to make modifications and finish it before the end date. Editing removes illogical connections and weak sections, leading to a well-researched and concise political essay.

The Bottom Line The political science essay has numerous similarities and differences with other types of writing. The advancement of society and government is the goal of political science papers, thus there is a need to develop understanding of the defined form of writing, which highlights the significance of focus and dedication to the subject. The audience's vision would be developed, and its perspective would be widened, by one's own competence in political science. If you need qualified professionals to learn How to Write a Political Essay or to help you with your political science assignment, please get in touch with us today.

FAQS on How to Write a Political Essay

How to write a political essay.

Create an argument, establish a thesis, use ideas learnt in the course, define your words, reference sources, make an outline, and multiple drafts are just a few of the steps you must do when writing a Political Essay .

What structure does a political paper follow?

Political science research papers generally consist of six sections: an introduction, a literature review, a theory, a study design, an analysis, and a conclusion or discussion. Even though there are variations in how papers are put together, most of them manage to include these 6 components.

What characteristics distinguish a strong political essay?

A political essay needs to have the following sections: a declaration of purpose in the introduction. Body paragraphs that go into great depth into the subject, including several points of view. A summary of the essay that leaves the reader aware of the author's viewpoint is provided in the conclusion.

How can I write politics better?

Learning to read critically, analyze your writing assignment for 10 to 15 minutes, realize your shortcomings, discover relevant resources, obtain feedback along the route, and look for extracurricular writing opportunities are all ways to improve political writing.

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How to Write a Political Science Essay

When writing a political science essay, it’s important to take a systematic and thoughtful approach. Be it the political theory, policy issue, or evaluating a historical event, you must put together a well-structured and well-backed argument.

That sounds like a tricky task, right? Not if you stick to the expert tips and tricks on writing a political science essay in this blog post. Let’s take a look!

Table of Contents

Expert Guidelines About How to Start a Political Science Essay

To tell you about the importance of a political science essay, just know that it’s an in-depth analysis of a political issue concerning a plethora of people. Let’s move to how you can write one.

Carefully Understand the Requirements

Make sure you understand the essay prompt or question thoroughly. Look out for words that will give you an idea of what needs to be discussed in your essay. It will also guide you in your research.

For Example:

Discuss the impact of globalization on national sovereignty and provide examples from recent political events.

Perform a Good Research

Get material from scholarly journals, books, trustworthy websites, and other good sources. Look at both sides of the issue to make a justified argument. Thorough research is a good answer for how to start a political science essay! 

Research how globalization is impacting countries’ independence.

Check out its both favorable and negative views.

Pull up examples like the European Union’s impact on how member states vote or others. 

how to write political theory essay

Form a Clear and Concise Thesis Statement

Create a solid statement that explains your major point or opinion. Make sure it’s detailed, open to debate, and gives an idea of what you will talk about in your essay.

No doubt globalization has connected the world, but recent political occurrences like Brexit shows people’s concerns about their countries’ autonomy. 

Work on an Outline

Create an easy-to-understand outline. Split it into parts like the start, the main part, and the ending. Each part should have a specific purpose. A good outline also shows the political science essay format. 

For Example: 

Introduce globalization and national sovereignty. 

Body Paragraphs:

The positive aspects of globalization

Examine the challenges of globalization

The tension between globalization and national sovereignty


Sum up the main points, restate the thesis, and enter insights into the ongoing debate on the subject (globalization).

Write Engaging Introductions

Start your essay with an attention-grabbing introduction that provides context and introduces the topic. Remember to include your thesis statement at the end of the introduction. 

Today there’s a lot of debate about how much globalization affects a country’s independence. People argue that it leads to collaboration and economic improvement. 

But Brexit is an excellent example of how vital national sovereignty is even when we are all so intertwined.

Develop Coherent Body Paragraphs

Each paragraph should have a point to make, backed up by evidence and analysis. Begin with a topic sentence introducing the main idea of the paragraph.

Example of a Body Paragraph (Extract)

Because of globalization, countries don’t have the same control they used to over how they regulate stuff. There are now all these international trade agreements that can override domestic regulations.

Use Evidence and Examples

Back up your opinions with reliable data, like statistics, sayings from specialists, and evidence from your examination. This will give your argument more validity and depth.

A World Trade Organization study shows that almost nine out of ten international trades are now taking place due to regional or bilateral agreements. This signals that international organizations have a bigger and bigger role in how countries do business.

Provide In-depth Analysis

Once you’ve presented the facts, talk about what it all means and how it relates to your point. Show how the data backs up your main idea and how it fits in with the bigger picture.

This data shows how much international trade deals have changed the world of global business. They are even forcing countries to juggle their own goals with the needs of global organizations.

Address Counterarguments

Be sure to consider different points of view when making your argument. Just to show how complicated the issue is. It will also make your argument stronger.

Globalization can help out smaller economies by giving them access to bigger markets. However, it’s important to think about what could be sacrificed regarding regulations and laws in that country.

Craft a Conclusive Conclusion

Give a summary of the main points of your essay. Reiterate your thesis statement, and provide some thoughts on the bigger picture of your argument.

To sum it up, the current struggle between globalizing and keeping a country’s independence is a hot topic in politics lately. Globalization has connected the world in many ways, but countries are still prioritizing the protection of their autonomy.

Edit and Revise

Go through your essay and ensure it’s clear and makes sense. Check that each section logically follows the one before it. Double-check that everything lines up and your argument has no conflicting ideas or holes.

Citations and References

You must give credit where it’s due. Cite your sources in the right style, like APA, MLA or Chicago, to make your essay look more professional and reliable.

how to write political theory essay

For a successful political science essay, you must make a strong argument supported by facts, research, and analytical skills. Plus, you should stick to the fundamentals of essay writing. That’s what this article was about!

Hopefully, you now have a good understanding of how to approach your political science essay task.

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how to write political theory essay


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