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Essay Guidelines POL 312Y

Professor John Kirton

  1. The introduction to your essay should include, ideally in order, the following elements:
    1. the policy and theoretical "significance" of the question or problem you are addressing;
    2. the debate among the competing "schools of thought," drawn from existing scholary writing on the subject (each week’s lectures and chapters in the core text tend to start this way);
    3. the "puzzles" or unexplained phenomena the arguments of these existing schools do not adequately account for.

  2. In the introduction to your essay, you must clearly state, ideally in one sentence, your thesis — your central argument about "what happened" (the central pattern of Canadian foreign policy behaviour you have identified) and "why" (the key causes of that behaviour). Remember, a scholarly research essay is not a murder mystery novel where the reader has to wait until the very end to find out whodunnit — that is, what really happened and why. This thesis statement should be a clear, complete statement that directly answers the essay question and offers a better account than the existing inadequate schools offer.

  3. Your thesis and ensuing argumentation must provide a direct answer to the essay question and to all parts of the question (in cases where there are multiple questions posed). Try to give relatively equal attention to each question or component thereof. If you wish to vary the question, or to pose and answer a different question, you must get formal approval from the instructor in advance.

  4. Unless the question specifically asks for it, you need not relate your thesis or argument explicitly to the larger three theoretical perspectives in the course. However, in the conclusion to your essay, you might well want to relate your argument to these larger perspectives, in order to connect your work to the larger corpus of empirical and theoretical work. If you are ambitious, you might even suggest here how the existing perspectives might be extended, modified or supplemented by a new perspective.

  5. The body of your essay can be organized into sections in any logical way that allows you to deal with the question. Often a chronological ordering of the empirical record works well. Begin and conclude each section by directly relating its main message to your overall thesis, so you cumulatively support your thesis as you proceed. In each section and the conclusion, you should directly connect causes (usually, what Canada did) and effects (why it did it).

  6. Start researching your essay by reading the relevant items on the course syllabus, the course lecture notes and the course reader (including those lectures or chapters you have already come to and those you have not yet). Then follow the citations in those pieces, the guidance provided by the instructor when you ask for it, and the relevant pieces yielded by your scan of the major journals (CFP, IJ, EI, BH, CAPP, ARCS) and the annual Canada Among Nations.

  7. Your essay should be double-spaced, in 12-point type, in Times New Roman. It can be in English or French. You should use endnotes, and include a full bibliography (list of references) at the end. You should use the author-date citation style employed in the core course text (Canadian Foreign Policy in a Changing World by John Kirton). Proofread your essay before you hand it in.

  8. You will not be penalized for writing more than the 2,500-word limit, but do remember that length is not necessarily a virtue, and that the longer you and others write, the fewer comments can be given on the essay, given the limits of resources and time.

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