Political Science 394

Fall 2001

 The Logic of Inquiry

Professor Alfred P. Montero

Office: Willis 407

Phone: x4085 (Ofc), 645-9603 (Home)

Office Hours

Web Page

Course Description

This is a research design and composition course for students who would like to satisfy their integrative exercise requirements by completing the Department’s "paper option." The chief goal of the course is to train advanced majors in the methods of defining substantive topics, engaging the scholarly literature on their research question, designing research techniques for addressing their topic, and integrating these components with original argument in a final prospectus paper. The prospectus will encompass the argumentative sections of the full comps project.

Reading Materials

This course requires your purchase of one book, which is presently on sale at the college bookstore:

Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997).


Assessment of the students in this course will be based on their performance on four written assignments and course participation. Each of the assignments is governed by its own specific guidelines, which will be presented in class. The grade breakdown follows:

The Abstract


The Literature Review


First Draft


Final Draft


Course Participation


The Grading Scale

I will be using the following grading scale in this course:

98-100 A+

94-97 A

91-93 A-

88-90 B+

83-87 B

79-82 B-

76-78 C+

72-75 C

68-71 C-

67/below D/F

Academic Misconduct

Given the fact that academe relies upon the ethical conduct of scholars, students are held to the same standards in their own work. Any act of academic dishonesty or misconduct will be referred to the Office of the Dean. For further information, see Carleton College’s Academic Honesty in the Writing of Essays and Other Papers and the section on "academic honesty" in Academic Regulations and Procedures, 2001-02.. Both are available in Laird 140.

Special Needs

Students requiring access to learning tools/special schedules approved by Student Support Services should contact me at the beginning of the course.

NOTE: Readings must be completed for the dates assigned below.

Week 1 - 9/11 Introduction: Research Design and Paper Writing

A brief introduction to the comps writing process in the Political Science Department. This session will focus on the department’s requirements for the comps paper and research design. Some important questions: Why do a research design? What are the important components? What are the department’s expectations? The Next Step: The Topic Statement.

Reading: Two handouts: (1) Department Guidelines on Integrative Exercise and (2) Composing The Topic Statement.

9/13 Research Facilities Overview

An introduction and discussion regarding research materials available at Carleton.

Week 2 – 9/18 Picking a Topic

Students will begin to work on their topic statements with their advisors. In-class discussion of topics suggested by students. The Next Step: Composing an Abstract.

Reading: Van Evera, chs. 3 (all), 4 (pp. 97-111), 5 (all); Handout: Composing an Abstract.

Be as specific as possible:

State the general topic.

Describe why the topic interests you, what questions of Political Science you will ask.

State (briefly) what you already know about this topic.

List the work (courses, readings, off campus study, internship, etc.) you have already completed that relates to this topic.

Assignment: The Topic Statement with advisor signature.

Due Thursday, Sept. 20, Prof. Montero’s box.

9/20 Groups A and B meet in the Dept. Lounge at 10:10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., respectively.

Week 3 – 9/25 Narrowing the Topic

Working with a faculty member, students will narrow their general topic and compose an argumentative abstract. The Next Step: Situating Your Topic in the Scholarly Literature.

Reading: Van Evera, ch. 1 to p. 40

Assignment: The Abstract, due Friday, Sept. 28.

Following the handout and classroom instruction, compose a one paragraph abstract that specifies: (1) your main research question, (2) its significance, (3) your argument. Also, begin to work with your advisor on situating your topic in the scholarly literature.

9/27 Groups C and D meet in the Dept. Lounge at 10:10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., respectively.

Week 4 - 10/2 The Literature Review

For this session, students will discuss the most important works on their topic area. They will outline how their investigation addresses the scholarly literature. The instructor will present on formats for building the literature review.

Reading: Student choice. Four-five major works on your topic. Handout: Sample literature reviews.

Assignment: The Literature Review, due Friday, October 12.

After consulting with the faculty advisor, prepare a 1-2 page literature review. Focus on 4-5 major works and at least one alternative approach/perspective to your own.

10/4 Groups A and B meet in the Dept. Lounge at 10:10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., respectively.

Week 5 – 10/9 Methods of Investigation (Part 1)

For this session, students will come prepared to discuss the processes of case study selection, theory building, and theory testing.

Reading: Van Evera, ch. 2; Handout: Bibliographic Citation.

Assignment: The Bibliography, due Wednesday, October 17.

List all major primary and secondary sources using the standard bibliographic citation format. Continue to consult with your advisor concerning your main argument: how are you addressing the issues highlighted by the literature review? Also begin to discuss appropriate methods.


10/16 Groups C and D meet in the Dept. Lounge at 10:10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., respectively.

Week 6 – 10/18 Methods of Investigation (Part 2)

Instructor and students will discuss case study selection using the checklist. The Next Step: The Main Argument.

Reading: Handout: Case Study Checklist.

Assignment: Continue consulting with your advisor about the main argument and your chosen method.

Week 7 – 10/23 Writing the Proposal

The instructor will discuss the composition of argumentative and methods sections.

Assignment: First Draft, due Wednesday, October 31. Write a draft of the research proposal. It should include:

A working title.

The revised abstract.

The revised literature review.

The argument section.

A methods section.

A revised bibliography.

Page limit: 7 (strictly enforced).

10/25 Groups A and B meet in the Dept. Lounge at 10:10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., respectively.

10/30 Groups C and D meet in the Dept. Lounge at 10:10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., respectively.

Weeks 8 - 11/1 Rethinking the Proposal

The instructor will discuss techniques for planning revision and working on the "final draft."

Week 9 - 11/6 Revising the Proposal

The instructor will return substantive comments to each student via email by Monday afternoon, Nov. 5.

11/6 Groups A and B meet in the Dept. Lounge at 10:10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., respectively.

11/8 Groups C and D meet in the Dept. Lounge at 10:10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., respectively.

Week 10 – 11/13 Writing the Paper

Comments about paper writing: first drafts, rewriting, outlining, feedback, working with your advisor, style and style manuals.

Assignment: Final Draft due 11/14.