Collective action problem.

General Guidelines for Essay Assignment

Your essay is a vital part of this course. The preparation you put into it will increase your subject matter knowledge; improve your ability to think critically, and to write in a clear fashion. The essay is also intended to correspond to some of the various issue areas of international relations and encourage your interest in those areas.

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A good essay is coherent, interesting, and should express an independent viewpoint that is based on reasonably extensive and thorough research. Remember, clear writing comes from clear thinking, so you should spend some time thinking about what it is you intend to say before you write the essay.

The introduction to your essay should contain a thesis statement and a brief account of how you plan to argue your case. A thesis statement is a one or two sentence description of the argument contained in your essay. Do not assume that your instructor knows what you plan to say or how you will proceed. Be as clear as possible in this section. Moreover, make sure that your paper reflects the thesis statement. Ask yourself throughout the writing stage whether you are meeting your own requirements as spelled out in your introduction.

The textbooks provide you with the sources for your essays. Remember that the sources you use in your research must be cited in your essay. Your essay must consist of AT LEAST five separate sources taken from academic books and journal articles. It is best to have a mixture of these sources. DO NOT USE WEB SITES FOR YOUR RESEARCH. These sites might provide some information, but academic books and journal articles provide information that is reliable because it has gone through the peer-review process. In addition, a diverse set of citations presents more highly developed research.

Indicators of a Good Essay

In broad terms, your essays should include the following:

  • A statement of your objectives and summary of how you intend to structure your essay.
  • A clear and concise thesis statement.
  • Definitions of key concepts and terms, as well as an identification of any important assumptions upon which your argument is based.
  • A brief review of the existing ideas or events that led to the question you are addressing.
  • A brief review of the existing answers to the question you are addressing.
  • A critical assessment of the information you have discovered and documented in your research. Be aware that, inevitably, there will be some criticisms of what you are saying. Nonetheless, the strength of your essay will lie in its ability to pursue your argument both logically and coherently.
  • Consideration of a possible objection to your argument.
  • A summary of your discussion in your conclusion, indicating some of the problems or dilemmas raised in your essay. If applicable, offer some direction for future research and thought on the question discussed.

Guidelines for Essay Answers

You should create an outline of the argument you plan to make in your answer to stay focused. The outline should spell out your main argument and list – in order – the points that you wish to make. Remember, this outline is intended to keep you on track. It is in your best interest to create one that will help keep you organized and development of your argument. Make a few drafts of your essay.

The essay will be graded according to how well it achieves the following standards:

  • Does the essay answer the question? Since there may be different components to the question, make sure that you have not left anything out in your answer.
  • Does the essay show that you are familiar with and understand the literature on the issue?
  • Is the essay clear and well argued? An important goal of this course is for you to learn how to develop concise, informed, and convincing arguments.
  • Are there relevant and useful citations from your sources that support your answer?

Grading Rubric

Grading: A numeric grade will be given for the essay out of 25; it provides a qualitative assessment of the work and is described below.

Letter gradeDescriptionGrade
B+Very good18.75-19.75
  • A to A+: The work is excellent to exceptional. It missed or misinterpreted no major points and has made insightful comments on your topic. In addition, the comments go well beyond the course material in significant ways. All controversial claims in the answer receive support.
  • B to B+: The work is good to very good but needs improvement. It may have missed or slightly misrepresented some minor points on your topic. The comments display some misunderstanding of the key issues and tend not to go far beyond commentary on the seminar material. Some controversial claims are made in the assignment that do not receive proper support.
  • C to C+: While the work is adequate to satisfactory, it misses or misrepresents some (but by no means all) important points on your topic. The answer displays a basic but flawed appreciation of the main positions and lines of argument. The comments are also in need of some re-working and do not go beyond the course material. There is a need to focus more thoroughly on supporting controversial claims in the answer.
  • D: This work is of marginal quality. It misses the mark on the topic as often as it hits the mark; it requires significant re-thinking. Still, the answer appears to have grasped the crucial points. It needs to be better at supporting its claims.
  • F: The work displays a serious misunderstanding of crucial topics. It is not adequate, and the student should contact the instructor about individual issues concerning performance on this answer.


  • All essays must be saved as Word documents (no PDFs).
  • No title page is required. Simply title your paper POLS 2502 Essay (Center justified).
  • Be sure to add your name to the paper below the title (Center justified).
  • Type in Times New Roman 12-point font and double space (Left justified).
  • Indent each paragraph: (i) Special: First line, (ii) By: 0.63 cm


The following examples illustrate the Chicago style footnotes you will use for your essay. The example citations below show full citations followed by the shortened form that should be used for subsequent citations of the same source. Your papers DO NOT require a bibliography.

  • Book:

Author first and last name, Book Title (City and Abbreviation of state/prov published: Publisher, Year published), Page number(s) cited.

  1. Roger Fisher, Improving Compliance with International Law (Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia, 1981), pp. 45-46.
  2. Fisher, Improving Compliance, p. 101.
  • Chapter or other part of edited book:

Author first and last name, “Chapter Title,” in Book Title, First and last name of editor (City and Abbreviation of state/prov published: Publisher, Year published), Page number(s) cited.

  1. Kenneth A. Oye, “Explaining Cooperation Under Anarchy: Hypotheses and Strategies,” in Cooperation Under Anarchy, ed. Kenneth A. Oye (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), p. 12.
  2. Oye, “Explaining Cooperation under Anarchy,” pp. 18-19.
  • Journal article:

Author first and last name, “Article Title,” Journal Title, Volume number, Edition number (Edition name Year), Page number(s) cited.

  1. Robert O. Keohane, “Reciprocity in International Relations,” International Organization 40, no. 1 (Winter 1989), p. 8.
  2. Keohane, “Reciprocity in International Relations,” pp. 15-16.

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