Country Research Reports

2021 is off to a tumultuous start. The United States of America has seen a volatile transition of government. The new administration led by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris faces numerous hurdles, while the opposing party splinters under the weight of Trumpism. As if that were not enough, a new American presidency means relationships all over the world will need to be recalibrated and reset.

Your task as a research analyst is to prepare a brief for ONE of the Canadian officials listed above. Their portfolios cover not only a range of issues, but also reflect different priorities and approaches to statecraft – defence, diplomacy, economics, security and intelligence, and foreign affairs. You will present a comparative analysis of US government and politics and those of Russia, Iran or China, focusing on the main issues affecting the relationship between them and problems they have in common. The government official/agency you address in your research brief should help you determine what issues to focus on in your country reports. For instance, the director of intelligence will be interested in a different set of questions than the foreign or defense ministers. For one, you might focus on threats to domestic security in the countries you compare, while a brief for the Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Finance might focus on new trade deals and shifting economic terrain as a result of COVID-19 and a new American president with new priorities. These are merely suggestions. The content of your report will depend on its target audience as well as the specific issues facing the countries you choose to compare. This is an assignment with room for creativity, so please take advantage of that freedom.

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A successful country research brief will meet the following criteria:

  1. Cite and refer to the work of at least one expert from https://interruptrr.com/expert-lists/.
  2. Demonstrate through other citations that you have read widely and from a variety of perspectives on your countries of comparison (you should aim to have 5-7 sources).
    1. The recurring case studies in the textbook are a great starting point for this assignment. Students should also do additional independent research on their countries of choice. One might read through recent issues of The EconomistThe New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal to get a sense of how the country is covered in the press and what issues/challenges are most frequently discussed. Students might also review materials like Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World” report to get a sense of how their country measures up to others in terms of political and civil liberties, or look to Amnesty International or other agencies that monitor human rights worldwide, or reports written by the IMF or World Bank. There are tons of sources to choose from. As always, I’m here to answer any questions.
    2. As a historian, I prefer the Chicago Manual of Style for citations, but you are free to use MLA if that is what you are more comfortable with. Just make sure to be consistent in your usage.
  3. Tailor the research brief to your target audience – one of the four Canadian officials listed and the agency/ministry whose interests they represent in Canada and on the world stage. This should also get you thinking about the different forces shaping Canada’s own politics.
  4. Make clear and focused comparisons between the two countries in your research report.
  5. Use the country report to examine different political systems and how they tackle common issues of sovereignty, legitimacy, and internal and external challenges to governmental authority.
  6. Be written in a clear and comprehensible way, with a strong introduction and conclusion. The body of the paper should be well organized around a finite set of points. Please refer to my general writing guidelines for additional information. Brainstorming and outlining are excellent ways to start working on this paper.

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