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Writing a Research Paper in Political Science

Writing a Research Paper in Political Science
A Practical Guide to Inquiry, Structure, and Methods

Third Edition
Additional resources:

March 2015 | 224 pages | CQ Press
Want your students to write their first major political science research paper with confidence? With this book, they can.  Author Lisa Baglione breaks down the research paper into its constituent parts and shows students precisely how to complete each component. The author provides encouragement at each stage and faces pitfalls head on, giving advice and examples so that students move through each task successfully. Students are shown how to craft the right research question, find good sources and properly summarize them, operationalize concepts, design good tests for their hypotheses, and present and analyze quantitative and qualitative data. Even writing an introduction, coming up with effective headings and titles, presenting a conclusion, and the important steps of editing and revising are covered with class-tested advice and know-how that’s received accolades from professors and students alike. Practical summaries, recipes for success, worksheets, exercises, and a series of handy checklists make this a must-have supplement for any writing-intensive political science course.

In this Third Edition, updated sample research topics come from American government, gender studies, comparative politics, and international relations. Examples of actual student writing show readers how others "just like them" accomplished each stage of the process. And now, more extensive materials are available on the web, including checklists and worksheets that help students tackle each step, calendar ideas to help them complete their paper on time, and a glossary.  

Chapter 1: So You Have to Write a Research Paper
What Is a Research Paper? A Few Helpful Metaphors  
What Research Paper Writing Entails  
Blueprint of the Book  
Chapter 2: Getting Started: Finding a Research Question
Characteristics of a Good Question  
Practical Summary  
Recipe 1: The Research Question  
Chapter 3: Learning Proper Citation Forms, Finding the Scholarly Debate, and Summarizing and Classifying Arguments: The Annotated Bibliography
What Are Bibliographies, and Why Do We Bother with Them?  
Plagiarism versus Paraphrasing  
Annotating the Bibliography  
Identifying the Key Conceptual Issues  
Searching for Sources  
Identifying Similar Arguments and Grouping Your Sources  
One Last Word of Advice: Generic Schools of Thought  
Writing the Annotated Bibliography  
Practical Summary  
Recipe 2: Annotated Bibliography  
Chapter 4: Making Sense of the Scholarly Answers to Your Research Question: Writing the Literature Review
Preparing for and Understanding the Literature Review  
The Fundamentals of the Literature Review  
Writing the Literature Review  
Practical Summary  
Recipe 3: Literature Review  
Chapter 5: Effectively Distilling Your Argument: The Thesis, Model, and Hypothesis
The Thesis  
The Model  
The Hypothesis  
Applying These Insights  
Practical Summary  
Recipe 4: Model & Hypothesis Section  
Chapter 6: Revising and Editing Your Work: The Writing-Thinking Spiral
Practical Summary  
Recipe 5: Revising and Editing  
Chapter 7: Making Your Plan and Protecting Yourself from Criticism: The Research Design
Research Design: The Medical Science Analogy  
Writing the Research Design  
Finishing Touches on the Research Design  
Practical Summary  
Recipe 6: Research Design  
Chapter 8: Evaluating the Argument: The Analysis and Assessment Section
Qualitative Analysis  
Quantitative Analysis  
Practical Summary  
Recipe 7: Analysis & Assessment  
Chapter 9: Bringing the Paper Together in Three Essential Ways: The Conclusion, Introduction, and Title
Considering the Significance and Limitations of Your Findings: The Conclusion  
Writing a Good Introduction  
A Last Element in Attracting Readers: Developing an Appealing Title  
Are You Done? The Joy (and Continued Responsibilities) of Finalizing Your Draft  
Practical Summary  
Recipe 8: Conclusion, Introduction, & Title  


Instructor Resource Site
Password-protected INSTRUCTOR RESOURCES you’ll actually use!
Save time and ease class preparation with the additional guidance and tools, including:
  • Graphics from the text
  • Instructor's Manual
  • Sample Research Papers

“I introduced Baglione’s book to my colleagues who advise students in our senior capstone projects, and now they are all using it. Students are being told to hang on to the book for later and are making good use of all its sections.”

Ashlie B. Delshad
West Chester University of Pennsylvania

“Students will be able to use Baglione’s book throughout their career on campus. It is especially helpful for students who are hesitant their about writing a research paper or struggling to find a suitable topic. The book walks through the research process and provides very helpful checklists to ensure students stay on the right track.” 

Aaron King
University of North Carolina, Wilmington

“One of the greatest difficulties students face when writing research papers is finding a good research question to guide the rest of the writing process. Baglione's text tackles that issue head on and does so quite well.”

Jack D. Collens
Siena College

“This is a very relatable book. The prose is accessible, there is little jargon, and the use of examples is perfect for an undergraduate audience.”

David Mislan
American University

“Baglione offers an extremely practical and useful text for understanding the content and structure of a thesis-length research paper. For some students, the clear outlining of the sequential steps is most useful, while for others who have the basics down, it offers a broad view of the goals and long-term responsibilities for such a project.”

Jennifer Seely
Earlham College

“I love the checklists! I require students to submit every section of their paper drafts with the corresponding checklist attached.”

Emily Beaulieu
University of Kentucky

I am yet to receive the book

Dr Isaac Owusu-Mensah
Political Science, University of Ghana
September 5, 2016

Easy to read, a small book that contains useful information.

Ms Emilia Mantadakis
Department of Political Science, Maastricht University
December 10, 2015

The enrolled students have to write their thesis in social science, and majority of them opt for topics in political science and international relations.
This books provided a comprehensive guide for conducting a research project from posing the right question to finalizing the draft. One of the book's merits are the interdisciplinary and up-to-date examples.

Dr Alireza Salehi Nejad
Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran
October 20, 2015

In the current period there is an on-going interest on research which is viewed as a key aspect of global knowledge economy. This text provides practical insight and guides for writing a research paper especially for students at undergraduate and honours level. Interestingly this text provides a context of research paper writing which can be used to establish a structure for preparing and writing a research paper at various levels. I have therefore made this text book a friend I travel with and keep closer, to assess if there is a possibility to mixt teaching and assessing practices, in order provide my students with optimal benefit from it. I have developed a taxonomy that include a mixture of teaching and learning theories, for me as an instructor to solve my students challenges of writing a research paper at their level. This book therefore has became a complete essential resource for my course and recommended for my research group as well as the University Library.

September 7, 2015
Key features


  • There is greater emphasis throughout the text on the iterative nature of the research and writing process.
  • New examples include students investigating polarization in American politics, the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Russian foreign policy and adventurism, and whether the gender of legislators affects the type of legislation they support.
  • The new “Recipes” feature provides clear, step-by-step instructions on how to tackle writing a research paper, from generating the research question to formulating a literature review, revising and editing, and conducting analysis and assessment.
  • Data collection and analysis and the effective communication of one's findings in the analysis and assessment portion of the paper are discussed in greater depth with the inclusion of examples from both qualitative and quantitative studies.
  • More coverage on the best uses for citation management software is provided, as well as more discussion on and updated examples of citation and plagiarism so that students can effectively track their sources and avoid improperly borrowing another’s ideas.
  • New content on Research Design enables students to better understand operationalization and case selection and includes:
    • the struggle to transform theoretical concepts into actual measures; and
    • selecting a model-hypothesis pair to operationalize that is both valid and reliable.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

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