Section 5.15 Writing for Politics and Government
For many students, writing for Politics and Government classes means being exposed to a breadth of different genres, prompts, and argumentation styles. Although there are many different types of assignments in Politics and Government, each paper that you write will help you grow academically and provide a way for you to exercise your skills in written communication and argumentation development. As in all writing, make sure that your organization and use of evidence support your main goal and idea and are appropriate to your audience. Read this guide to gain a better understanding of the writing conventions and expectations you should expect for Politics and Government classes!
There are many different genres within the Politics and Government discipline. Some papers follow a more traditional argumentation route, wherein you are writing for an academic audience and are asked to form a thesis centered around an argument and then support your argument in the subsequent body paragraphs. Although these types of papers are present in Politics and Government classes, there are a host of other typical genres and prompts that are commonly seen throughout the department.
Position papers, which are a form of argumentative paper, are one of the most common forms of assignments you may receive in Politics and Government classes. For these papers, you are asked to take a position or perspective on a topic or issue and develop a comprehensive argument in support of your stance. Incorporating evidence properly in these types of papers is crucial, as relevant sources should support your overall argument.
Some other common genres seen in Politics and Government are literature reviews and case studies. Literature reviews encompass an analysis of published academic sources. To write a literature review, you will find a topic of interest, look into the literature on your selected topic, and then identify common themes throughout the literature in your paper. It is important to note that a literature review should go beyond simply summarizing each source independently; it is about finding themes and places of disagreement within several academic sources before coming to a conclusion about any significant gaps in scholarship. Case studies are used to better understand a phenomenon that may be occurring within the political realm. To write a case study, you will often have to dig into previous literature before conducting your own research, which is commonly done by searching through archives, news reports, indexes, and other relevant material.
Some of the other genres that are more specific to Politics and Government include policy briefs/memos, opinion pieces, as well as long-form journalism. For policy briefs, you will be asked to find evidence and incorporate it in a succinct way to try and educate your audience on why they should support the proposed policy. These papers typically incorporate a list of explained recommendations for policymakers to consider when thinking about how to implement these important political decisions. Opinion pieces are very similar to what is found in the media, as you are prompted to write in a style akin to what is published in popular Op-Ed sections in newspapers. To write an Op-Ed, you will determine a topic and opinion, form a thesis, and incorporate relevant evidence to support your ideas. Long-form journalism is another genre that you might be exposed to when writing for a Politics and Government course. Long-form journalism can appear as an extended article—to what is found in the popular press—a podcast, or even a video. For long-form journalism, incorporating evidence is just as important as in other academic papers; the main difference is that the audience is everyone, rather than only an academic audience, so it is crucial to write in a way that is easy for people from a variety of different backgrounds to understand.
“Writing an argument is different than just thinking it. Writing is about developing an argument and working through its implications.”
The main purpose of writing in Politics and Government classes is to help you develop important academic skills. Writing assignments for Politics and Government act as ways for you to practice your written communication. Most of these prompts revolve around learning how to make arguments and convince others in intelligible and well-supported ways.
As you progress throughout your time in the department, you will find that your communication skills—both written and verbal—develop in such a way that you feel confident in pursuing a variety of careers and academic programs after you graduate.
“Writing takes two forms: the first thing you do when you’re writing is figure out what you think; the second thing you are trying to do with your writing is communicate what you think to other people. Take the development of the idea and package it so it is accessible to others. Writing as a process is key.”
A valued characteristic for writing for Politics and Government is knowing how to convey your argument in a way that is comprehensible. First, think about what you want your message to be before deciding on an argument or topic. Then, after picking an argument, focus on making your paper legible and cohesive. It is also important to be careful and deliberate with paragraph placement, organization, and purpose. You should know why each paragraph is placed where it is, what they are trying to communicate, and how they relate to your overarching argument and goal. Knowing how to incorporate evidence is also a valued characteristic. There should be a connection between a piece of evidence and the central claim; evidence should not be thrown in at random, but rather used methodically and intentionally in ways that reflect your thesis.
Writing in Politics and Government means working with different types of evidence. Many students are exposed to academic literature, indexes, opinion pieces, and news articles in their classes and should be expected to pull from a variety of different types of sources depending on the assignment. For a literature review, most of the sources you will use will be from peer-reviewed academic journals; however, for a long-form article or policy brief, sometimes you will have to use sources from the media or popular press. Regardless whether your source is academic or popular, remember to cite and paraphrase your evidence properly (see Chapter 8)!
Conventions and Tips.
- Remember that a thesis statement is a claim that can be argued against, not simply a statement of fact. To brush up on writing a thesis statement, refer to Section 3.4.
- Try to roadmap your paper! Identify your thesis and your body paragraphs and look at how they connect. Road mapping will help you figure out the overall structure of your paper and ensure that the organization makes sense.
- Try to stick to writing in the third person and avoid writing statements using "we" unless otherwise instructed by your professor.
- Avoid the passive voice; when you make an argument in the passive voice there can be a lack of agency.
- Know when you are stating a fact vs. stating an opinion, and avoid making an opinion appear to be a fact.
- Although there is no universal citation style for Politics and Government, try to use Chicago when possible and, as always, make sure you stick to just one citation style for the entirety of your paper.