First Paper Assignment: Five Pages, Due: Nov. 3, 2009

 Introduction to International Relations: POLS: 20200 Sec. 01

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9:30am-10:45am in DeBartolo Hall 136

     Professor Dan Lindley

Department of Political Science

Office: 448 Decio Hall; Phone: 574-631-3226; Email: dlindley "at"

Office Hours: Mondays 9:30-11:00 217; Tuesdays 11:00-12:30 448 Decio,

TA: Richard Maass via rmaass “at”

            Your assignment is to explain a historical or current event in IR using the course concepts, models, and theories. Choose an event you wish to explain. Why did this event come about? Why did it unfold as it did? Answer these questions using IR concepts, models, and theories. Make a theoretically informed argument about the most powerful influences on state (and other actors, as relevant) behavior during this event. This argument must answer either or both of these questions: Why did this event come about? Why did it unfold as it did?

            You will likely achieve clarity if you structure your paper to answer these questions. The theory/ies you choose will explain the causes of the event and/or how the event unfolded. Unfolded means how the event developed over time once it began. Example: the Cuban Missile Crisis after it began.

            Make sure all of your evidence serves the task of speaking to (for or against) your answer.

            This is a diagnostic paper, not a prescriptive paper. The diagnostic tools are the theories we covered in class (see also the penultimate hint below). The second paper assignment involves prescription, not this one.

            Examples of events include but are from limited to the outbreak of a major war, responses to ethnic conflict, development initiatives, and creation and/or demise of major international institutions or treaties.

            The topic is open-ended. This is a wonderful invitation to the curious; quicksand to procrastinators.

            Spend some time in your paper developing the logic of your argument. Spend the most time providing evidence for your argument. Think hard about what kind of evidence will best support your argument. Spend some time discussing the most prominent contending explanations and explain why yours is the most persuasive. Argue clearly, but do not be over-simplistic. Use facts. Avoid assertions. Avoid adjectives and adverbs.

            You will need to do some independent research as none of our readings provide enough data to make a convincing argument that answers the above questions.


Technical Requirements:

You are required to have a cover page with an abstract, five pages maximum of text, then endnotes, and finally a bibliography. All text pages exceeding five will be ignored. It will harm your grade if you exceed the limit and your conclusion (or more) is ignored and considered missing.


You are required to quote material from at least two books or academic journals that you found in the library. Put call numbers by these books/journals in your bibliography. Academic journals are defined as those containing at least 10 foot/endnotes per major article. Feel free to consult other sources; this is a minimum requirement.

Do not cheat by plagiarizing, copying, or re-using old work. See the syllabus for more information on cheating.



Read the handouts on writing and research. They are on my website under Handouts and Advice. When the people grading you give you the playbook, it pays to read it and find out what they are looking for. You will be well served if you follow the writing advice from me and Professor Van Evera, especially the latter's explicit recipe for writing an efficient and engaging first paragraph, ordering sections of the paper, and making yourself clear throughout. See also my handout on how to write a theoretically informed paper. If you have any questions, ask. Follow the recipe.


Particularly useful handouts are 1. How to Write; 2. How to Make a Theoretically Informed Argument; 3. How to Research. These are on my website under Handouts and Advice.


Do not regurgitate the readings. Be creative and original. For example, do not use balance of threat theory to assess the same cases Walt uses. On the other hand, you may find that Walt provides a good example of what it means to make a theoretical argument about events in IR.

You can combine theories. You can make up your own theory -- so long as a good portion of the paper is devoted to showing why the course's theories don't work well enough (don't forget that the point of the paper is to demonstrate mastery of the course materials and gain practice using theories and models. To do this, you must use them.).

A required checklist will be handed out closer to the due date. Examples of the checklist are in on the web, but please use the one that will be handed out in class. The one on the web may be revised for this semester.