Government 491: Causes of War


Response/Analysis Papers: what they are and how to present them

Professor Dan Lindley

Department of Government and International Studies

Office: 448 Decio Hall; Phone: 219-631-3226; Email:


Office Hours: Wednesdays 1:00-3:00 pm, and by appointment

Response/Analysis Papers: In 1-2 double spaced pages, you must critique a/some/all readings covering the items within that section of readings (some sections of readings span up to 3 class meetings). Your critiques must be in the form of a well-reasoned and well-proved argument. 'I like/I don't like' opinion pieces do not taste great and are not filling. As this is a writing seminar, half the total grade for each RAP will be based on writing clearly and persuasively. You will get two grades ranging from 1 to 5, one for writing and another for insight/argument/evidence/substance. See the how to write and argue handouts for more on this.

One way to think about how to criticize or come up with insights about a paper is to use my "How to Read" handout. You can use these points to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the reading(s) you are rapping about. Or you assess a contradiction found among the readings or within a single reading.

Some sample openings: 1. X persuasively undermines Y's core argument in 3 ways...

2. Combining X and Y yields a new theory 'Z', which seems to explain ABC, and also avoids weaknesses in each authors arguments....

3. X's argument is weak in 3 ways, and can not explain much in recent history. However, if amended....

4. X's argument is even more persuasive than he/she thinks: it applies not only to 19th century interstate war, but also to many post-Cold War ethnic conflicts...

To look at an exemplar piece of criticism, read Betts' review of Van Evera under the 9/21 readings. Certainly way longer than a RAP, but it shows the types of issues a critical piece can cover.

When RAPs are due, please bring two copies to class. One to pass to me at the beginning of class, and one for you to keep if you are chosen to present your RAP that day (see participation above). Use a checklist for the RAP you turn in to me.

Presentation of RAPs: Students will be chosen at random to present their RAPs. This will help catalyze discussion, and help us all learn how to make critiques and presentations.

I do not intend for the presentations to be formal, with slides, etc. I just want students to summarize their critiques clearly and efficiently. This should only require a few minutes of 'pre-thought' before each class. Say what your argument is, then make the argument. Make your case. I do not expect the presentation to exceed 5 minutes.

See my Oral Presentations handout for more advice (much of which is more relevant to longer, more formal presentations).

Goals for RAPs and their presentation: Learning to critique and present are crucial skills. Learning to do so in short time and space is a crucial skill. Students at the Kennedy School of Government spend much time learning to write short memos. You can not waste words. Writing and presenting are mutually-reinforcing skills. If you do not present clearly, chances are your argument was garbled to begin with.