Political Science 372A (3)
Multinational Corporations and Globalization in the Developed and Developing World
Research Proposal and Essay
Rubric & Guide
Research essay proposal: you will write an essay proposal 2-3 pages long in which you make a case for a particular topic for your final paper (this should be based on selected topics provided by myself), provide a provisional title, overview of your argument, a draft structure, and an indicative reading list (e.g. a bibliography of all the sources you have located so far). The purpose of the assignment is to see how your ideas are developing, assess whether the argument is hanging together, and receive some thoughts about what, if any, gaps need to be filled either in terms of research or conceptualization. It will also prompt you to think early about your final paper (discussed below) and ensure you receive concrete feedback from myself and/or your TA prior to submission of the final assignment. This assignment is due March 5 and makes up a maximum 5% of your final grade.
This is a proposal that, by definition, cannot and should not contain a fully developed argument. Your proposal will be evaluated for its coherence, feasibility, preparation, and research skills.
- coherence: be sure to have a clear central focus that expresses a core purpose (or set of purposes) aka a “thesis”; the proposal should be written like a mini essay (with properly structured sentences & paragraphs). It is also important that you not confuse topics with questions. The topic is a general area of inquiry and not an argument in itself. Work on narrowing the topic down to a clear question, and narrowing down the research sources you should be looking for. And focus the proposal on explaining the objectives of your paper, not on its organizational structure, which you cannot predict in advance.
- feasibility: make sure that you can do what you promise to do. Create realistic expectations about your proposed focus and argument. Do not, for example, talk about what you plan to do in your research if you do not yet know whether the sources you say will be analyzed actually exist. Also, while it’s always great when research can be applied to solve problems, focus your efforts on manageable questions. Do not, for example, promise to prove that multinational corporations will cause (or conversely solve) all of our problems.
- preparation: make sure you engage in substantial and serious preliminary reflection on your project, and start early enough to make this possible. Do not leave this to the last minute. The assignment is intended only to help you and you will get the most out of it by doing more than throwing together a couple of paragraphs. Yes, it is “only” worth a maximum 5 marks but, if taken seriously, should help you dramatically improve your much more heavily weighted essay grade.
- Remember that a core purpose in writing both the proposal and, ultimately, the essay is to demonstrate an ability to do research. If and when you approach the TA and/or myself for advice (as you should) make sure that you are telling, not asking, us about what sources you will use. This is your project so take ownership of the relevant literature. We will guide you in research, but please remember that part of the purpose of the assignment is to test your abilities to work independently. This said, what follows are some general tips for engaging in research.
There are many sorts of essays and questions that can arise in the context of research, and what follows is general advice not a magic formula.
Where to go
While the birth of the internet has made it possible to conduct research without entering an actual library, it is crucial to be aware that most of the information on the internet is useless, incorrect, incomplete, and almost always of lesser quality than professionally published, peer reviewed materials. Remember that anybody with a computer can self-publish and it is not always easy to spot the difference between legitimate academic or news sources and the seemingly authoritative musings of an amateur. That said, it is possible to use electronic media to access many legitimate academic sources, and many traditionally published works are readily available online. Some of these materials reside behind expensive paywalls, but happily UBC has online subscriptions to numerous scholarly journals, powerful bibliographic tools, reference works, and full-text newspapers.
What to look for
A major challenge in writing a research paper is finding the right sources. The two things that should drive & guide your search are: a. relevance, and; b. quality. There may be 18 books or articles that touch on your subject, but perhaps only 5 or 6 of these actually help you to address your purposes. If a source seems peripheral to your question, it probably is, so drop it or limit its use. Focus on quality not quantity, and do not pad your bibliography with marginally relevant materials. Many journal articles have abstracts, which can be read quickly, so be choosy and eliminate materials that do not seem to bare directly on your research question. As for quality, stick to well known, peer reviewed journals, books, highly regarded periodicals, and well known, established news sources. If you are in doubt, look for works published by university presses, or high quality private publishers like Palgrave, Macmillan, Routledge, etc. If still in doubt, ask.
Journal Articles? Books? News sources?
Yes. In other words, it’s good to have a mix, but what you wind up with in your bibliography will be partly a function of what you are focusing on. A research essay will often contain a balance of scholarly books (stand alone authors or edited collections), articles, and news accounts (especially if you are researching a recent issue). Be cautious of editorials, biased advocacy-group reports, and blogs. It is not that you can’t use such sources, but use them sparingly and never at the expense of scholarly materials. It is also important not to wind up with an imbalance in perspectives. For example, while Susan Strange is a leading authority on MNCs, and a deeply respected academic, you should not have a bibliography dominated by her works to the exclusion of other voices and viewpoints.
How many sources?
This is a very common but difficult question, and the answer depends partly on the nature of the argument. But if you have fewer than 10 sources total you very likely have too few. If you have 30 or 40 sources for a 12 to 15 page paper, you almost certainly have too many, or are padding your bibliography. Use your instincts. Again, if in doubt, ask.
List of Peer reviewed Journal/Periodicals
(Note: the journals most likely to be relevant are highlighted in bold; many of these journals have searchable indexes)
American Journal of International Law
American Journal of Political Science
American Political Science Review
Annual Review of Political Science
Australian Journal of International Affairs
British Journal of Politics and International Relations
Cambridge Review of International Affairs
Canadian Foreign Policy
Chinese Journal of International Politics, The
Conflict Management and Peace Science
Cooperation and Conflict
East European Politics
Ethics & International Affairs (also has an excellent blog)
European Journal of International Law
European Journal of International Relations
European Union Politics
Foreign Policy Analysis
Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
Harvard International Law Journal
Harvard International Review
International Feminist Journal of Politics
International Journal of Conflict and Violence
International Journal of Transitional Justice
International Political Science Review
International Political Sociology
International Relations of the Asia-Pacific
International Studies Perspectives
International Studies Quarterly
International Studies Review
Journal of Common Market Studies
Journal of Conflict Resolution
Journal of European Integration
Journal of European Public Policy
Journal of International Affairs
Journal of Peace Research
Journal of Politics
Journal of Strategic Studies
Millennium: Journal of International Studies
MIT International Review
New Political Economy
Perspectives on Politics
Political Science Quarterly
Review of International Organizations
Review of International Political Economy
Review of International Studies
Review of World Economics
Terrorism and Political Violence
West European Politics
World Economy, The
World Policy Journal
Yale Journal of International Affairs
Christian Science Monitor
Far Eastern Economic Review (final issue 2009)
New Yorker, The
New York Times
Please note that in most instances you are expected to identify case studies (countries, regions, industries, MNC examples, etc.) on you own. The essay topic is generally a framework in which you are encouraged to propose examples of your own. You may also wish to develop your own topic, but this must be done in consultation with both myself and the course TA.