Essay Guide

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Research Tips

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

    Comparative Politics

    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 Affairs

    Foreign Policy

    Foreign Policy Analysis

    Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

    Global Governance

    Global Policy

    Harvard International Law Journal

    Harvard International Review

    International Affairs

    International Feminist Journal of Politics

    International Journal of Conflict and Violence

    International Journal of Transitional Justice

    International Organization

International Political Science Review

    International Political Sociology

    International Relations

    International Relations of the Asia-Pacific

    International Security

    International Studies Perspectives

    International Studies Quarterly

    International Studies Review

    International Theory

    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

    Marine Policy

    Mediterranean Politics

    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

    SAIS Review

    Security Dialogue

    Security Studies


    Terrorism and Political Violence

West European Politics

World Economy, The

World Focus

World Policy Journal

World Politics

Yale Journal of International Affairs


Atlantic, The

Christian Science Monitor

Economist, The

Far Eastern Economic Review (final issue 2009)

Financial Times

Guardian Weekly

New Yorker, The

New York Times 

Washington Post

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.