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POLSC 101 - American Politics

This guide will help you complete research projects, find sources appropriate for college-level research, evaluate those sources, and cite them so you can avoid plagiarism while lending credibility to your paper

Background Reading for Topic Overviews

Many students turn to Wikipedia for their initial exploration of a topic. This is fine, but be sure to augment your background research with sources you can actually include on an academic bibliography (a.k.a. your References list).

Conduct background research because:infographic explaining that preliminary reading helps you evaluate and refine topics
  • It is a great source of core knowledge on your topic
  • It can generate ideas on different ways to focus your topic
  • It can answer research questions you've already posed
  • It may help you clarify and/or expand research questions.
  • It often points you towards other sources of information on your topic 

All of these resources are free for MJC students, faculty, and staff. If you're working from off campus, you'll need to sign in just like you do for Canvas or your email.


Recommended Resources for Background Reading:

Developing Research Questions

Create Research QuestionsCreating Research Questions infographic

Once you understand more about your topic and have a clearer idea of that aspect of your topic you want to dive into and explore, you need to create research questions that will help you focus on exactly the information you need to find to make the points you want to discuss in your paper.

What Kinds of Questions Should I Ask?

Always look at your assignment for clues on the types of information and the actual content of information you’ll need to find for your research. 

To help you organize your paper, you should have these types of questions:

  • Introductory Questions
  • Body Questions
  • Concluding Questions

You can see how this works in these questions below:


Introductory Questions

  • What is democracy?
    • Basic definition? (Merriam Webster)
    • More comprehensive definition?
  • Why is this issue important? (Any currents events driving interest in this question?) 

Body Questions

  • Are America's political institutions democratic? (Ex: for example: political parties, Congress, trade unions, judiciary, Electoral College, Supreme Court, etc.)  
    • Positive examples? 
    • Negative examples?
  • Is the U.S. Constitution democratic?
    • Positive examples?
    • Negative examples?
  • Are U.S. political leaders democratic?
    • Positive examples?
    • Negative examples?
  • Are U.S. citizens democratic?
    • Positive examples?
    • Negative examples?
  • Are the special interest groups operating in the U.S. democratic?
    • Positive examples?
    • Negative examples?
  • Is the media democratic?
    • Positive examples?
    • Negative examples?
  • What examples discussed in class prove or disprove the idea that America is democratic?