University of California, Santa Barbara

Political Science 12: American Politics and Government
Paper Assignments & Grading Rubric – Winter, 2021

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1st Paper – due in Week 3:

Write an opinion column in which you propose and argue for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Your essay, or op-ed, should be written in the style of op-eds in the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal.  Here is a typical set of instructions for submitting an op-ed:

In your column, be clear what the amendment is, analyze the impact of the amendment, explain what the amendment would change about American politics, and explain why it would be good for the U.S.  You may use an existing proposed constitutional amendment or write one of your own.  If you do use an amendment proposed by someone else, you must provide a citation for it.  Unlike traditional opinion columns, please use citations to identify sources.

Your essay should be 400-700 words in length (not counting references).

Your paper will be graded on the strength of your argument and your analysis of what the impact of your proposed amendment would be on the U.S. political system.

2st Paper – due in Week 7:

Write an opinion column in which you propose and argue for a strategy for either the Democratic or Republican Party for the 2024 elections.  Your essay should be written in the style of op-eds in the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal. 

In your column, propose a strategy, analyze how well it would work and explain why.    Unlike traditional opinion columns, please use citations to identify sources.

Your essay should be 400-700 words in length (not counting references).

Your paper will be graded on the strength of your argument and your analysis of the best strategy for the 2024 Elections. Please note that you may not use Wikipedia as a source.

3rd Paper – due in Week 9:

Write a long opinion column (1,000 – 1,500 words) proposing a change in U.S. immigration policy and laying out a strategy for supporters of the strategy.  In your oped, you need to describe the strategy and—drawing on material you have learned in this class—explain why the strategy should be successful.  The bulk of the paper should be the analysis of your proposed strategy.  The supporters for whom you are writing the strategy plan can be a citizen advocacy or interest group, a group of Democratic or Republican members of Congress, the President Biden, or a Republican candidate for the presidency in 2024.  The strategy should be based on our current political situation—President Biden holds the White House, the Democrats have a majority in the House and (counting the Vote of Vice President Harris) a narrow majority in the Senate. 

Your oped should have a clear thesis stated in the first paragraph.    An example of a typical thesis might be: “Advocates of increased immigration should take three steps to win passage of legislation to achieve their goal.  The first step is …. The second step is ….”  In the body of your paper, you should describe the strategies (what the political actors should do) and, using theories covered in lectures and readings, explain why they should work.  The explanation of why things work as they do is a critical part of the paper assignment.

Your paper should cite relevant readings in the PS 12 syllabus. That is, if one of the required readings makes a point relevant to the subject of your paper, we expect you to cite that reading in your paper and integrate it into your analysis.

Your paper may cite academic papers or books, government reports, interest groups publications, news stories, or web pages--except Wikipedia--as sources. You should keep in mind that interest group publications and web sites may present selective or misleading information in order to persuade readers to agree with them.

You may not use Wikipedia and other on-line encyclopedias as sources.  Because Wikipedia may be edited by the public, entries are sometimes slanted or biased in ways similar to the ways in which interest groups slant the information they provide.  Wikipedia is a good source for citations, but it cannot be considered an authoritative source of information. Moreover, we want you to do the research yourselves, rather than rely on Wikipedia

Your paper should not spend much time writing about the details of immigration reform you propose (or any other law or policies).  In the first section on the reading list, I used a slide that describes the DREAM Act in a single sentence.  That is sufficient.  We don’t want you to spend paragraphs or pages describing the details of proposed immigration reform policies.  We want you to describe the proposed reform briefly and spend your time presenting a strategy for passing the law and explaining why your strategy should work using the material we have discussed in the class.  For example, you could discuss the collective action problem that activists face when they try to organize a political campaign to pass the act.  Or you could describe a protest strategy that seeks to get the issue into the news, a strategy which agenda setting theory addresses. 

Your paper should not spend time explaining and justifying your opinions. If you want to pass or defeat the DREAM Act, just say so and move on.  We won’t give you any credit for laying out a passionate, well-reasoned defense of your opinion.  We want to know what you would do to pass/defeat the proposed reform and why you think your strategy will work according to one of the theories we have discussed in class. 

You do not have to argue the side which you personally support.  Like a good lawyer, you should be able to develop a good paper favoring any side in the debate. Which side you choose to argue will have no bearing on your grade.

Your paper should be 1,000-1,500 words plus footnotes. It should be double-spaced with reasonable margins (e.g., 1-1/4") and printed in font size 11 or 12. Footnotes and citations must be in a standard reference form (e.g., Chicago). If you are not familiar with standard reference styles, see Diana Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual.  The UCSB library also has an online Chicago Manual of Style.  Please number the pages. You may cite PS 12 lectures as sources.

For the paper due date, please see the syllabus. You should submit your paper electronically on the Gauchospace class web page. You may, of course, submit your paper before the deadline.

Late papers will be accepted, but there is a penalty for late papers. The penalty is 1/3 of a grade for each 2 days, up to 1-2/3 grade off if the paper is ten or more days late. If your paper will be late, please contact your Teaching Assistant or me to discuss it. In some cases, late-paper penalties may be reduced or waived if we believe you have a reasonable excuse.


Papers will be graded on the quality of the arguments you present, the evidence you muster to support your arguments, and your skill in writing. You may, of course, present personal opinions, but your opinions (i.e., which side you take in any controversy) will have no influence on your grade.  The following rubric will be used to grade your papers.







Description of proposed change in U.S. Constitution, strategy, or policy for essays 1-3

Clear, concise description of proposed policy change 

Adequate description; some parts are confusing or missing

Proposed change is not present or not clear


Argument for analysis of impact (essay 1) or each aspect of the strategy (essays 2-3)

Arguments to support strategy made throughout paper are particularly well thought out, the structure of paper is logical, clear

Argument to support strategy makes sense, but has gaps or ignores problems with it.  Structure of argument is good

Argument to support strategy is present, but structure of argument neither logical, clear nor explicit

Lacking an argument to support strategy or coherent structure of argument

Use of theory or evidence

Should use a theory or present evidence to explain why strategy will succeed

Theory and evidence used, but theory poorly explained or evidence poorly described

Missing theoretical claim and/or evidence


Readability and Spelling/Grammar

Paper was overall very readable, varied sentence structure, logical paragraph breaks with few spelling or grammatical errors

Paper was readable with only a few instances of awkward phrasing with few grammatical errors

Paper was difficult to read and/or had a number of spelling and grammatical errors












Rubric for Papers 1 – 3

Plagiarism Warning

Let me remind you about the use, or lack of use, of quotation marks and citations: The Campus Regulations have the following to say about plagiarism: "Representing the words, ideas, or concepts of another person without appropriate attribution is plagiarism. Whenever another person's written work is utilized, whether it be a single phrase or longer, quotation marks must be used and sources cited. Paraphrasing another's work, i.e., borrowing the ideas or concepts and putting them into one's 'own' words, must also be acknowledged." In addition, submitting the same paper to two classes is also considered cheating because the work is not original for both classes. Any act of plagiarism or other form of cheating will be rewarded with an automatic "F" and referral to the administration for further punishment.

The standard punishment for plagiarism is a two-quarter suspension from U.C. Santa Barbara. In addition, upper-division students convicted of plagiarism have the conviction noted on their permanent transcript. Anyone reading the transcript (e.g., a law school or graduate school admissions committee, or a potential employer) will know that you been convicted of cheating.

There is a simple way to avoid plagiarism. Put the words you take from another source and add a footnote citing the source. Or you can paraphrase them and add a footnote citing the source. If you paraphrase a section, you still need the footnote. Aside from avoiding plagiarism problems, this can actually improve your grade because it shows that you did additional research.


University of California, Santa Barbara