For this research paper (worth 50 points) you will examine the political theory of a significant political thinker.  You may choose one from the list below or another of your choice.  If you don’t choose one from the list please clear your choice with me before writing your paper to avoid a thinker that would make the paper difficult.  Suggestions include:

Socrates,  Plato,  Aristotle,  St. Augustine,  St. Thomas Aquinas,  Niccolo Machiavelli,  Thomas Hobbes,  Montesquieu,  David Hume,  John Locke,  Thomas Jefferson,  Thomas Payne,  Jeremy Bentham,  Alexis de . Tocqueville,  Jean Jacques Rousseau,  Edmund Burke,  John Stewart Mill,  Karl Marx,  Henry David Thoreau,  Charles Montesquieu,  Tom Paine,  Thomas H. Green,  Ayn Rand,  John Rawls ,  Robert Nozick ,  Russell Kirk.

You must cover several aspects of the political thinker’s work.  First discuss the political conditions in which the thinker lived.  Among other things you might describe historical, social, economic, cultural, religious, or scientific circumstances.  In particular you need to discuss those factors that had an important affect on the political ideas of the thinker you have chosen.

            Next discuss other political thinkers who may have influenced the one you chose.  This can take two forms.  Either discuss other thinkers whose work your thinker expanded upon or those whose work your thinker attempted to contradict.  In other words, discuss others that your thinker either agreed with or disagreed with.   These thinkers can be from the same time as the one you’re covering or from hundreds or thousands of years earlier

            The next section of the paper should be the longest.  Here you must describe the actual political theory that your political thinker developed.  What is their opinion of human nature?  Why do we have government in the first place?  What is the best way to run the government or organize society according to your thinker?  What is the best way to work toward those ends?  Where does the government’s authority to rule come from?  Should ordinary people play a role and if so what is their role?  What types of leaders does your thinker advocate?  How should the people react if they are dissatisfied with their political leaders?  Who should make important policy decisions?  How rapidly should any suggested changes take place?  These are just suggestions of the types of questions you need to consider.  You don’t necessarily have to answer all of them and there may be others that are more important depending on which political thinker you choose.  Be sure to include any information that is relevant to your political thinker

            Finally, you must examine the influence that your thinker had on other thinkers or even countries, either from their own times or those that followed them.  Did they influence subsequent political thinkers?  Did they have an effect on any actual governments?  How significant an effect did your thinker have on political events as a result of their contributions to political theory?

            Papers must be 4-6  pages long (not including the works cited page or bibliography), typed and double spaced.  If your paper is more than 6 pages that is fine.  If you use particularly large font, your paper must be correspondingly longer.  You must cite at least three sources which can include books, journal articles, newspaper articles and the internet .  However, since more sources mean you have more material to incorporate into your paper I suggest more than 3 sources, preferably 6 to 10.  You can use our textbook but it will not count as one of the outside sources.  At least one of the three sources must be from printed material (not including the textbook) although a source that your access on the internet  that was once in print (such as a book or journal article) counts as a print source.  You should cite your sources a significant number of times preferably an average of three source citations per page, more would be better.  You must include a works cited page or bibliography in one of the major styles, for instance APA, MLA, Chicago, or Turabian  since you will probably use one of them in other classes during your academic career.

            Please see the course outline in the syllabus for the due date for the paper.  You can turn in your paper up to one week late but the score will be marked down 5 points for being late.  No papers will be accepted more than one week late. 

            I am happy to read rough drafts of your paper and you will probably improve your grade by incorporating my suggestions.  You may bring rough drafts to class or my office or email them to me.  Please take advantage of this opportunity to improve your grade. 

Papers will be evaluated based on the amount of relevant information they contain and how well they integrate and illustrate concepts learned in class.  While your ideological bias will inevitably affect your paper, the paper must provide a well researched, balanced examination of your thinker to earn a satisfactory grade

            My system for grading papers consists of a grid with columns labeled for important aspects of the paper.  I assign a check, plus, or minus for each column depending on how well you did on that part of the paper.  A check means you did that part of the paper satisfactorily, a plus means you did it well and a minus means you either didn’t  do it or did it poorly.  I then award points based on how many pluses, checks, or minuses you earned.  That means you want to do well on each of the parts of the paper.  There are columns for the political conditions the thinker lived in, the thinkers who influenced them, your thinker’s theory (weighted more heavily than the other parts), who they influenced, the sources/works cited page/bibliography, and organization/overall quality.  Below are the headings for my grading grid








Sourc /Bib

Org /Subj

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the paper or my grading system.

You can upload your paper to Blackboard by clicking on the link for this assignment or you can turn in a hard copy of the paper.


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