Writing for Political Science


Political science papers vary in length according to professor and topic. Typically, all political science papers should be written in Times New Roman with 12 size font, double spaced, and formatted with 1" margins. All cited references should follow the American Political Science Association's (APSA) style. In-text citations should have the following in the parentheses: the author's last name followed by the publication date and then the page number. For example it should resemble the following: (Phillips 1999, 207). Quotations exceeding four lines should be indented and singled spaced. For an extensive overview of how the bibliography should look, see the APSA's Style Guide (http://dept.lamar.edu/polisci/drury/drury.html) or The University of Wisconsin-Madison's online guide (http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/DocAPSA.html) or come by the Writing Center for further help.

Writing Tips

  1. A good political science paper should start with an outline. Outlines aid in the organization of the paper and help develop the content of your paper. Outlines may be notes, flow charts, diagrams, or any type of visual aid to help you structure your essay. A good outline should include your thesis, your main points for supporting your thesis, and any evidence for supporting your main points.
  2. All titles should be specific and related to your topic. For example, if you are talking about the peace negotiations in the Middle East, an ideal title would be "The Middle East Peace Process."
  3. Utilize commas, apostrophes, and semicolons correctly. Pay close attention to possessive pronouns such as it, its, their, he, and she. Also, pay close attention to the difference between plurals and plural possessives. For more help with the grammar and punctuation rules, see the Wilmer Writing Center's online writing guide, or make an appointment with a tutor for additional help.
  4. All political science papers should be written in active voice rather than passive voice. For example:
    Passive voice: The Health Care Reform Bill was recently passed.
    Active voice: Congress recently passed the Health Care Reform Bill.
    When passive voice is used, the reader does not know who is doing the action in the sentence.
  5. Point of view varies depending on the assignment and the professor. For example, first person point of view is more accepted for argumentative essays in Quest For Justice than research papers in upper level classes. For some professors, it is better to write "I concluded . . ." instead of "It is concluded . . ." in order to stay in the active voice. If you are confused as to which point of view to use, ask your professor for clarity.
  6. Proofread your paper or let a friend or tutor at the Writing Center proofread it before turning it in.

Organizing the Political Science Paper

Title Page

Your title page is a single page including the title, your name, your instructor's name, and the date the paper is due.


A good introduction introduces your topic, states the purpose and goal of the paper, and grabs the reader's attention. Your paper should revolve around a single, concise topic or a handful of related topics. It should also include a clear thesis. Your thesis should be located towards the end of the introductory paragraph.

Body of Paper

The body of the paper contains the content of your paper. All the information is discussed here. For organization, divide your information into paragraphs. The body of the paper contains the main ideas located in the topic sentence of each paragraph. Topic sentences can be seen as "mini-theses" because they explain the purpose of each paragraph. The other sentences in your paragraph should offer evidence to support the topic sentence. Make sure that you are providing an argument, supported by specific examples rather than only presenting your own opinion.


The conclusion is a discussion of what is proposed in your introduction and any additional comments on improvement or hopes for the future. You might want to include a brief discussion of the implications that may arise from your conclusion ad the significance of your thesis. Your thesis is also restated in your conclusion. Do not introduce any new material in your conclusion.

Bibliography Section

Your bibliography section should contain acceptable political science sources from within your research tools of journals, newspapers, magazines, and political science books. Here is a list of frequently used reference sources:

  • American Journal of Politics
  • American Political Science Review
  • British Journal of Political Science
  • Comparative Politics
  • Comparative Political Studies
  • Electoral Studies
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Foreign Policy
  • Journal of Politics
  • Parliamentary Affairs
  • International Organization
  • Review of Politics
  • Southern Political Review
  • West European Politics