Sample Political Science Paper on Foundations of Comparative Politics


Please write an 8-10-page essay answering one of the provided questions.


Your essay should include the following key elements:


  1. a clear and arguable thesis,
  2. significant attention to concepts and theories (drawn from course readings and/or from your own research), with key terms properly defined,
  3. a coherent and helpful set of supportive arguments (roughly 3-5)
  4. evidence to back up your arguments, drawn from your research work
  5. thoughtful and balanced analysis, which should include some recognition of competing theoretical perspectives and explicit refutation of rejected claims
  6. attention to the need to construct your two cases, whether they are separate national political systems or distinct time periods within one national context. Make sure to choose your cases with care, so that they are relevant to the question you have chosen – as we have seen, ‘cases’ are instances of the phenomenon that you’re investigating, not the countries or periods themselves
  7. a clear structure, which should include an introduction and a conclusion, and paragraphs clearly connected to each other
  8. limited use of quotations – primarily when the authorial phrasing adds something to the discussion; do make sure you set up these quotations, and then comment on them in order to draw them into your own line of argumentation
  9. clear writing, with few grammatical errors
  10. a complete bibliography of your at least eight original academic sources (beyond the syllabus) – books from academic presses or articles from peer-reviewed journals, with other acceptable sources such as think tank reports and high-quality media articles used sparingly. Steer entirely clear of poor sources, such as textbooks, Wikipedia, or unofficial or unidentifiable websites
  11. sources clearly identified – you may use the format of your preference, as long as you are consistent, and above all make sure that you avoid plagiarism, which includes light paraphrasing even if the source is properly identified.


Standard formatting (double spacing, one-inch margins, 12-point font) is expected. Please submit in MS Word (not pdf).



  1. Drawing upon one case from Africa and another from Latin America, do we see similar problems of state weakness, and on similar causal foundations?
  2. How important is social class as a guide to voting behaviour in two consolidated democracies?
  3. Why do some countries in the Global South lack organized class politics, despite the existence of vast disparities between rich and poor? Answer with reference to the experience of two countries of your choice.
  4. What some call populist extremist parties (or one of a variety of other terms), others prefer to call fascist parties. With appeal to one case from the years between World Wars I and II (Germany or Italy), and another case from the last few decades of populist politics in one of many world regions, is fascism a fair term to apply to the extreme right movements and parties of our time? Why or why not?
  5. How successful was the external imposition of democracy in Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War? Considering one other case, has the German case stood as a model for more recent efforts in other parts of the world, and why or why not?
  1. What explains the persistence of authoritarian government in much of the Middle East? Discuss with reference to two cases.
  1. What were the principal causes of democratization in one major global region (e.g., Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, or Latin America) during the period beginning with the third wave of democratization in the 1970s? Considering two cases from within the region, what were the key differences as well as similarities in these processes of democratization?
  1. Considering two cases from the post-Soviet world, how great has been the impact of the legacy of the Soviet Union for the process of democratization?
  1. Why did New Zealand change its electoral system in the 1990s? Comparing the party system before and after the electoral system reform, what has been the impact of electoral system change on parties and election results?
  2. What were the state or institutional sources of Japanese economic success in the decades after WWII? To what extent did the Japanese approach differ from that of one developed Northern (western) country?
  3. What were the state or institutional sources of Japanese economic success in the decades after WWII? Can an emphasis on political institutions also help us to understand the problems of the Japanese economy beginning in the 1990s?
  4. Why have state-led efforts at industrialization in the decades after WWII generally been more successful in the East Asian Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs) than in Latin America?  Discuss with reference to one case from each region.
  1. To what extent has the colonial legacy affected post-colonial political development? Discuss with respect to two cases.
  1. Are the institutions of liberal democracy the solution to poverty and social problems in Africa? Discuss using evidence from two countries of your choice.
  2. Is economic globalization a new form of colonialism? Discuss with reference to the experience of two cases from the Global South.
  3. “The underlying causes of ethnic conflict are economic, not cultural.” Pick two recent (post-1980) cases of ethnic conflict in the Global South and assess the validity of this statement in these cases.