National security issues

Paper Guidelines

As an advisor to the president you are helping to prepare an analysis of the national security issues that she/he must understand as a potential leader in the international arena. It is clearly important for you in your capacity of advisor to address the issue of the increasing loss of human life due to ethnic and religious conflict. You plan to write a short memo on one of these conflicts. The memo is to be four pages, with a short explanation of the conflict including who is involved in the conflict within the country and/or outside, what if any conflict resolution attempts have been made, and the various options possible for ending the carnage and bringing peace. 

Your conflict will be: Islamic-Christian violence in Nigeria

The paper must be four double-spaced pages, typewritten, with 1” margins and 12 point font.  It must be properly cited. In text, footnote, or endnote style is acceptable.  The paper must also include a properly styled bibliography.  The citation and bibliography styles can be found in the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. It is available in the reference section of the library or online.

Sources for your paper should include a minimum of four books and/or articles from refereed journals (such as those listed below).  As you see in the Paper Grading Guidelines in this syllabus that is the minimum to receive a grade of C on the paper. You will also find excellent articles in journals that specialize in particular regions.  You may also find good references and primary source material on the Web. Dependable sites on the Web can be found through universities, international institutions, governments and respected research institutes.  You should avoid unreliable sites.  Many countries have at least one newspaper in English on line, they are useful to understand local perspectives. Additionally, articles from The New York Times or other “national” newspapers should also prove helpful though newspaper articles will not qualify as a refereed journal.


            These are guidelines and core requirements for your term paper. Read them carefully and thoroughly. Do not miss a word and do not skim through it. The guidelines are modified from a popular template of McGraw Hill Publishers, Inc. Feel free to use your own sources if this would make you more comfortable. Nevertheless, the requirements laid out in here are mandatory.

            In addition to being a scholarly investigation, research is a social activity intended to create new knowledge, or to challenge an existing one. The current assignment requires you to research and bring together facts and theoretical perspectives in a way that the final outcome represents a creative effort to produce analytical piece, based on sound argument, developed in logically coherent study, which makes use of carefully selected, and well researched cases and facts.  In the final outcome of your research and analysis, do not forget to recognize those scholars whose existing work has helped you in this pursuit. Plagiarism, literally meaning “kidnapping,” is usually the act of using someone else’s words as if they were your own.

            It is important to realize that your report will be judged in part by such standards as neatness, grammar, and spelling, and other such technical criteria. It is not uncommon for university instructors to get papers that represent a good research and analytical effort but that are sloppy, contain numerous grammatical errors, are full of misspellings, or are burdened by other such technical deficiencies. Do not be one of the students to submit such a paper!

Getting Started

            Most successful efforts require some planning. Do not wait until the last minute. Last-minute efforts usually read like last-minute efforts! A good paper requires:

  • An outline
  • careful preparation,
  • research,
  • critical thinking, and
  • writing

Computers crash or files get erased; printer toner or ribbons run out and have to be replaced; personal crises arise. You need to be able to cope with these and still get the paper done on time.


            The term papers should be 4 double-spaced  pages (not including references etc.), Times New Roman 12 pt. font. I expect these term papers to be based on your own research and analysis, and needless to say it has to be written by you – they are not collaborative exercises!

  • Submit your papers  electronically using turn it
  • Do not email them!
  • The name of your file should be your lastname
  • Paginate, except for the title page.


  • Do give precise page or url references wherever applicable.
  • Use at least 4 academic sources (books or online journals) other than the texts and Internet Papers which only use text and Internet references will be marked down at least 10%.  Do not copy and paste from Internet sources.
  • Use only well recognized Internet sources with listed editors. Nowadays everyone can publish all sorts of crazy texts on the Internet If there is no clearly listed editor or/and editorial board, to verify the credentials and merits of the writings, do not use them.
  • Include a bibliography of works which you have used in your paper. You should copy and paste the full Internet url into your bibliography. ( Make sure that you link to the specific page, not to a general site like
  • Proofread carefully: grammatical and other errors will reduce the mark for your paper.
  • ·       Avoid plagiarism, which is offering someone else’s work as your own, whether one sentence or whole paragraphs, and whether from an Internet source, book, periodical, or the writing of other students. It is also dishonest to submit your own paper as original work in more than one course.

How to Choose a Topic

            The next step for your research paper is to choose the topic carefully. If possible, pick a topic that most interests you. The more interested you are in a topic, the easier it will be for you to devote time and energy to studying it and to writing about it.

Analytical Tools:  Make sure you  that you have the theoretical and empirical knowledge to approach the topic, as well as the background to understand the complexities that you will encounter. Make to use two theoretical perspectives in your analysis, compare them, analyze what explains your “problem” better, which theory makes more sense or is more comprehensive.

Organizing the Paper

            The keys to effective papers are good organization and presentation of ideas, and error-free technical skills. There are a number of sources that you can access to help you both organize and write your paper. Some are: Writer’s Guide: Political Science (Biddle & Holland, 1987); The Chicago Manual of Style (1993); “The Write Stuff” (Cronin, 1986); Writing with Power (Elbow, 1981); The Elements of Style (Strunk & White, 1979); and A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Turabian, 1987).  You are encouraged also to consider Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science by Stephen van Evera, a professor in MIT, whose book is popularly used as a guide to writing IR theses and dissertations.

            There are three organizational issues to consider. They are:

  • outline,
    • the parts of the paper, and
    • the approach.
  • Outline: Have a plan! No one would think of building a house, computer, or other important and complex project without a plan. Poor organization is a common weakness of undergraduate term papers. The best way to construct your plan and to organize information for maximum effect is to put together an outline. An outline serves to lay out your paper’s structure, to ensure that it is complete and logical, and to prevent you from getting off the track. Determine what you wish to accomplish in the paper; then prepare an outline specifying every step from Introduction to Conclusion. 
  • Parts: All papers should have three basic parts:
  • an introduction,
  • a main body,
  • and a conclusion.

An Introduction: Do not make long, fiction like introduction. Assume that the reader is well educated and knows most of the major premises in use. Instead, IDENTIFY problem implicitly or explicitly embedded in the question/topic you chose, locate the PERSPECTIVE (that is the theory/theories) you will use.

The introduction is the key to letting your reader know where you are headed and what you are after. Remember that while the organization of your paper may be clear to you, it is not always clear to your reader. Therefore, the introduction is something like a road map that acquaints the reader with the journey ahead. This will make it easier for the reader to understand what follows and will improve the reader’s evaluation of your work.

Tell the reader in concise terms:

  • what the subject of the paper is,
    • what it is that you hope to find out, and
    • how you will go about it.

Main Body: This is the largest part of the paper. It should have a logical organization. It is often a good idea to divide the main body into sections designated by headings and subheadings. Look at almost any text, including this one, and you will see that it uses headings to help keep the you aware of the organizational structure.

Include all important information, explain its significance, and detail your logic. Write your paper as though its reader will be a reasonably intelligent and informed person but not an expert on your topic. Do your best to convince through facts and logic your reader in the argument you purport.

What to consider when writing the main body:

a) State your thesis: start with writing what is your main argument in ONE sentence. This should be some sort of synthesis of your take of the problem at hand.

b) Attack the problem/question armed with the analytical tools from class (i.e. major assumptions) therefore setting the environment for analysis. Challenge rival explanations. This is supposed to be the longest section, where you have to justify your thesis.

  • Build your thesis around a case study. Use the collected data/historical evidence etc to support your main thesis.

c) logically extrapolate the main conclusions which should coincide with your statement from point a) but now in a logical chain.

Conclusion: The conclusion should sum up what you have found and stress the evidence that supports your analysis. Outline possible further research.


            Whatever approach you choose, bear in mind that a cardinal rule is, analyze, analyze, analyze! Summarizing your findings in the conclusion does not mean that this is the only place to put “you” in the paper. Your analysis should appear throughout the paper. A big error that many novice writers make is to use the main body of the paper to create a heap of facts and to wait until the conclusion to say what they mean. This approach is boring and will not impress your readers with your analytical ability. The best papers by far are those that draw data, events, and other material together and interpret them throughout.

            Write a draft, preferably more than one. Some students have the hubris to keyboard something that resembles a paper into the computer, print a copy out, hand it in, and wait confidently for that rave review and an “A” grade from the instructor. Do not be one of these students!

            A better idea is to write a first draft. Note here that the adjective “rough” does not precede “draft.” Your draft should be complete and carefully done. Once your smooth draft is done, put it aside for a few days so that you can gain perspective. Then reread it. You may be surprised at how many ways you find to improve what you have written when you look at it with “fresh eyes.” The same is true for your third and subsequent drafts.

            Watch your sentence structure. Students and scholars too often seem to assume that long, complex sentences are symbolic of profundity. They are not; they are mostly just cumbersome. Simple, subject-verb-object sentences are best. They are powerful. Still, if you do not vary them occasionally, numerous short sentences do not “read” well. So, after several simple sentences, add a longer one.

            Rely on active tense, action verbs. Avoid the passive tense. Similarly, action verbs (made, jumped, went) are better than verbs of being (is, are, were). In general, active/action verbs generate more interest.

            Use standard English. Colloquial English typically does not make a good impression unless you are writing fiction. Obscenities and other forms of gutter English are almost never acceptable.

            Avoid starting too many sentences with adverbial or adjectival clauses or phrases.

            Watch your paragraph length.!!! Paragraphs over 2/3 of a page in length are usually too long. They may contain redundant statements or more than one major idea. Rework such paragraphs to delete unnecessary text or to separate ideas into additional paragraphs. At the other extreme, one or two-sentence paragraphs are not acceptable. Remember that each paragraph should have a topic sentence and several others that explain or develop that topic.

            Rely on transitions between paragraphs. Conventions like “On the other hand,” “Still,” “Also,” “Nevertheless,” “Thus,” “However,” or “As a result” help the reader get from one thought to another. They smooth the reading process.

Avoid clichés. “They fought like cats and dogs over which policy to adopt.” Ugh!

Technical Matters

Your paper must be free of common writing mistakes. Cautions about some of these are:

Avoid sentence fragments. Every sentence must have a subject and a verb.

Check your spelling. Misspelled words make you appear uneducated, careless, or both. Keep in mind that misspelled words and typographical errors cannot be distinguished from each other by a reader. Both are unacceptable. Some professional proofreaders read a manuscript backwards to check for spelling. Try it. Do not rely on just your own sense of how words are spelled. Use a dictionary, a “spell check” program if you have a computer, and a second reader to proofread your drafts. Beware of spell checkers, though! Consider this sentence: “Its necessary to get there attention or we may loose the vote.” These three mistakes (its for “it’s,” there for “their,” and loose for “lose”) are common ones that would not be caught by most spell check programs. Thus it is crucial to have a human scan your words.

Make sure subjects and verbs agree. Subject-verb disagreement is most likely to occur when the two are separated in the sentences by several other words.

Be careful of verb tense. Many poor writers use only present tense. Use past tense, future, and other tenses as appropriate. Also be careful to keep verb tense consistent within paragraphs.

Make pronouns mean what they say. Misuse of pronouns is very common. A pronoun refers to the last noun of the same person and gender. Consider the sentences, “John F. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was subsequently also shot and killed. Many Americans wept at his death.” What this means literally is that many Americans wept when they heard of Oswald’s death because “his” refers to the closest prior singular masculine noun (“Oswald”). Also, do not normally use pronouns more than twice in a row to refer to the same noun. Use the noun or a variation thereof again for clarity. While we are on the subject of pronouns, it is seldom correct to use a gender-specific pronoun (he, she, him, her) to refer to an inanimate object. The United States, for example, is an “it,” not a “she.”

Do not split infinitives. Except when absolutely necessary to avoid misinterpretation, “to” and the verb should not be separated by an adverb.

Avoid the use of contractions. Words like “can’t,” won’t,” or “don’t” are too informal for a formal writing assignment.

Be careful of abbreviations. Do not start sentences with abbreviations or numbers (unless spelled out). For countries, avoid using the abbreviation as a noun (No: The U.S. did…); but the abbreviation is acceptable as an adjective (Yes: Current U.S. foreign policy…). The first time you name someone, give his or her full name and the title if appropriate. Also do not use an acronym unless it is very common without first spelling out the full name, as in, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Do not end sentences with prepositions. This rule is being relaxed, but repetitive use of prepositions at the end of sentences is indicative of poor sentence structure.

Know when and how to use specific punctuation. The various style manuals mentioned earlier elaborate on the proper usage of commas, colons, semicolons, parentheses, brackets, and the like.

When to Cite

Follow these guidelines to protect yourself:

Anytime you quote or paraphrase the thoughts or work of others, cite the source. It is incorrect to believe that only quotations require citations. You should also insert a note whenever you are relying on someone else’s thoughts or research, even if you are only paraphrasing (putting it in your own words).

Simple, commonly known facts need not be footnoted. A rule of thumb is that if you did not know the information before you started the paper, then you should use a citation to show where you found the information. Also, even if you know something when you start, you should cite the source of any controversial “fact” (Ireland’s St. Brenden and the Vikings came to the New World before Columbus).

When in doubt, cite the source. Plagiarism is unethical. Instructors and other readers take it very seriously. Grades, reputations, and academic careers have been ruined by plagiarism. Err on the side of safety. One citation too many is far better than one citation too few.

Read your paper one last time. Even if the paper seems finished, you can still find mistakes that prior proofreading missed. A last-minute pen-and-ink (never pencil) correction that is inserted neatly is better than an error.

*Research Memo  Grading Criteria:

Grade of A:  The student has thoroughly researched the topic and carefully and critically analyzed the materials used. The student has chosen a large number of peer reviewed strong and academically respected sources on which to base the analysis. The student has thoughtfully analyzed the issues and the various points of view found during research. The student has presented a very well organized and well written paper which has been carefully checked for spelling and grammar errors. All necessary citations and a bibliography are included using The Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition format. The required submission of the paper topic, bibliography and outline have been submitted on time and are attached to the completed paper.

Grade of B:  The student has researched the topic and critically analyzed the materials used. The student has chosen a good number of peer reviewed and academically accepted sources on which to base the analysis. The student has analyzed the issues and taken account of the various points of view of the experts used in their research. The student’s paper is organized and has been carefully checked for grammar and spelling errors. All necessary citations and a bibliography are included using The Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition format. The required submission of paper topic, bibliography and outline have been submitted on time and are attached to the completed paper.

Grade of C:  The student has researched and analyzed the materials used. The student has used at least four books and/or peer reviewed sources. The student has tried to take account of the differing points of view presented by the materials. The paper has been checked for grammar and spelling errors. All necessary citations and a bibliography are included using The Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition format. The required submission of paper topic, bibliography and outline have been submitted on time and are attached to the completed paper.

Grade of D:  The student has submitted a paper. The student has used outside research materials. The student has limited analysis. The paper has been checked for grammar and spelling errors. All necessary citations and a bibliography are included using The Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition format The required submission of paper topic, bibliography and outline have been submitted on time and are attached to the completed paper.

Grade of F:  The student has not submitted a paper or it has not met the minimum standards of research materials, analysis, grammar and spelling. Citations or bibliography according to The Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition format have not been included with the paper.

*Grades will be reduced for late submission as explained under written work guidelines. Grades will also be differentiated by – and + where appropriate (eg. B+, B, B-).

Some Suggested International Relations Journals:

                The following are examples of some scholarly journals that should be helpful for your papers.  There are many more specialized journals as well on specific regions such as Latin America, Asia, Africa, Middle East, etc. and countries or topics such as conflict resolution, terrorism, international political economy.

American Political Science Review Foreign Affairs Foreign Policy International Journal of World Peace International Security International Studies Quarterly International Studies Review International Affairs  Journal of Peace Research Political Science Quarterly SAIS Review Survival The Washington Quarterly World Policy Journal World Politics

Internet Sources  Sources such as those from the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Radio Free Europe, foreign newspapers, the major think tanks such as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,  The International Crisis Group, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the United States Institute for Peace, The Foreign Policy Association, and The Council on Foreign Relations can be very helpful. Human Rights organizations can also be very helpful such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. There are many strong internet sites, but you must be careful to discern those that are factual from those that are not.

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