Grading and Assignments


  • Blogging (15%) (14 posts, one per week + 28 comments, two a week)
  • Research Journal (15%) (13 posts, weekly after week one, no post due presentation week)
  • Peer Feedback report (5%)
  • Democratization Index Presentation (25%)
  • Final Written Project (40%) (a 4,000-5,000 word essay)


  • Blogging (15%) (14 posts, one per week + 28 comments, two a week)
  • Research Journal (15%) (14 posts, weekly after week one)
  • Peer Feedback report (5%)
  • Democratization Index Presentation (25%)
  • Final Written Project (40%) (a 5,000-6,000 word essay)

Each student is expected to post once a week (tagging their posts as “Blog Post”). Half of you will be assigned to post by 3 PM on Mondays, and the other half by 3 PM on Wednesdays. Blog posts can and will take a number of forms. Some weeks, I’ll post questions or prompts for you to respond to. Other weeks, your posts can be more open-ended, exploring key questions from the readings or expanding upon class discussions. One strategy that works well is to consider using analytic approaches we’ve developed in previous weeks to new readings. Another is to compare and contrast the approaches taken or arguments made by previous readings with the current week’s crop. You can discuss and try to work through an area of a reading you don’t understand, and pose an insightful question or two (and try to offer an answer). Feel free to engage with or relate to posts made by your classmates. Blog posts should be about 250  words (two good, full paragraphs will usually do it).

I also expect two comments (using the blog’s comment feature) a week. This will necessarily mean reading through the blog posts made by your fellow students every week. Comments can be free-form (but always civil) responses to the issues and questions raised in an original blog post, or can continue ongoing discussion threads (you can “comment” on your own post to answer a question or continue a debate, for example). Comments can be any length, but should be substantive and on-topic.

My grading rubric for the blog posts is purely “credit/no-credit”–either you meet bare-bones requirements of the assignment (be thoughtful and on-time), or you don’t. If you don’t, I’ll be letting you know. Otherwise you won’t be receiving weekly grades, but rather a final grade based on your completion of all  posts and comments.

The class blog will also serve as the central depository for your research journals, where you’ll be keeping track of your progress and beginning to work out your analysis.  I strongly encourage you to look at each other’s research journal postings (all of which will be tagged “research journal” to differentiate them from blog posts), and to draw on their thoughts and offer comments and suggestions (I’ll be doing the same).  I expect you to post once a week, excluding the first week.

Everyone will find their own style and strategy, and there’s no one way to write these research journal entries.   As with the blog posts, I assume everyone will be posting quality research journal posts, and will only dock points after I see a pattern of consistently poor efforts.

On Wednesday, March 20, you will be submitting first (rough) drafts (3 hard copies) of your final research paper.  These drafts will likely be incomplete in some important ways, but the more you provide (in terms of argument and evidence), the more productive the feedback you’ll receive.  Each submitted draft will be distributed to two of your classmates, who will take the weekend to write up brief commentaries (details to follow) directed at improving or clarifying the paper for your final draft.  On Monday, March 25, we’ll be taking the class period to work on the papers in groups, discussing these commentaries and preparing plans for revision.  Again, details will follow, but your peer feedback comments will be graded based on your effort and the depth and specificity of your feedback.  The more useful your feedback is for the author, the higher the grade.

Beginning with our course meeting on Monday, Feb. 4, you’ll be working in small groups (3-4 students) to prepare a mock democratization index that offers the ability to define and distinguish between “levels” of democratization across time and place. While the assignment will almost certainly include some writing on your part, your grade will be based on an oral presentation of about 15 minutes on Monday, February 25, in which all group members will collaborate to present your index, along with three case studies that you have scored. I expect you to choose these cases carefully (and perhaps in consultation with me), with one being a fairly certain democracy, one a fairly certain autocracy, and one a challenging “hybrid” or “difficult case.” I ask that you prepare scores for each nation for five year periods (plus a 2013 score) between 1960 and 2010, for a total of 12 data points per country. These scores should be presented on a chart for each country, either in the form of a paper handout or a visual slide during your presentation (and available to me afterwards).

While the style and fluidity of your presentation will matter for your grade, my primary concern is with the content. How well you you define your index? How well do you explain the tough definitional choices, and how clear is your scoring system? Where does your data come from for your country scores, and are your results easily comparable and generalizable?

I’ll provide one in-class work day (Wednesday, Feb. 6), which might most profitably be used to prepare your index and its scoring system collectively. This gives you about 20 days to prepare the country studies, which you may divide up between group members as you see fit.

Your final paper for this class (4,000 to 5,000 words for the undergraduates, 5,000 to 6,000 words for the grads, 1 inch margins, title page with name) will be on a topic of your choice, chosen in consultation with me.  An initial, one-page summary of your proposed research, along with a separate page containing at least 10 prospective academic sources, is due in hardcopy on Wednesday, January 30 in class.  A first draft is due Wednesday, March 20 in class.  The final draft is due (by email, in .doc or .pdf format) no later than Wednesday, May 1, at 5 PM.

For your paper, please follow the Chicago Manual of Style’s author-date convention for in-text citation and the preparation of your bibliography.  In-text citation format rules can be found here (click on “Author-date” tab), and guidelines for the bibliography (as well as a sample paper using the correct citation style) can be found here.  Correct citation and bibliography formatting are one of those things I expect college juniors/seniors and graduate students to be able to do with relatively little guidance, so be prepared to actually make use of these online resources.