POL 3766 – Political Psychology of Mass Behavior
“American Identity and the Politics of Multiculturalism”
You are required to write response papers to two of the four assigned books. Each response paper accounts for 15 percent of your grade. Response papers should be 4 pages, double spaced, Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins. You are strongly encouraged to meet with me to discuss ideas for response papers; any questions are welcome!
Purpose of Response Paper:
(1) Demonstrate your careful reading of the texts and understanding of their central claims and the methods by which they test their theory.
(2) Demonstrate your ability to think carefully and critically about the reading.
Rough Guide to Writing a Response Paper:
There are two main features to a response paper (1) a detailed summary, and (2) a critical analysis.
1) Brief (2 pages) summary of the major argument of the book. What is the theory offered by the book? What is its main thesis statement? How does this argument fit into the broader literature / theory?
Your summary should include an identification of the major dependent and independent variables. What is the book trying to explain (dependent variable(s))? What are the causal forces identified in the book (independent variable(s))?
Your summary should also briefly discuss the methods by which the authors test their theory. Is there a central experiment? Describe it – what do the authors manipulate, and what do they find? Is there a survey? How do they measure key concepts? Each book discusses multiple experiments / surveys. It is not required that you discuss all of them. Rather, I want you to focus on one empirical study in depth and describe what the authors do. Make it clear that you understand the connection between the empirical study and the theory the book makes: How does the evidence presented support the argument?
2) A critical analysis (2 pages). In this section I want you to go beyond what is in the text itself. You might discuss: (1) critical limitations of the study and how they could be improved; (2) the broad implications of the findings; and/or (3) how the readings relate to other scholarship with which you are familiar.
First, you can offer a criticism, counterargument, or extension to a claim in the book. For example, perhaps you find an argument unconvincing. Why? What is unconvincing? How would you test your alternative theory? Do you find the empirical analyses compelling? Maybe the measures are not satisfactory, or the experimental treatments could be improved. Discuss criticisms of the empirical sections that interest you. Be sure to explain why you find parts of the text (un)convincing.
Second, you can discuss broad implications of the book and its theory for understanding other political events. For example, how does the argument in Predisposed inform our understanding of “issues of the day” in American politics? How does the literature on implicit attitudes or racial prejudice inform your understanding of contemporary debates about race and the criminal justice system (The Rationalizing Voter or American Identity)? How well does this theory apply to politics in a different country or in a different time? Any issue or event that you think is relevant / important and may be illuminated by theories offered in this book are worthy of discussing.
Third, you can connect theories from the readings to other scholarship you are familiar with. What are the implications of these theories for other theories (either normative or empirical) you have encountered before? How does the theory or argument in the book support, refute, or otherwise speak to concepts we have discussed in class or from other readings?
In short, in this second section I am looking for evidence of your ability to critically think about the readings and to propose some argument about how the books are limited or how they apply to some unexplored topic.