Using concepts, theories, and readings from throughout the course—as well as substantial outside research—make an argument that explains and analyzes what happened and why. Use extensive empirical evidence to support your argument.
As discussed during previous modules in this course, the purpose of political science is to explain things. Not simply to say what we think about them, but to make convincing arguments grounded in a conceptual framework and supported by evidence. During the past three modules you have been introduced to a wide range of concepts and theories. The goal was to help you feel confident in your understanding of these ideas and ability to apply them through repeated use in discussion board posts, quizzes, team discussions, and essays. In other words, to practice using them so that they become “second nature” ways of thinking about electoral politics.
During the past three modules you have also been introduced and asked to practice different forms of explanation. Module #1 asked you to explain electoral phenomena in terms of what they mean and why they matter. Module #2 asked you to explain electoral phenomena in terms of causation and influence. And Module #3 asked you to explain electoral phenomena in terms of complex relationships and contexts. One of the four primary skills-based learning goals noted on the syllabus is to “think analytically and evaluate critically.” Being able to do so demands effort and focus, but it not a haphazard process that you are asked to develop on your own. It involves thinking systematically by adopting an approach, whether it be (1) interpreting meaning, (2) identifying causation, or (3) recognizing complex connections.
This final module asks you to demonstrate what you can do. As always, it is guided by the course outcomes noted on page one of the syllabus. What do you know? Can you define and explain key concepts, specific facts, and critical issues concerning the American electoral system and effectively apply this information to particular examples? Can you think analytically about it and evaluate critically? Can you distinguish and compare conceptual models/theories used to analyze empirical evidence? Can you identify and discuss methods used in political science research and then apply political science methods in developing and communicating convincing arguments supported by evidence and reasoning? Can you make decisions and solve problems creatively? Can you familiarize yourself with relevant reading? Can you recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed information? Can you communicate effectively through writing, speaking, and listening?