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Over the course of the semester, you will write a policy paper examining a potential root cause of terrorism and the potential counterterrorism policy implications of the root cause. The policy paper is a research paper that should be between 20 and 25 double-spaced, typed pages with standard 12pt font and standard, one inch margins. Early in the semester, you will select an appropriate topic for the policy paper.
Here are some examples of potential policy paper topics:
Is poor education a root cause of terrorism? The policy paper examines education levels and education systems in three different countries to determine whether or not poor access to education prompts higher terrorist activity. The paper then evaluates counterterrorism policy that recommends improving education as a means to reduce terrorism.
Does ethnic conflict in South Asia (or another region of the world) drive the high terrorism rates there? The policy paper examines measures of ethnic diversity and the history of ethnic disputes in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and then evaluates existing affirmative action policies in those countries to see if they are reducing or exacerbating terrorism.
Does the illicit drug trade fuel terrorism in Latin America? What sorts of counternarcotics policies should be in place to address the impact of the drug trade on terrorism?
Would an economic downturn in the United States produce more terrorism or violent extremism? If so, what types of policies might be enacted to address this possibility?
What are the main root causes of terrorism in ____________________ (select a country or a region of the world)? What counterterrorism policies do you recommend to address those root causes? What counterterrorism policies would be counterproductive?
These are only examples to get you thinking about potential policy paper topics. You may use one of these topics (you will need to focus it and customize it), work on a similar topic, or design a completely new one.
There are two components to the policy paper:
The Prospectus. (15% of the Policy Paper grade) This is due early in the semester. We require a two-page, typed description of the topic of your policy paper. In it you will draft a prospective title for your paper, present your main research question or propose a thesis statement you will argue or a hypothesis you will test, discuss the methodology – be it a set of case studies or an evaluation of data – you will use to answer your question, test your hypothesis or support your argument. The prospectus should also have a preliminary draft bibliography to show me that you have started research on your project. This bibliography is not included in the 2-page count. The purpose of the prospectus is to get you started on your paper early enough in the semester so that I can give you feedback on your project.
The Final Draft. (85% of the Policy Paper grade) This is the completed, finished and polished policy paper, due near the end of the semester. It should be between 20 and 25 typed, double-spaced pages with standard fonts and margins, as previously explained. It should demonstrate that you have addressed any relevant comments or questions that you received on the prospectus. The final draft should be organized in the following way:
Title Page, with your name and the class identification;
Abstract, a 100-150 word abstract that briefly explains your topic and its findings;
Introduction, which begins your paper and states your research question and/or your thesis statements, main argument, hypothesis(es);
Literature Review, which surveys the relevant literature for your topic and explains how you hope to add to that literature;
Analysis, which describes the methodology you use, identifies your variables if you are doing a quantitative analysis or selects and defends your cases if you are doing a comparative analysis and then presents the results of your findings;
Policy Conclusion / Recommendation, which reviews your findings and then discusses the relevant counterterrorism policy implications.
When working on all parts of the Policy Paper, keep the following in mind:
The prospectus and final draft are all to be typed, double-spaced with standard margins and fonts (one inch all around and 12 point).
Both the Prospectus and the Final Draft are to be uploaded as Word documents into the Policy Paper folder on Canvas. Both are due on the days indicated in the syllabus and are subject to class late penalties (one grade-point average per day it is late). I will not give any extensions and will not accept any late components of the paper after the last day of class.
All components of the paper are to be formatted using any standard recognized citation system– for everything, including citations and references. For information on Citation Guides and Tools; visit Penn State Library Citation and Writing Guides webpage. (Links to an external site.)
Note that in the final draft I will be looking to see if you have all six sections of the paper: title page, abstract, intro, lit review, methods and analysis section, policy recommendations or implications and conclusion.
If you are planning to do a study that involves data analysis, please make sure to make an appointment with me early in the semester to talk about data and methods. While a lot of terrorism data is publicly available, it is often the case that an interesting topic needs to be modified to fit existing data.
Websites do not count as sources, unless they are primary sources such as speeches, sources for statistics, etc. If you are using the internet for primary sources in your paper, you must include the url and you must identify the website so I can verify its veracity. Note that a paper source that you access using the web, for example via a university library database, is perfectly acceptable. What I am trying to do is to get you to avoid using Wikipedia as a source or random websites that may or may not be providing valid information.

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