Skip Navigation
Kalamazoo College
CMM_20121024_1248

SIP Information

 

Political Science SIP Guidelines

Does your Senior Individualized Project (SIP) Research Need to be Approved by the Institutional Review Board?

Recommended Book to Read on How to Write a SIP

Viewing Old SIPs

EndNote Software & Zotero

Related Departmental Links on SIP and Ham Grant

The Political Science Department requires students completing a SIP in the department to write a substantive monograph on a concrete topic of politics, broadly conceived.  While we encourage students to engage in internships, externships, and research at home and abroad in conjunction with their SIPs, the final product cannot be merely a write-up of your internship, externship, or research experience. 

Political Science SIPs can cover an infinite array of topics from the fields of U.S. Politics, Comparative Politics, International Politics, or Political Theory.  Each SIP will have its unique characteristics, and you should be in close contact with your SIP advisor regarding how best to present your arguments in your written monograph.  Nonetheless, a typical Political Science SIP will contain the following elements:

● A Table of Contents, showing chapter (or section) titles and corresponding page numbers.

● A brief Preface, in which you discuss how it is that you came to study this topic, the impact of your internship, externship, or research experience, and express appreciation to people who were helpful to you.

● An Introductory section, in which you outline the SIP and its argument in a succinct fashion.  This should give readers a “roadmap” of what lies ahead, and help them to understand why each of the sections (chapters) of your SIP is crucial for the argument that you are making.  Depending on your SIP topic, this section may also be an appropriate place to describe and discuss your methodology.  The Introduction is also the place to articulate your research question and your thesis (see below).

● The SIP needs to indicate very clearly the specific research question that it is seeking to address.  All good research seeks to provide an answer to a question.  Your question should be clear, and it should also be apparent whether your guiding question is empirical (seeking to explain a given political phenomenon), normative (seeking to arrive at a moral or ethical judgment about a course of political action), critical (seeking to provide a close, reasoned, serious reading of a particular political thinker), or some combination thereof.  Frequently, the best work in political science combines forms of political analysis, and we encourage you to do so, provided that you are clear and specific about the purpose of your analysis.  The best questions are often sincere ones – that is, you are genuinely puzzled by some aspect of politics, and your SIP seeks to provide insight into that specific political phenomenon.

● The SIP needs a clearly articulated thesis.  In principle, your thesis is the succinct summary answer to the question that you pose.  The thesis should be articulated in the Introduction, and the body of the SIP constitutes the development and defense of your thesis.

● A review of the pertinent literature: The SIP should be rooted in, or at least make reference to, an existing body of theoretical and/or empirical literature on your topic.  However unique and creative your SIP may be, you are unlikely to be the first person to have written on your specific subject (or the general topic of which it is an example).  Your SIP should thus indicate some familiarity with the literature on this subject, providing a brief overview of it and indicating how this literature is going to inform your political analysis.  It may be that you are employing a theoretical model derived from the literature, that you are challenging the existing literature, or that you are seeking to fill in a gap in the literature.  In any case, a descriptive SIP that makes little or no reference to a preexisting body of literature is unlikely to be an acceptable SIP.

● Political Science SIPs should engage in political analysis.  That is, the SIP should undertake to provide a coherent, convincing explanation of an empirical political phenomenon; to challenge, provide insight into, or clarify a body of political theory or the writings of a particular political thinker; and/or to set forth a coherent, convincing normative justification for a particular political course of action.  One error that students sometimes commit is to write a SIP that is wholly descriptive in nature.  Accurate and engaging description is very desirable in good social science writing.  However, description to what end?  Description exists for a broader purpose – to provide the foundation for your political analysis – including those instances when accurate description may seem to challenge or contradict your analysis. 

● Stylistically, please follow the Style Manual for Political Science of the American Political Science Association.  This style generally follows the Chicago Manual of Style, and calls for in-text citations rather than footnotes or endnotes.  Click here for a copy of the APSA Style Manual.

Back to Top

Does your Senior Individualized Project (SIP) Research Need to be Approved by the Institutional Review Board?

  • If you are conducting interviews for your SIP, you will very likely need to apply for human subjects approval. This is a new step for students in the class of 2008. Previous cohorts of seniors did not have to apply for human subject approval.

Recommended Book to Read on How to Write a SIP

We recommend that you browse through the following book for advice on conceptualizing, organizing, and writing your SIP:

Van Evera, Stephen. 1997. Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. JA71.V3 1997, 2nd floor of library

  • Note: you can apply for a Ham Grant to reimburse you for the cost of purchasing this (very affordable) book.
  • Note: there is now an excellent free piece of software called Zotero that is a plug-in to use with the excellent and free Mozilla Firefox internet browser. Zotero is in many ways much better than EndNote. And you can use it to organize your favorite websites too for much more than just generating bibliographies. It's excellent, free, open-source and worth checking out.

Back to Top

Viewing Old SIPs

  • The political science department keeps on file all previous SIPs. Ask any of the political science professors to unlock the cabinet so that you can browse through previous SIPs. SIPS may also be accessed online though the Library's CASHE Digital Archive

 

EndNote Software & Zotero

If you are managing a large bibliography for your SIP or other research project, you may find the EndNote bibliographic software very helpful. It is available at the K College bookstore with an "educational discount" rate.

  • Note: you can apply for a Ham Grant to reimburse you for the cost of purchasing this software.
  • Note: there is now an excellent free piece of software called Zotero that is a plug-in to use with the excellent and free Mozilla Firefox internet browser. Zotero is in many ways much better than EndNote. And you can use it to organize your favorite websites too for much more than just generating bibliographies. It's excellent, free, open-source and worth checking out.

 

Related Departmental Links on SIP and Ham Grant

 

Back to Top