Course Syllabus: POL 379*

Research and Writing


Instructor : Mike Yawn

Phone #: 936-294-1456

Email :

Class Meeting: Tue, Thu: 3:30-5

Office Hours : T, TH 5:00-6:00 (AB1 315J)

Texts : (1 ) Blink , by Malcolm Gladwell ; (2) A ging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us about Leading Longer, Healthier and More Meaningful Lives , by David Snowdon; (3) Homestyle: House Members in Their Districts , by Richard Fenno


Course Overview : The purpose of this course is to introduce the student to research methods in the social sciences and to improve the students' writing skills. We will take up matters of design, data collection, measurement, data analysis, and writing.


Attendance : You are strongly encouraged to attend every class session. You will not be penalized for being absent, but you will miss various quizzes, homework assignments, and extra credit opportunities that cannot be made up . You are responsible for obtaining notes and handouts that you missed from other students or off the website/blackboard. Tardiness will not be tolerated.


Missed Work : Missed tests cannot be made up . However, because the final is comprehensive, it includes questions from material covered on the first test, second test, and material covered subsequent to the second test. If you miss a test, I will simply grade separately the questions on the final that correspond to the missed test. The second test will be take home, so it will not be possible to miss it. The tests will be announced at least a week in advance, but it is your responsibility to accommodate the class schedule. By enrolling in the course, it is assumed that you will make all the classes.


Note : Turn cell phones, pagers, and other electronic gizmos off before entering the classroom. Keep them concealed throughout class. No whining.


Email : I will endeavor to respond to all email sent from a SHSU account. All emails should be properly addressed, consistent with college-level grammatical procedures, and signed. Emails from a non-university account, lacking a proper salutation, incomprehensible, or unsigned will be deleted.


Grades : Your grade in this class will be determined by your performance on three tests, quizzes, homework assignments, and a book critique. The grade breakdown is below, followed by an elaboration. By the way, don't ask me how to figure your grade. If you have made it to college without knowing how to calculate a weighted average, consult a Mathematics Tutor.


Test 1:       15%

Test 2:       15%

Final:       20%

Homework/Quiz:   20%

Leg Briefs:     10%

Book Critique:     15%

Participation:     5%


*I reserve the right to change the syllabus at any time for any reason.

Tests : The tests will be objective (multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank) and/or subjective (essay). The final is comprehensive.


Quizzes : Quizzes will be given to ensure that students read their daily assignments. You will have a quiz almost every day there is a reading assignment.


Participation : You are expected to participate in class. Your participation should be constructive and respectful, both to the instructor and other students. I keep a detailed record of who does and does not participate in class, who was and was not able to answer questions, and who indulged in distracting or otherwise negative behavior. You are expected to keep up with current political events. Unprofessional behavior toward me, other students, university staff, or other citizens (while working on school-related matters) is unacceptable, and will be penalized harshly.


Homework : Homework will involve various exercise sets that correspond to our reading topics. My experience with this class is that one weekly meeting is not sufficient for the material to sink in. As a result, most weeks, we'll have an assignment due on Tuesday.


Legal Briefs : Students will write two legal briefs over US Supreme Court cases.


Book Critique : Students will write a seven-page critique of Aging with Grace . I will provide a brief description of the critique with a list of topics that should be addressed in the paper.


Extra Credit : Students will be presented with various extra credit opportunities. The assignments will fall into two types: (1) Students will have the opportunity to do “field research”—that is, observe elected officials in action, and (2) for students unable to attend the events or trips that field research requires, alternative assignments will be given.


Cheating : The easiest way to fail this class is to cheat. Do not copy any work from another student, and do not plagiarize (defined as using someone else's work without proper documentation). At the minimum, I will fail you, but I may also seek to have you expelled from the university. Plagiarism in any of its manifestations will be penalized with the grade of a zero or referral to the Dean. Plagiarism is any use of work that is not your own, which includes use of another's language or research without proper citation (see student handbook for more information on plagiarism). Anytime you quote something or refer to a non-obvious fact then you need a citation. In if in doubt, don't. See the student handbook if you have additional questions about what constitutes plagiarism.


Student Syllabus Guidelines: You may find online a more detailed description of the following policies. These guidelines will also provide you with a link to the specific university policy or procedure:

Academic Dishonesty : Students are expected to maintain honesty and integrity in the academic experiences both in and out of the classroom. See Student Syllabus Guidelines .

Classroom Rules of Conduct: Students are expected to assist in maintaining a classroom environment that is conducive to learning. Students are to treat faculty and students with respect. Students are to turn off all cell phones while in the classroom. Under no circumstances are cell phones or any electronic devices to be used or seen during times of examination. Students may tape record lectures provided they do not disturb other students in the process.

Student Absences on Religious Holy Days : Students are allowed to miss class and other required activities, including examinations, for the observance of a religious holy day, including travel for that purpose. Students remain responsible for all work. See Student Syllabus Guidelines .

Students with Disabilities Policy : It is the policy of Sam Houston State University that individuals otherwise qualified shall not be excluded, solely by reason of their disability, from participation in any academic program of the university. Further, they shall not be denied the benefits of these programs nor shall they be subjected to discrimination. Students with disabilities that might affect their academic performance should visit with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities located in the Counseling Center . See Student Syllabus Guidelines .

Visitors in the Classroom : Only registered students may attend class. Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis by the professor. In all cases, visitors must not present a disruption to the class by their attendance. Students wishing to audit a class must apply to do so through the Registrar's Office.







Course Schedule

Students should print out assignments early in the semester. You are responsible for the assignments, even if Blackboard goes down. In addition, you should regularly check on blackboard for additional assignments or announcements.




Activity/Work Due

T: 8-22




Th: 8-24

Research Question



T: 8-29


Intro Sampling


Th: 8-31


Types of Samples


T: 9-5


Blink : intro

Quiz; Resume Due

Wed: 9-6

Drop Date 1

Drop Date 1

Drop Date 1

Th: 9-7


Blink : Ch 1

Blink HW 1

T: 9-12


Blink : Ch 2

Study: Good Father

Blink HW 2

Th: 9-14


Blink : Ch 3

Study: Male Dominance


T: 9-19


Blink : Ch 4


Th: 9-21


Blink : Ch 5

Blink HW 3

T: 9-26


Blink : Ch 6


Th: 9-28


Blink : Conclusion


T: 10-3

Test #1

Test #1

Test #1

Th: 10-5

Field Research

Fenno Introduction; 253-263

Fenno HW #1

T: 10-10

Field Research

Fenno 249-253; 263-295

Fenno HW #2

W; 10-11

Drop Date #2

Drop Date #2

Drop Date #2

Th: 10-12

Field Research

Fenno Ch 1

Fenno HW #3

T: 10-17

Field Research

Fenno Ch 3

Fenno HW #4

Th: 10-19

Field Research


Guest Lecture:

T: 10-24

Field Research

Fenno Ch 4

Fenno HW #5

Th: 10-26

Field Research


Career Services Work Due

T: 10-31




Th: 11-2




T: 11-7

Election Day!

Election Day!

Election Day!

Th: 11-9


Survey Overview

Test 2 Due (Group A)

T: 11-14


Jennings (JSTOR)*

Jennings HW 1; Test 2 Due (Group B)

Th: 11-16




T: 11-21

Content Analysis

Yawn (JSTOR)*

Yawn HW 1

Th: 11-23




T: 11-28

Legal Briefs

Schenck v. US (1919); Gitlow v. NY (1925); Brandenburg v. OH (1969)**


Th: 11-30

Legal Briefs

Tinker v Des Moines (1969); Johnson v TX (1989); VA v Black (2003)**

Legal Brief #1

T: 12-5

Legal Briefs

Mapp v. Ohio (1961); Gideon v. Wainwright (1963); Miranda v. AZ (1966)**

Legal Brief #2

Th: 2-7



Aging With Grace Paper Due








* JSTOR is a database and index on the SHSU Library webpage. To access this, you should

•  go to ,

•  go to the Newton Gresham Library page,

•  find JSTOR in the pull down menu under Quick Links to Databases,

•  Once you get to JSTOR, you should click on “Search” and then “Advanced Search.”

•  You can then find the article by typing in the author's name or the title.


•  Jennings JSTOR: Jennings & Niemi “Transmission of Political Values from Parent to Child” APSR 1968

•  Yawn JSTOR: Mike Yawn, Bob Beatty, Kevin Ellsworth, Kim Kahn “How a Presidential Primary Debate Changed Attitudes of Audience Members” Political Behavior, 1998



**Background on the court cases should be obtained from the internet.