The electoral systems used for national elections in the UK and USA are not fair  but they work. Discuss


Start with a quick brainstorming session. In about 20 minutes, scribble down every point about the topic that you can think of.

Read through your notes on the sources. Use a highlighter to mark bits that are especially relevant.

Write an essay plan. Tastes vary: some plans are just a one-page outline; others approach a full rough draft. Experiment to see what suits you.

Write a draft. The best essays are redrafted at least once. Redrafting enables you to clarify your argument, including signposting your argument clearly throughout the essay.

Every essay should have an introduction, a middle and a conclusion. You don t have to draft them in that order. Make sure you revise your introduction and conclusion at the end so that they correctly introduce and summarise your argument given in the middle.


Word Processing
The final version of your essay must be word-processed. Please use a 12 point font (e.g. Palatino, Times New Roman, etc. Do not use sans serif fonts, e.g. Arial, Optima), double line-space, and print on only one side of the paper. Include page numbers in the lower right hand corner of the page. All student essays and even academic articles are submitted in this format.

Introduction, developed argument, conclusion
The presented version should always have an introduction at the start which says what the essay is about, answers the question, and summarises your major arguments in the order they will appear in the essay. In the body of the essay, develop the points which were introduced in the introduction, i.e., do what you promised in the introduction. Finish with a conclusion which summarises the body of the essay and states clearly what you think is the answer to the question set in the title. If you are not sure of the answer, say so. It is perfectly acceptable to adopt a position of uncertainty.

Bibliography and Referencing

All essays must employ the scholarly apparatus of references (or footnotes) and a Bibliography. At the end of an essay, you must provide a  Bibliography which lists your sources in alphabetical order by authors surname. In the essay itself, you must use a  reference or  footnote to give the source for any quotation, any data, and/or for any view or interpretation which you summarise or which you attribute to another source or author, and/or whenever you paraphrase the thought or argument of someone else. If you use a direct quotation, you must put quotation marks around a direct quotation. References (or footnotes) enable the reader to find as easily as possible the authority for every important fact and the sources contributing to all your ideas and comments. Do not use bullet points or numbers in your bibliography.

Remember: the more sources you draw from and effectively integrate into your argument, the better your research

will be.

To avoid plagiarism, you must reference accurately and properly any direct quotation and any paraphrase of someone else s work. See the standard Part 2 course guide for the university s policy on plagiarism and also for advice on proper referencing. We check POLI10200 essays for plagiarism and students who plagiarize will be severely punished just as students who cheat in exams are also punished.

There are different acceptable referencing styles. Professional journals and scholarly books can provide you with examples. Whatever referencing style and bibliographic style you choose to use, be consistent.

Whatever style you choose, the titles of books, journals, newspapers, and magazines are italicised while the titles of articles are placed inside  quotation marks . Quotation marks are not placed around the titles of books and journals. Also, in the Bibliography, an authors surname comes before forenames while in a footnote forenames precede surname.

References may be placed:

at the bottom of each page (footnotes),

at the end of the essay before the Bibliography (endnotes),

or in the text if you use the Harvard (in-text) style of referencing.

Incorrect referencing and/or failure to provide a Bibliography will be penalized by the deduction of marks. If you have any questions about the scholarly apparatus of Bibliography and referencing, please read the advice in the standard Part 2 Course Guide. If you remain unsure, please ask your tutor in the tutorial.


The following points cover the sort of features that tutors are looking for in essays. With some modification, they also apply to exam answers. The Politics Discipline Area s assessment criteria are reproduced in this course guide. The essay feedback form also indicates the qualities which we are looking for in an essay.

Coherence, logical sequencing of parts; distinct, self-contained paragraphs, sections; introduction and conclusion relating directly to the question.

Writing Style
Clarity, precision, conciseness and economy of expression; grammar, spelling and punctuation; has the piece been read through again before submission?

Reading, Library Research, Referencing
Deployment of quotes; acknowledgement of quotes; depth of reading and accuracy of referencing. (Hence learning to footnote properly and to provide a proper Bibliography of sources used is important.)

Deployment of, and critical approach to, concepts and theories; clarity and consistency of arguments.

Scope, Breadth of Approach
Sufficient aspects of the question covered; essay sufficiently up-to-date.

Depth of Approach
Sufficient detail; avoidance of superficiality, vagueness, circular argument, padding, and repetition.

Evidence for Assertions
Deployment of, and accuracy in using, concepts and/or empirical evidence; avoidance of unsupported assertions and intuitive statements without evidence and/or argument.

Relevant/Irrelevant Material
Going off at tangents, red herrings; keeping the actual question in focus; addressing, interpreting and answering the question.

Bias, Values, Balance
Avoiding uncritical, one-dimensional arguments; consciousness of bias and counter arguments; awareness of different interpretations.

Imagination, Flair, Thoughtfulness of Approach.

Correct Bibliography and Referencing (footnotes).

Comparative Government and Politics (an introduction) 7th editionRod Hague and Martin Harrop.

pubisherPelgrave macmillan.

understanding US/Uk government and politicsDuncan Watts.

publisherManchester Uni Press, 2003.

David Farrell, Electoral Systems: A Comparative Introduction (2001).

Paul Mitchell, ch. 8 of Michael Gallagher and Paul Mitchell, ed., The Politics of Electoral Systems (2005). Also on OxSchol.