This Research Project must focus on the following Questions:
1.What is the dependent variable?
2.Why is this an important dependent variable?
3.Why study these case(s)?
4.Is it a most similar systems or most different systems study (for comparative
5.What are the hypotheses?
6.Which theories support the hypotheses?
7.Does the empirical evidence found support or refute the hypotheses?
8.Does the set of findings weaken or strengthen a particular line of thinking in
comparative politics or international relations theory?
9.What modifications could be made to the theory that would strengthen it?
10.What other research questions are raised by the study
Outline for the MA Essay of Distinction
- Introduction: The Research Question
- General statement of the research question.
It must be a causal question!
Why has Pakistan had several military coups since 1947 but
India has not had one? Dependent variable: incidence of coups.
- Why are you picking the case or cases that you are?
India and Pakistan were created out of the same country in
1947 so it is an interesting case of how two parts of the same country have
diverged quite significantly. It is a very good example of a most similar
systems analysis. Also, these two countries have a great deal of geostrategic
significance so understanding their politics is very important.
- Importance of the problem: Why is it interesting? Why is it significant?
Military coups are a fairly common phenomenon around the world and
challenge democratic governance and norms. Understanding why
they happen may help to prevent them.
- Background Section (for those who need to describe the dependent
variable in depth)
- Some of you will need to give background in order to make the reader aware
of what your dependent variable looks like. Example: What have the coups
in Pakistan looked like over the years? When have they happened, were
they violent, not violent, etc? What does the military look like in Pakistan as
opposed to India? Are the similarly structured, financed, have the same
civilian command authority? Are they defined differently by the
- This is NOT a section to answer your research question! This is meant to help
your reader understand what your dependent variable looks like and what
the context of the situation your dependent variable occurs in looks like.
- For quantitative papers, this is a place for graphs to show the variation in
your dependent variable.
III. Hypotheses and Theory
- This is a critical element of your paper. Make sure you define all relevant
variables (independent/dependent).Example: The dependent variable in the hypothetical example is the incidence of coups.
- A hypothesis is a causal statement. Variable A causes Variable B.
Example: Very weak civilian government legitimacy raises the probability
of military coups.
- Theory is the explanation of causation. It is based on your own logic or
from the literature of a mixture of both. Theory is logical and general and
based on deductive and not inductive reasoning and not patterns of
findings from the empirical word. Theory has to explain why an
independent variable would cause a variation (coup or no coup) in the
dependent variable. It is not “we have found that when A happens, B
tends to happen too.” That is not an explanation of causation.
Example: Militaries may displace delegitimized civilian governments in
order to keep order in the country and prevent the outbreak of violence.
As militaries are charged with maintaining the national security of a
country, they may believe that civilian government breakdown is a threat
to national security and they are compelled to step in.
- Each hypothesis must be backed by theory.
- There is no “golden rule” on the number of hypotheses you should have.
If there is only one plausible hypothesis, then the question is not worthy
of study. So, there should be at least two. Make sure you only create
hypotheses that can have theoretical explanations and not be easily
dismissed because they are logically impossible.
- Each hypothesis should have its own sub-section with its relevant theory
in that section and the “tests” that you will use to determine whether the
hypothesis is supported or refuted by the evidence.
Example: For the “delegitimized civilian government hypothesis,”
you would say that you would look for evidence that indicates that the army
believes that the government is delegitimized in the eyes of the public,
and has expressed concern about the internal instability that may result
from that. If there is ample evidence that the army has expressed that it is
seen the delegitimization of the civilian government and is concerned
about it, this would be support for the hypothesis. This could take the
form of public statements by important army figures, documents they
have produced, etc. If there is no indication that the military perceives the
situation that way, than that would evidence to say that the hypothesis is
Identify what events, institutions, or people you plan to investigate.
Does the empirical evidence refute or support each of your hypotheses? Be
explicit and thorough about that for each of the hypotheses.
Structure your evidence sub-sections the same way you have structured
your hypotheses/theory sections.
Make sure that at the end of each section, you make an analytical
judgement about what the evidence has told you. Does the weight of the
evidence support or refute the hypothesis? Be very clear why you say that.
- What was your aim in the research? This should be a paragraph-length
- What were the major arguments (hypotheses and theories) you explored?
This should be a paragraph or two summary