Current Affairs Analysis Memo Guidelines
POSC 182F | Winter 2024 | MW, 5–6:20 PM | INTN 1002
Students are required to write one memo that analyzes current international economic policy
issues using concepts and theories from the course. There are two primary objectives of this
assignment: to reinforce course material and cultivate students’ analytical writing skills.
Memos must concisely describe the current event and apply course concepts and theories to
generate new insights. Examples of applications include analysis of distributive conflict, the
influence of domestic political institutions on policy outcomes, or characteristics of inter-state
conflict and cooperation. When appropriate, students should draw analogies to historical ex-
amples discussed in lectures and readings. The best memos will emphasis synthesis between
current events and course materials rather than straight summary of the news event.
Eligible News Sources
For each memo, students are required to select a news article from an authoritative source
such as the following:
• Financial Times
• New York Times
• Wall Street Journal
All of these publications should be archived (e.g., through ProQuest) and available through
the university library’s database for free via UCR VPN and also through each publication’s
own website. The article students’ analyze must be published within 120 days of the date
on which the student submits their memo.
Students should select articles of sufficient depth, detail, and pertinence to the course so as
provide enough material for their memo. Students may not use opinion-editorial articles.
Students should submit and confirm their article choice with their TAs by Feb. 16 (Fri.).
Memos must be no longer than 5 pages (not including figures or bibliography), double-spaced,
typed in 12 point Times New Roman font with 1-inch page margins. Citations should be
in a standard format (e.g. MLA, APA, Chicago). Memos are due on March 6 (Wed.) by
11:59 pm and should be uploaded to Canvas and checked by turnitin—a plagiarism detection
system. Memos that are turned in 1 minute to 24 hours after their due date will be penalized
by 1/3 a letter grade. Memos will be marked down a full letter grade for each additional 24
hour period they are late.
Overall, your grade will depend on the directness and quality of your response. In particular:
• Did you describe the current event clearly and concisely?
• How well did you apply the concepts and theories from the course to the current event?
• Did the application generate new knowledge (insights we did not know before)?
• Relevance of citations and outside research
• Quality of writing (clear formatting, removal of unnecessary words and phrases, main
takeaways in the summary, etc.)
• Creative thinking and analysis
Before specific advice, some general comments about social science writing are in order. Per-
haps unlike the writing styles emphasized in other scholarly disciplines, social science writing
is fundamentally about making an argument. Writing a social science paper is essentially
like having a debate. You, as the writer, select the position that you find most persuasive
and it is your job to convince your reader that your interpretation of the evidence is most
convincing. This entails citing evidence from the course materials and additional research to
support your claims and making an argument for why your position is the most convincing
interpretation of the evidence. The debate analogy also implies that you succinctly demon-
strate why your interpretation is more convincing than the other competing interpretations.
It is critical to remember that these skills take time to perfect. They are rarely mastered in
one semester. Most progress in developing these skills is incremental.
Select a Topic
Draw out a puzzle or a theme connected to the larger topic of that week’s readings. Your fun-
damental goal is to make some novel conclusion or observation about the specified topic and
utilizing the course readings and your additional data and research. Do not just summarize
the readings (assume the reader has read them).
Have an Argument
The importance of having a clear argument cannot be overstated. All too often, students
submit papers that have the elements of a good paper but lack coherence. This trap can
be avoided by first crafting an argument and then turning to the evidence. Once you have
established the argument, think about how you can support it using evidence and facts that
you have learned. Evidence supports an argument; it does not constitute an argument.
Evidence must be interpreted to explain why it supports your claim.
Use Evidence Properly
Think about how to use evidence in the most persuasive manner possible. There are a host
of ways to leverage the evidence you have at your disposal. For example, you can compare
evidence for a particular claim across countries and over time to look for further confirmation
(or contradiction) for an argument.
Take the brevity of these papers as an invitation to discipline your writing and analytical
skills. One strategy is to pick a question narrow enough to be properly addressed within the
page limit. Another technique is to make only the more persuasive of many potential argu-
ments. The process of weighing which are arguments are more persuasive can be enormously
useful in constructing clear and convincing essays.
The Five Paragraph Essay
The five paragraph essay is a standard model for organizing papers. It is not literally
five paragraphs but is comprised of five distinct components that together form a coherent
analytical essay. The first part is the introduction. It should clearly state the question the
author addresses in the paper, the proposed hypothesis, and the organization of the paper.
The introduction is not the space for lengthy story-telling; rather it should draw the reader
in and establish expectations about what he or she will gain from reading the paper. The
following three sections support the paper’s main thesis. Each section should add unique
value to the argument by explicating a unique dimension of the main thesis (see “Four- Step
Argumentation” below for more details on how to structure these sections). When in doubt,
three subpoints of the main thesis is a good number for which to aim but the precise best
number depends on the complexity of thesis. When deciding how many subpoints of the
thesis to make consider which are the most persuasive and be vigilant for repetition. The
final section concludes by restating the thesis along with a pithy summary of the subpoints.
It should also indicate the larger implications of the finding.
There is also a standard structure to individual arguments. It is a useful aid in thinking ana-
lytically and writing clearly and persuasively. The first step is the claim, the basic analytical
block of an argument. For example, the statement “foreign direct investment inflows increase
wages” is a claim. The second step is evidence, the data that supports the claim. To support
the claim about foreign direct investment and wages the author could cite studies that show
this to be true. This should not be a laundry list of as much as evidence as possible, it
should describe the results as persuasively and honestly as possible. If the evidence is truly
mixed, it best to forthright in saying so. The third step is the warrant, the explanation of
why the claim and its associated evidence support the overall thesis of the paper. Warrants
are perhaps the single most important part of any paper. They require authors to bring
their knowledge to bear to interpret evidence and demonstrate their understanding of the
topic. Some find it helpful to ask about their evidence “This piece of evidence supports my
thesis because…” If the author cannot complete that sentence than the evidence is likely
superfluous and should be cut.
The fourth section is the rebuttal. The rebuttal anticipates likely objections to your argu-
ment and preempts them. For example, in response to evidence on wages increases foreign
direct investment in developed countries a critic may counter that this results do not gen-
eralize to developing countries. The author might anticipate this criticism and respond to
it with additional evidence of foreign direct investment-driven wage increases in developing
countries. Rebuttals make arguments more persuasive because they demonstrate that the
author has carefully considered possible alternatives.