All co-op Political Science students must submit four satisfactory work reports to meet the requirements for graduation. Work reports must be submitted after each of the first four work terms.
Work term reports are due to Karen Walo in Hagey Hall 313 not later than the last day of the second week of classes in the academic term following the co-op work term for which the work term report has been prepared.
Exceptions must be approved by the departmental co-op program advisor in consultation with the co-op department.
Political Science guide to your work term report
A work report illustrates your acquired understanding and experience. A good work report shows evidence of critical analysis, good organization, clarity, and conciseness. It enables you to practice your skills of presentation, argument, evaluation, and calculation, and provides a permanent record of your work.
Choosing a topic
The Political Science Department sees the co-op work report as an opportunity to integrate the learning you do in the classroom with your on-the-job experience. The practical experience you gain during your work term can nearly always be expected to illuminate the theoretical issues you study in class in a constructive way Your work term report therefore should -- wherever possible -- make some effort to analyze some aspect of the political circumstances and consequences of your work term activity in terms of the theories, concepts, and processes you have learned about in class.
Your work report must have an identifiable analytic component. A report that compares and evaluates several items or alternatives using various criteria is analytical. A report on a single topic can be analytic if it discusses advantages and disadvantages. The topic should be related to your employer, the line of work undertaken by the organization or business practices employed at their site. You could, for example, evaluate the way that the company implements Research & Development or wage incentive plans.
A report is unacceptable if it only contains a narrative, if it is simply a users' guide or other documentation, or if you simply summarize your work term tasks. An analytic report contains constructive criticism and contains conclusions and recommendations. If you have difficulty identifying conclusions, then you likely have insufficient analytic content.
Here are some broad approaches to choosing a topic and questions that can help you focus your report:
Normative or philosophical:
A normative approach serves to assess the values or norms of the organization for which you worked. How does the organization you worked for perceive its purpose with respect to the people it is intended to serve? Does it have a concept of the best society -- which it helps to promote -- or does it ignore this aspect of human existence? Is it on the right track, in your judgment, in pursuing that end? Why do you take this point of view?
A policy analytical approach focuses attention on the particular policies at the centre of your work. Which policy issues emerge from the work you are doing, whether in a government department, the private sector, or an non-governmental organization? What theoretical assumptions or worldviews inform these policies? What are their impacts on society or their implications for the future? How do they compare to similar policies in another country?
A final approach is organizational in nature. There may be special organizational features or challenges related to your particular work place that bear on the delivery of the product or service your employer offers, or on other aspects of the organization’s activity. How best can we understand those challenges and what solutions might be possible? How might your proposed solution be implemented?
In each case, you should be sensitive to concerns about private or confidential information to which you have been exposed during your work term. Please consult the co-op advisor if you need advice.
You should prepare two copies of your work report. The original goes to your employer and one copy should be retained by you after evaluation by the Department of Political Science.
Completed reports are ordinarily due no later than the last day of the second week of classes following the relevant work term. When there are extenuating circumstances which make it impossible to meet this deadline, you must inform the Political Science co-op advisor in writing before the deadline, otherwise credit may not be given for the report.
Failure to produce work reports at all may result in a student being asked to leave the program.
All work reports will be evaluated by the Political Science Department as Outstanding, Very Good, Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. The Department’s evaluator will be looking for a serious attempt to relate theory and practice. The work term report should be considered to be at least of the same substance and significance as a term paper for a half-credit course.
Your work term report must follow the Arts guidelines for formatting co-op work term reports.
Your work report will usually be written during the work term and be related to the work term activity. Within this general guideline you have great flexibility in your choice of a topic so long as it meets the general provisions outlined under the section above on Choosing a Topic. You will be evaluated on your choice of topic, your thesis and argument, your analysis, the quality of the evidence you use to support your argument, your writing style, and the suitability and correctness of references.
Your work term report is as piece of persuasive writing. It should contain an introduction and a conclusion, an argument, and a thesis. Topics discussed should be clearly laid out in a logical sequence. Sub-heads should be used as place markers and to break up large blocks of text, not as substitutes for transitions between paragraphs or sections. Quotations should be properly formatted with the appropriate references.
Consider reading one of the many available books on writing in the social sciences if you need advice for structuring persuasive writing. We suggest:
- Northey, Tepperman and Albanese. Making Sense: A Student’s Guide to Research and Writing (Social Sciences). 5th ed. Oxford, 2012.
The work term report should be written in clear, correct English. Sentences should be complete, paragraphs should have topic sentences, and sections should flow from one to another in a cohesive analytical narrative. Consider consulting a style guide if you need help writing well. We suggest:
- Williams, Joseph. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Every idea which is not your own should be referenced, whether it is a direct quote or a paraphrase. Choose one citation style and stick to it. Political scientists generally use Modern Language Association (MLA) or Chicago Style. We suggest using a citation manager such as Refworks, Zotero or Mendeley.
You can register for workshops and schedule tutoring appointments at the Writing Centre. An online alternative is the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Have someone proofread your work for spelling and grammar errors as well as clarity. The best proofreader is someone with little or no knowledge of your subject matter, as this allows them to focus on your writing. Consider asking your Dad, your roommate, or a friend in another department. The proofreader should not make substantive changes or corrections (that would be academic dishonesty!) but should point out errors or things they don’t understand, so you can correct them.
Work term reports must be your own work. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the University’s policies on academic integrity and adhere to them. Ignorance of those policies is not an excuse, and violations will be treated with the utmost seriousness.