You maу agree or dіsagree with the рroposition, but in either case you should make an
argument about which case study is more effective in dealing with the issue.
Your essay should be 2000 words in length.
GENERAL COMMENTS AND ADVICE
This assessment item is worth 30% of your final marks. The key tasks are to:
1. Select one proposition to discuss
o Which do you find most interesting?
2. Select two case studies from this unit
o Which two case studies are most appropriate/ relevant for the topic?
o Some topics will suit certain case studies better than others
o Have you found sufficient resources relating to the case studies and the
3. Discuss the proposition by making an argument as to which case study deals with
the selected issue more effectively.
o Do you agree or disagree with the proposition? Why?
o Which case study deals with the issue more effectively? Why
SOME KEY BASES OF COMPARISON
There are a number of ‘bases of comparison’ generally used in comparative politics. A
suggestive – though not complete – list is outlined below. There are many ways to
compare/contrast regimes, but you should ONLY focus on those which are relevant to
making your argument / discussing your particular proposition. You should also look at
the ‘checklist for essays and term papers’ under the assessment tab on blackboard.
Some useful bases of comparison in comparative politics are:
• Regime type: how can the political system be broadly characterised?
• Political institutions: what are the key institutions of the political system?
• Branches of government: what is the formal distribution (and/or separation) of
powers between executive, legislature and judiciary?
• State capacity: What is the state’s ability to carry out its policies / ensure stability?
• State autonomy: What is the state’s ability to wield power independently of the
• Decision-making: who holds formal power? Who holds informal power in the
• Political conflict and competition: How do ruling elites gain power? What is the
role of political parties? What is the electoral system?
• Representation: most regimes claim to “represent the will” of the people. What
claims does the political system make about this? Are these claim supportable?
• Political participation: what role (or form of participation) do ordinary citizens
have in political decision making? What is the role of ‘civil society’?
• Legitimacy: what is the government claim to political legitimacy? What gives
rulers the ‘right to rule’ in the eyes of the public? Do traditional authorities have a
significant ongoing role?
• Conflict: How does the political system (including the constitution, electoral
system) manage ethnic diversity, minority nationalism, economic or social
• Ideology: How does the political regime balance freedom and equality?
• Political attitudes and culture: What broad values are evident in popular attitudes
• Political economy: What is the relationship between the state and the market in
the political system? How is economic wealth and power distributed? What is the
system of land tenure? How does this affect debates over development?
• History: Does the history of the state or nation help explain certain key features of
the political system?
Once again, you should select wisely. Only focus on the comparisons which best help
you make an argument about which case study is more ‘effective’ in dealing with the
issue. In most cases your focus will be quite narrow, and will be determined by the
proposition you have chosen to discuss.
MAKING AN ARGUMENT
You will be required you to make an argument in (almost) every essay you will write at
university level. A convincing argument is often what separates a ‘good’ essay from an
average, or purely descriptive one. Though ‘describing’ the similarities and differences
between the two case studies in relation to the selected issue will be part of your task,
your overriding aim should be to develop a strong argument on the set question. An
‘argument’ is not an assertion – it requires evidence to support it. Making an argument
does not mean you have to ‘disagree’ with authors who you may feel ‘know more’ than
An essay with an argument simply:
• States a position [normally indicated at the introduction of the essay]
• Gives reasons (evidence) as support [in the body of the essay]
• Restates the position [in the conclusion]
DEVELOPING YOUR ARGUMENT
One good starting point is to think about the key strengths and weaknesses of the two
case studies you examined in relation to the issue being discussed.
• What are they?
Now think about your argument.
• Do you agree or disagree with the proposition? Why?
• Which case study deals with the issue more effectively? Why?
Once you have a position, ask yourself what evidence supports it, in what you have
• What evidence in the two case studies supports your position?
• Do other studies you have read support your view? These can be referenced in
• Make a list of points that support your position/ argument. What is the most
logical order to put these in? Doing this in dot-points – first – will help you
structure the argument, and therefore, your essay