A political essay is a relatively brief text that comments on a specific political issue, theory, or practice. Political essays are commonly assigned in political science courses, but are also popular in composition classes. Some students wrongly assume that a political essay is by default an argumentative essay, one that seeks to persuade readers to a particular stance on an issue. This is not necessarily the case, as political essays can take various forms, and need not always argue. For instance, political essays are frequently expository essays, or articles that seek to inform.
Every political essay will deal with politics in some way, but this does not mean that political essays must be rooted in what political parties believe or say about certain political issues. Politics, broadly defined, can be understood as any issue, topic, theory, or practice that is related to government and the culture of government. This means that a political essay can be on an issue that figures prominently in political discourse—such as capital punishment, election laws, or environmental practices—or on a political ideology—such as utilitarianism, capitalism, or communism—or on a particular aspect of politicking—such as leadership styles, political rhetoric, or political negotiating—and on dozens more topics that relate to the practices and culture surrounding the way governments operate and citizens respond. In short, there is a panoply of political topics that can be appropriate for a political article. The key to selecting a topic that will be best suited to the assignment and course is to choose one that is related to the course subject. For instance, in a political science course focusing on the governmental differences between major world powers, it would be more appropriate to write an essay on the political cultures that have led to those countries' acceptance of certain ideologies rather than writing on capital punishment.
Every political report should anticipate both the needs and the questions of the reader. In argumentative essays, the writer must address issues that he or she believes an unsympathetic reader would raise. In other words, he or she must consider what someone who disagrees with the writer's stance would contest. Similarly, in an expository essay, the writer should spend time thinking about the issues the reader—whether sympathetic or not—may have about the points the writer is making and address these issues in the course. Such strategies result in an article that is well-planned and multi-dimensional—two characteristics of any accomplished text.
Many political essays will use secondary sources to support their points. It is imperative that students use valid and authoritative sources and that they cite them accurately. For assistance with citations, learners should consult their instructors or their instructors' preferred style manuals.
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