Assessment Guidelines

Your performance on this course will be evaluated via a 3000 word research paper. This paper will form 100% of your grade.

The research paper should follow the basic elements of a novel research project, in that it should address a specific research question, briefly identify the theoretical contribution, provide testable hypotheses, and implement a suitable design based on one of the methods that we study in the course.

The goal here is to put one of the methodological approaches we study on this course in to practice. Your paper must implement at least one of the following: experiments, matching, regression, regression discontinuity, difference-in-differences/fixed effects, synthetic control, or instrumental variables. Which approach you choose should be guided by a) your research question, and b) the type of data that is available to you. For instance, it is unrealistic to think that you will be able to design, pay for, run and analyse a survey experiment over the next ten weeks.

Your paper can address any issue of your choice from political science or related disciplines, provided you are asking a clear causal question.

Suggested structure

  • Introduction/Research question statement

    This section of the paper should be used to introduce the main topic that you will be addressing, and the central research question that you will be aiming to answer. It will be helpful to be very precise here as to the causal relationship of interest (e.g. “In this research paper I assess the causal impact of D on Y”). You should also briefly locate your study in the existing literature.

  • Description of methodology

    In this section of the paper you should explain the methodological approach you are taking, what assumptions it relies on, how it helps to overcome difficulties in making causal inferences in your setting, and so on.

  • Description of data

    You need to clearly and concisely describe the data you will use to implement your design. You should say where the data comes from. This section is also the place to to discuss the scope of the study: are you focussing on a particular country/set of countries? What is the scope of the analysis? You may also wish to include some descriptive statistics of the key variables in your data.

  • Results

    Results should be presented in well-formatted tables and figures. Do not include any raw R output (marks will be deducted). Remember that in addition to presenting the main substantive results of the analysis, you may wish to include empirical evidence that pertains to the identification assumptions that lie behind the design, though some of these might be better placed in the appendix to your paper.

  • Discussion

    What have we learned from your paper? What are the limitations of the analysis?


  • Your paper should not exceed 3000 words. This includes footnotes, but does not include the bibliography, tables, the title page (including abstract), or any appendices.
  • In addition to including substantive appendices, you should also include all R code used in the empirical parts of your assignment in the appendix. You should not include any R code in the main body of your paper.
  • Plagiarism will be taken very seriously. See this page for details on UCL’s plagiarism policy.


The research paper will be due on Wednesday 9th January, 2019 at 2pm. Papers will be submitted online via Turnitin.

In addition, I will provide feedback on a 1 page research proposal which outlines the main question, data and methodology that you intend to use for the final paper. These will be due no later than Friday 7th December. This proposal will not count towards your grade, but as I will provide feedback it is probably wise to submit something to me. I will not provide feedback for proposals that are submitted after the deadline.


The following are some example papers that have been produced on a similar course over the past few years. Note that these papers are somewhat longer than the paper you are expected to write, particularly in the introduction/literature review sections. Your paper should be more focussed on communicating the inference approach and the methodological details than on the contribution to the existing literature.