Research/Comparison of State Environmental Policies for Wyoming, Massachusetts, Texas

PSC311 – State Politics

Fall 2020

Prof. M. DeMary, UMass Dartmouth


Policy Research Paper – 150 points



The purpose of this assignment is twofold. It is intended to encourage you to (1) develop a deeper understanding of a public policy issue that is prominent in American politics, and (2) to more fully explore the similarities and differences between states in the United States.


The first step will be for you to choose a policy question.  By this I mean you should pick an issue in which state or local governments are involved.  It may help to think of this from a problem perspective — how do states manage problem “x”?  The possible list is almost endless, but some policy areas are: waste management, environmental protection, K-12 education, higher education, criminal justice, health care, affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure, revenue raising, economic development….you get the idea. (See Chapter 13-16 of our text for more ideas.)  These are only broad categories; you will want to narrow your research question to something more manageable.


There are several things you should keep in mind as make your selection.  First, choose something that interests you as it will make the project much more enjoyable.  With the myriad of things that state governments do, this should not be difficult.  Second, choose something in which your “adopted” state has been involved.  I’m assuming that by the time you work on this paper you will have read enough newspapers from your state to know what issues are currently of most importance, and choosing one of these items will ensure that you have a substantial amount of information on at least one state.


To get you started on your project in a timely manner, you are expected to submit a brief paper on Friday, November 13. It should include one paragraph which describes the policy question you’re interested in analyzing and a second paragraph which tells me which states you’re planning to look at and why.  I expect you to look at three states all together, and that one of these will be your adopted state. Failure to submit this will result in a 25-point deduction from the grade for your final paper. Paper should be typed, double-spaced, and submitted to the myCourses site as a Word Doc by 11:00 pm.


The substance of your paper (due at 11:00 pm on the last day of class – Monday, December 7) should be an analysis of the way in which three different states have dealt with the public policy issue you’re studying.  The information on how individual states handle the problem will likely come predominantly from newspapers, popular journals, think tank studies, interest group reports, and reports and studies from individual states.  In addition to this I expect you to use at least one article from a scholarly (peer-reviewed) journal that talks about your public policy question from a more theoretical perspective, and to connect this broader perspective to your findings regarding the individual states.


Your final paper should be six (6) typed, double-spaced pages, exclusive of cover page and bibliography/works cited page.  You are expected to use a recognized citation style (APA, APSA, Chicago, MLA). A good source for understanding citation styles can be found at


The paper is due by 11:00 pm on our last day of class, Monday, December 7.  Please submit as a Word Doc. I will review drafts for those who are interested, but they must be handed in to me by Monday, November 30 so I have adequate time to read and respond to the draft.


This paper will be graded on quality of your argument, the strength of your thesis, the use of resources, and the quality of writing. Details can be found on the grading rubric on myCourses.



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