The French Revolution
Politics of Civil-Military Relations explanatory essay
The idea behind this essay is that it be thesis-driven. This is to say, the paper will be advancing
an argument, a way of explaining an issue or dynamic relating to Civil-Military Relations. Our
first step is to walk through the process of arriving at a topic, narrowing it down to a central
theme and then fashioning a thesis. Broadly speaking, the thesis bit involves two critical steps:
(a) the development of an interesting research question and (b) the deployment of a thesis
meant to address that puzzlement.
I. Structural Considerations
Include two dimensions to your title. The first should be descriptive language (the paper’s
subject-matter). And, the second, should refer more specifically to your main point, your
thesis, your argument.
Right at the start, we should have a statement of the topic’s importance, its relevance. You are
trying here to establish the salience of the subject-matter, why it matters. In this section you
can also provide a brief overview of the paper’s scope and purpose. That is to say, state the
puzzle, or the question under review, and then state your thesis, your argument. (This could
take place at the end of your introduction). To give emphasis to your thesis (your argument)
you might put it in italics.
Here you can provide a sense of the historical context of your subject-matter. This would be
the place to introduce the main players and central issues involved. Try to be efficient with
this and not allow the story- telling to dominate the paper.
II. The Puzzle
At this point, you can present the puzzle (the question) under examination. It would also be
appropriate to mention some of the existing theories or approaches on this subject-matter.
You are then acknowledging the literature that exists on the topic and giving brief
description of the leading ways of thinking about the problem. Then, you are trying to
identify “gaps” in the existing explanations and assert the need for greater clarification,
which is meant to be your contribution.
Now we come to the case you are trying to make. At this point in the paper, three things will
have already happened: (a) you’ve established the importance of the topic; (b) you’ve also
provided the historical context; and (c) stated the puzzle and why a better explanation is
needed. So, at this point, your thesis can be stated and elaborated upon. The burden of your
paper should be devoted to the defense of your thesis, your argument. You might, in this
connection, choose three themes that related to your argument and allow them to structure
this section of the essay. Remember, you are not trying to tell the “story” of your topic as
much as you are seeking to elaborate upon your thesis.
This is a place to refer back to your basic theme, the overall purpose of the paper. You
might also take this opportunity to restate your thesis and its value. A few words regarding
its future relevance would also be appropriate here.
II. Technical Considerations
Your sources should be lavish. Think of them in terms of three domains of source-material
(1) academic books and journal articles, (2) popular publications such as news magazines and
(3) newspaper reports. The JSTOR site will be important here, as will Project Muse and a
number of other aggregates available from your library service. Look also into the back
issues of the New York Times, the Times of London and other publications available in your
About the style of the composition, three quick points should suffice. First, you will not
need a title page, just get right to it (name, course number in upper left or right). Second, use
a conventional typeface (times new roman) and standard margins. Third, in addition to your
paper title, use section-headings to announce points of transition in the essay. (a single word
or a short phrase that captures the essence of what is coming in the section).
Please use footnotes after the fashion of the Chicago Manual of Style. With regard to the
footnotes, remember to put them in times new roman and bring them down to ten point
font. Also, provide a bibliography.
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