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Political Science Writing Guide

Remember the following when writing in Political Science:

  • Democracy refers to the political party, while democracy refers to the political system—of the people, by the people and for the people. The same is true for Republican and republican, respectively.
  • Italicize the names of Supreme Court cases and give the date in parentheses—e.g. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).
  • People elected to the House of Representatives are members or representatives (preferred), while those elected to the Senate are members or senators (preferred), and congressman and congresswoman are not preferred terms.
  • Congress (the branch) is capitalized, while congressional is not.
  • Capitalize president and administration in reference to a specific president, such as President Bush or the Bush Administration. Otherwise, do not capitalize either. The same logic applies to specific senators and representatives (Senator Dole), as opposed to senators or representatives in general.
  • On first reference, give party and state of the representative or senator: "Representative Taylor (R-NC) today voted against ... "
  • Acronyms (initials that form a name) do not need periods between the letters. First you must give the full name, but thereafter you may use the acronym as follows: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) found ... "The CIA investigated ..."
  • Be consistent with your format and style—e.g., once you start using an acronym, continue to use it throughout the paper.

Please note that the Political Science department does not currently adhere to any specific documentation style. Instead, professors tend to have preferences regarding documentation styles.

For more advice on writing papers for Political Science, please see Lynn Kaufman in the department office (101 Stillwell Building) to borrow copies of writing manuals and to receive copies of handouts about writing for Political Science.


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