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PS 3330 Syllabus

Course Syllabus

PS 3330 - Political Parties and the Electoral

3 Credit Hours

Course Information

Course Description:

This course covers the world of political parties and elections in the United States. The role and activities of political campaigns, the power and influence of money in elections, how primaries, caucuses and conventions work, general elections, the electoral college, voting behavior, and media influence are also addressed.

Course Outcomes:

The student will learn what role political parties’ play and have played in American politics and elections. The student will also learn the process of presidential nominations and elections and the role of mass media and money in this process. 

Prerequisites & Co-requisites:

None. However, a basic working knowledge of American government is very helpful.

Course Topics:

There are three assignments, each of which derives primarily from four chapters in the textbook. The first covers the role of political parties in democratic societies, the development of American political parties, the organization of political parties and political participation. The second covers campaign finance, state and local government nominations and elections, and presidential nominations. The third covers presidential elections, the media in electoral politics, and the role of political parties in government. 

Specific Course Requirements:

There are six course requirements. There are three Assignments which are open book, not timed homework that comes from the textbook, one research paper, a final exam which is cumulative, closed book and timed, and the discussion. Students must complete all three Assignments, the research paper, the final exam, and participate in discussions to pass this course. Assignment 1 covers chapters 1-4 in the textbook, Assignment 2 covers chapters 5-8 in the textbook, and Assignment 3 covers chapters 9-12 in the textbook. There may be a few questions in each assignment that come from chapters other than these specified. The three assignments together are worth 35% of the course grade, the research paper is worth 25% of the course grade, the final exam is worth 25%, and the discussions are worth 15% of the course grade.

Assignments must be completed within the allotted time frame. Watch the due dates. No time extensions will be granted. All three assignments are open book and not timed. You may start and stop over several days to complete them. Make sure you save EACH answer as your complete it but do not click the final submit for grading button at the end until you are done.

Discussions cover all facets of the course and roughly align with readings and questions in the Assignments. All students are required to read the required material, and then comment on each topic that is posted. Your grade is based on both quantity and quality of comments; two paragraph-length comments per topic will constitute a middle C for grading purposes. Merely agreeing or disagreeing in a post without explanation does not count as a comment. Every student should read all other students posts and comment on them frequently. Consider this a dialogue. The more you comment and the more thoughtful your comments, the better your grade. Discussions are 15% of the course grade so consider this an important part of the course. An A in discussions will have commented (at least 5-6 sentences) in the first two days the topic is open, then read everyone else’s posts, and commented again at least twice during the latter part of the first week the assignment is open. This A in discussion will have a total of at least 5 posts per topic (of at least a paragraph in length) and will raise issues and questions, comment on others ideas and issues, show evidence of thought and of pondering complex questions.

Discussions are open during the time in which you should be reading and working on the related assignment. Pay attention to the discussion due dates as listed in the Discussion topics themselves. Discussion 1 is an introduction and should be done right away. Discussions 2-4 go with Assignment 1, Discussions 5-7 go with Assignment 2, and Discussions 8-10 go with Assignment 3. Comment early and often. Any posts which are added in the last 48 hours a discussion is open will be heavily discounted.

The final exam covers the entire course. It consists of 75 multiple choice questions drawn from Homework 1, 2, and 3. You have exactly 60 minutes. Anyone who exceeds the time limit by more than a full minute will get a ZERO on the exam. This exam is CLOSED BOOK, no notes, no books, no internet sources-- nothing but what is already in your brain is allowed. If you think you need more time, you, may take the exam at the Testing Center with a Proctor there to assure than no books, notes, or internet sources are used. If a proctor is used, then you may have unlimited time. YOU must arrange this with the Testing Center. 

Textbooks, Supplementary Materials, Hardware and Software Requirements

Required Textbooks:

Please visit the Virtual Bookstore to obtain textbook information for this course. Move your cursor over the "Books" link in the navigation bar and select "Textbooks & Course Materials." Select your Program, Term, Department, and Course; then select "Submit."

Supplementary Materials:

There are no other supplementary materials that you need to purchase. All other material can be found at various sites on the internet or through a university or public library. 

Hardware and Software Requirements:

Minimum hardware requirements can be found here.

Minimum software requirements can be found here.

Common applications you might need:

Web Resources:

Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab (for APA, MLA, or Chicago style)

The Writing Center Online Writer's Handbook

Student Resources:
  • Technical support information can be found on the TN eCampus Help Desk page.
  • Smarthinking virtual tutoring is available FREE of charge. to access Smarthinking, visit the course homepage and select Smarthinking under Course Resources. You also view sample sessions to see what Smarthinking offers and how it works.
  • Information on other student issues or concerns can be located on the TN eCampus Student Resources page.

Instructor Information

Please see "Instructor Information" in the Getting Started Module for instructor contact information, virtual office hours, and other communication information. You can expect to receive a response from the instructor within 24-48 hours unless notified of extenuating circumstances.

Participation, Assessments, & Grading

Testing Procedures:

The final exam is cumulative, and thus it covers all assignments and all readings. It is timed and closed book. You may choose to take it at a Testing Center if you want more time. 

Grading Procedures:

All three assignments together are worth 35% of your course grade. These assignments are OPEN book and NOT timed. Students should read the required chapters first, then open the Assignment and go back through the book chapters with care to find the correct answers to each question. After reading the chapters, most students will need about three hours to find all the correct answers in the book. Thus, do not attempt to do these assignments at one sitting nor on the last day they are due. Several weeks are allotted for each Assignment; plan ahead and work on them slowly. Due dates are absolute; no extensions will be granted.

The research paper requires much advance reading and thought. Do not attempt to do all the research and writing in the two days before the paper is due. Due dates are absolute; no extensions will be granted. Details on how to write each paper are below. The paper is worth 25% of your course grade. All papers will be run through electronic plagiarism detection software. All work must be your own and must be properly cited with both internal citations and a full Works Cited page at the end. Any papers plagiarized all or in part will be given a zero.

All students must participate in EVERY discussion topic frequently. Grading of discussions is discussed above. 

Grading Scale:
59 and belowF


Assignments and Projects:

Research Papers:

The Research Paper: Format, Research and Style

Read ALL information below carefully.
Type your paper double-spaced, put the tables in the same Word file--you should only upload one file. Longer papers are always ok, shorter is rarely ok.

You need a title page with a catchy title, and your name. Add a photo of your officeholder.
Never rely on encyclopedias, do not use or any other encyclopedia type source. If you are unsure if something is an encyclopedia type source, ASK me!

Use at least 6 sources. Encyclopedia type sources (Wikipedia,, school teacher sites, history central, etc.) do not count in the minimum six required sources.

ALWAYS proofread what your write--if you can't spell or type (who can?) use the spellchecker. Get your roommate, spouse, friend or parent, to proofread it for content, redundancy, poor grammar, misspellings, and capitalization errors.

Did I say capitalization errors? ALWAYS capitalize party names (they are proper nouns) you know-- people, places, or things. So it is Republican and Democratic Parties. But do not start randomly capitalizing ALL nouns--like German.

I hope these tips help you all write first rate papers. If you have any questions, just ask me.

Use real research, from original sources and serious scholars, start NOW and READ, READ, READ about your officeholder and see how it all fits together. Start the paper early, proof it well, revise it. And SUBMIT it on time. Remember, no late papers. All papers must be uploaded to the Dropbox.

The Dropbox closes to further submissions when the due date ends--so do not wait until 11:58pm to start the uploading process if the due date ends at 11:59pm as you may miss it and thus not be able to upload your paper. PLAN AHEAD. I am just not sympathetic to the student who misses the Dropbox closing by a few minutes.

Your paper MUST have both a Works Cited page at the end of the paper which cites all sources used, as well as internal citations.

Cite using APA style (

IMPORTANT: ALL papers MUST be saved as .doc or .docx or as rich text and uploaded as that. NO papers will be accepted as .wps files or in other alien software. None of my three computers (home, office, laptop) can open any .wps files so any files that are in .wps format will be considered not submitted.

The papers must be submitted HERE inside the course in the Dropbox. This automatically puts a date and time stamp on it and keeps a record of your submission. No research papers will be accepted on paper, by fax, or through email. No papers will be accepted late.

The Paper Assignment: The Actual Assignment, Research on Campaign Finance

Research Paper: Start very early on this assignment. It takes a while to find and digest the information and do a good job.

I have posted example papers in Content so you can see what a good paper looks like do NOT do the same person as the examples!

You are to choose one current office holder of any state (either any of the US House members--perhaps you may be more interested in your own member, a US Senator, a current Governor, or any of Tennessee's State Senators. Any state is fine -- so pick any member of the US House or US Senate or any Tennessee state legislator--no state legislators from outside TN unless you live outside TN and that one represents you.

Make sure the information is there before you choose someone; there is a vast difference in amounts of information available for different people. More information is often available for those who have held or currently hold federal office--such as US Representatives and US Senators. But, there is really interesting information about some state representatives and state senators. This assignment is easier if you do a legislator rather than a governor.

A tip: officeholders who have not been in their office for very long will have far less financial and voting data to examine than those with more years of service. More data makes a better paper. Do not choose a presidential candidate --presidential fundraising is of a whole different level and sort.

All officeholders MUST be currently IN OFFICE.

Find out about this person. Give a brief political biography including other offices held and when, and how long in current office (this part should not exceed 15% of your paper).

Examine the office holder's campaign finance records for their most recent (and current) election. How much was raised? From whom? Give details for PAC's, industries, and interest groups giving money. How much did each contribute? Add tables and charts and figures here. Make your own tables, charts and figures --- never copy/paste them from some other site!

On what committees does the office holder serve? Do there appear to be any overlap or relationships between committees served on and money from various sources? Show details.

Examine the votes and issue stances of the office holder. Have the votes made been something the major contributors would favor or oppose? Do you see any conflict of interest between campaign receipts and votes? Discuss. What do various interest groups think of them and their issue stances (see ratings by issue groups).

Examine the bill sponsorships of your candidate and compare those to the groups from whom they received donations. What are the contributors likely getting for their money?

Use news sources to see if the media has dug up any dirt on their money and votes. The Washington Post and New York Times and local papers of the officeholder will be of help. All the universities (and probably the community colleges) in TN have online subscriptions to these papers and you can log on through the college library or go there and do the research. Otherwise it is harder to get at the stories.

Digest all the information and discuss it. See example papers. You are looking for conflicts of interest, smoking guns, correlations between money and votes or issue stances.

Many web sites will be of assistance including:,,,,,,,,,,, and You may also find good information at:,,,,,,,,, Also try, and There is a good site that has info about Tennessee state officeholders at: You may find other sources as well.

There is probably more detailed information on federal officeholders, but there are lots more interesting conflicts of interest to be discovered with state officeholders. One good site for state office holders is the Knoxville News Sentinel database at I also suggest you use the New York Times and Washington Post websites for back issues--they deal with campaign finance a great deal. 

Class Participation:

All students must participate in in all of the discussions frequently. Students may email the instructor or any members of the class by going to Class list and clicking on the name they wish to email and then clicking the little envelope icon. 

Late Policy:

All Assignments and papers MUST be submitted during the above stated available times. You should post a copy of these due dates in a place you will see so that you do not forget when something is due. 

Course Ground Rules

The following two statements (1., 2.) were derived from the TBR System-wide Student Rules document, released January 2012:


Read the document in its entirety here.

1. Standards of Conduct:

  • Students are required to adhere to the same professional, legal and ethical standards of conduct online as on campus. In addition, students should conform to generally accepted standards of "netiquette" while sending e-mail, posting comments to the discussion board, and while participating in other means of communicating online. Specifically, students should refrain from inappropriate and/or offensive language, comments and actions.

2. Review the TN eCampus Academic Integrity/Academic Honesty Policy:

  • In their academic activities, students are expected to maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Academic dishonesty is prohibited.

Such conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • an attempt by one or more students to use unauthorized information in the taking of an exam
  • to submit as one's own work, themes, reports, drawings, laboratory notes, computer programs, or other products prepared by another person,
  • or to knowingly assist another student in obtaining or using unauthorized materials.

Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited.

Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are subject to disciplinary action through the regular procedures of the student’s home institution.  Refer to the student handbook provided by your home institution to review the student conduct policy.

In addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions that may be imposed, the instructor has the authority to assign an "F" or zero for an activity or to assign an "F" for the course.

Other Course Rules:

Students are expected to:

  • Participate in all aspects of the course
  • Communicate with other students
  • Learn how to navigate in Brightspace
  • Keep abreast of course announcements
  • Use the assigned course management (Brightspace) email address rather than a personal email address
  • Address technical problems immediately:
  • Observe course netiquette at all times.

Guidelines for Communications


  • Always include a subject line.
  • Remember without facial expressions some comments may be taken the wrong way. Be careful in wording your emails. Use of emoticons might be helpful in some cases.
  • Use standard fonts.
  • Do not send large attachments without permission.
  • Special formatting such as centering, audio messages, tables, html, etc. should be avoided unless necessary to complete an assignment or other communication.
  • Respect the privacy of other class members


  • Review the discussion threads thoroughly before entering the discussion. Be a lurker then a discussant.
  • Try to maintain threads by using the "Reply" button rather starting a new topic.
  • Do not make insulting or inflammatory statements to other members of the discussion group. Be respectful of other’s ideas.
  • Be patient and read the comments of other group members thoroughly before entering your remarks.
  • Be cooperative with group leaders in completing assigned tasks.
  • Be positive and constructive in group discussions.
  • Respond in a thoughtful and timely manner.


The Tennessee Virtual Library is available to all students enrolled in TN eCampus programs and courses. Links to library materials (such as electronic journals, databases, interlibrary loans, digital reserves, dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, and librarian support) and Internet resources needed by learners to complete online assignments and as background reading will be included within the course modules. To access the Virtual Library, go to the course homepage and select the Virtual Library link under Course Resources.

Students with Disabilities

Qualified students with disabilities will be provided reasonable and necessary academic accommodations if determined eligible by the appropriate disability services staff at their home institution. Prior to granting disability accommodations in this course, the instructor must receive written verification of a student's eligibility for specific accommodations from the disability services staff at the home institution. It is the student's responsibility to initiate contact with their home institution's disability services staff and to follow the established procedures for having the accommodation notice sent to the instructor.

Syllabus Changes

The instructor reserves the right to make changes as necessary to this syllabus. If changes are necessitated during the term of the course, the instructor will immediately notify students of such changes both by individual email communication and posting both notification and nature of change(s) on the course bulletin board.


The information contained in this syllabus is for general information purposes only. While we endeavor to keep this information up-to-date and accurate, there may be some discrepancies between this syllabus and the one found in your online course. The syllabus of record is the one found in your online course. Please make sure you read the syllabus in your course at the beginning of the semester. Questions regarding course content should be directed to your instructor.

Last Revised on May 22, 2017