Professor Barbara Burrell

115 Zulauf Hall



Office Hours: Office Hours: 

Tuesdays, 3:30-4:30, Wednesdays, 1-3 PM. I am also usually in my office on Wednesday mornings and during the day before classes on Tues. and Thurs.


The legislature is usually considered the people’s branch of government. With this idea in mind we will ask who are the people who serve as our legislators. How have they gotten elected to these positions? What are the ways in which they represent us and make laws on our behalf?  How have they organized themselves to perform their lawmaking function? How should we evaluate the job they do?


Required Texts:


Paul Herrnson, Congressional Elections: Campaigning at Home and in Washington, 5th edition. CQ Press.

Barbara Sinclair, Party Wars, University of Oklahoma


Students also need to purchase a Classroom Performance System (CPS) response pad at the bookstore and register the pad for use in POLS 307. The pad costs about $20 and registration costs $13.  Once you have bought the pad it can be used in other classes and once you have registered for its use in three classes, registration for use in further classes is free.  You register the pad by going to Blackboard, bringing up this class, click on Tools on the left hand side of the page, click on CPS and follow the instructions. You pay the $13 online.


In addition students are expected to read a national newspaper on a weekly basis. The Washington Post probably most comprehensively covers Congress. Also watch C-SPAN on occasion.  You will be expected to comment knowledgeably about current happenings in Congress throughout the course.


Class Attendance:   Students are expected to attend class each class period, be on time, pay attention, participate in class and not leave early.  I determine when class ends. Do not pack up to leave early.  I will take attendance.  It counts toward students’ grades.  If a student sleeps through class, his or her cell phone goes off or a student otherwise engages in disturbing behavior in class including chatting, he or she will be marked absent for that day.


This course schedule is tentative. We may move faster or slower depending on class participation.

I will keep you updated as to where you should be.


Week of January 15 – Introduction

            Read Article 1 of the Constitution for January 17th

            Readings:  Federalist Papers #10, 52-55.

           Begin Herrnson, Congressional Elections      



Week of January 22 The Federalist Papers and begin Congressional elections

            January 22:  Quiz 1:  on the Federalist Papers

            Readings: continue Congressional Elections


Week of January 29: Complete Congressional Elections

            Reading: finish Herrnson, Congressional Elections  


Week of February 5: Who Are Our Representatives and What do We Think of Them?

Feb 5 assignment 1:  Find your U.S. representative and answer the following questions about that person. How long has the rep. served in Congress? What is his or her background? How did the rep. first get elected to Congress? What committees does the rep. serve on? How does this representative seem to spend his or her time on the Hill and at home? What are the representative’s priorities?  Does the representative have a media presence? How competitive is the district? How much does the representative spend on getting re-elected? What is the representative’s seniority? These are basic questions to be answered. Please feel free to go beyond them and provide us with other information.   


            Readings:  John Hibbing. 2001. “How to Make Congress Popular.”  Legislative Studies     Quarterly, 2001   (on blackboard)

      Sinclair, Party Wars, chaps 1 and 2


Week of February 12: Legislative Organization: Committees

            Feb 12: Quiz 2 on Party Wars chapters 1-5    

  Reading: Party Wars, Chap 3, 4 5.


Week of February 19:  Black History Month: African American Representation in the U.S. Congress 

  Reading: David T. Canon, “Representing Racial and Ethnic Minorities” in The Legislative Branch, ed. Paul Quirk and Sarah Binder (on Blackboard)


Week of February 26: Review and midterm


            February 28 – Midterm examination


Week of March 4: The Senate

            Readings:  Federalist Papers #62, 63  

                              Sinclair, Party Wars, chap 6


Week of March 18:  Women’s History Month: The Representation of Women in Congress

            Reading: Irwin Gertzog. 2002. “Women’s Changing Pathways to the U.S. House of Representatives: Widows, elites, and Strategic Politicians.” In Women Transforming Congress, ed. Cindy Simon  Rosenthal, University of Oklahoma Press, 95-181 


Week of March 25:  Congressional Leadership

            Reading: review aspects of leadership in Party Wars


Week of April 1:

            April 1: Film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

            We may finish the film on April 3 depending on my schedule for the Midwest Political Science Association meeting


Week of April 8: Congress, Foreign Policy and the Presidency

April 8 Quiz 3 on Deering reading   

Reading:  Christopher J. Deering, “Foreign Affairs and War,” in The Legislative Branch, ed. Paul Quirk and Sarah Binder (on Blackboard)

Reading: Sinclair, Party Wars, chaps 7-8


Week of April 15: Summarizing the Legislative Process in the Republican Years and in the 110th Congress

            Reading: Party Wars, chaps 9 & 10

            April 15 Assignment 2: Find two articles that describe and reflect on Nancy Pelosi’s Speakership. Write a short summary of these pieces. Think particularly about the adjectives used to describe her leadership and the actions she has taken in an attempt to lead. Try not to use highly partisan articles either “pro” or “con” regarding her speakership. Attach the articles to your paper.


Week of April 22: Congress in comparative perspective

            April 22 Assignment 3:  Adopt another democratic country and describe how its legislative process is structured and its elections are run. What is the size of its legislature? Is it a bicameral system? How are members elected? Is it a parliamentary system or a presidential system? Is it a proportional representation system or a “first past the post” winner take all system?  What are its major parties? What can you learn about its internal structure such as use of committees and leadership?  These are basic questions. Please provide additional information that you think is relevant.


Week of April 29: Overview of Representation


Final Examination: Tuesday, May 6th, 2-3:50 PM


Major writing assignment:  Journal and term paper

Students are required to keep a journal covering Congressional activities of the second session of the 110th Congress.  The journal is kept by making a weekly recording of activities based on news media accounts, use of CQ Weekly and its online information (www.cqpolitics.com), C-Span, etc. Especially use the Washington Post and the New York Times, plus the Chicago Tribune.  The central question to be address in your essay centers on how is Congress performing it representative and law making functions in the second session of the 110th Congress. Important to consider is that it is the eighth year of the presidential administration and it is an election year for members of the House and one-third of the Senate. How does this important context constrain and structure legislative activity? Your term paper involves writing an essay that focuses on what Congress has been about in the first 3 and ½ months of this session. Your essay should center on the concepts of representation, deliberation and law making. You need to be sure to incorporate the readings and ideas presented in this course. What are the major issues that the body is working on? Assess its productivity. Incorporate your journal into the paper. Your goal is to both describe the legislative process and in the end to write an evaluative summary of what you have learned about how Congress is performing its role in the governing process.  I expect your evaluative summary to be very thoughtful. It should be more than a paragraph long. I will weigh this part of your essay very heavily. (Think about the words of the Founding Fathers.) 


This term paper must be at least ten double spaced pages. This amount is a minimum. It can and should be as long as you think necessary to convey your thoughts and to provide a thorough overview of Congressional activity during this time period. What is most important is the quality of the writing, the amount of information incorporated into the paper, and attention to the major concepts of the course.  Attach your journal to the paper as an addendum.


The paper should have margins no greater than one inch on all sides, and font no larger than Times New Roman, 12 point.  Grammatical and spelling errors are fatal!  I urge you to use the Writing Center. See some other notes about writing in Course Documents in Blackboard.


Honors Students:  We will meet outside of class 2-3 times during the semester.  In addition your term paper should be at least 20 pages in length. You should compare the activities of the Illinois State Legislature with the work you have done on Congress for your term paper.  Keep a journal on what is occurring in the Illinois Legislature during the semester 




Class attendance (30 days): 30 points

Assignment 1: 5 points

Assignment 2: 5 points

Assignment 3:  5 points

Quiz 1: 5 points

Quiz 2: 5 points

Quiz 3: 5 points

Journal and Term Paper: 80 points

Midterm Examination: 60 points

Final Examination:  60 points


Total points: 260


A = 234-260 points                 C = 182-207 points                 F = below 156 points

B = 208-233 points                 D = 156-181 points


Plagiarism Statement: "The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration as a serious offense. Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment written, in whole or in part, by someone else. Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university." Northern Illinois University Undergraduate Catalog.


 Department of Political Science Web Site:

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu.


Students with Disabilities. NIU abides by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a disability and require some type of instructional accommodation, please let me know. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources, the office on campus that provides services for students with disabilities. The CAAR office is located in the University Health Services building (753-1303).