Northern Illinois University

Legislative Behavior

POLS 608 – Section 0001 – Class Nbr. 11722

Spring 2010


Instructor – Dr. Scot Schraufnagel

Class Time – 6:30–9:10 p.m. Monday

Class Location – DuSable Hall 252

Office Hours – MWF 11:00 to 11:50 & 1:10 to 3:00; also by appointment and I will be available immediately before and after class.

Office Location – Zulauf 410

Office Phone Number – (815) 753-7054

Note: E-mail should NOT be used as a primary mode of communication for critical information.  There is no guarantee that I will receive the correspondence or receive it in a timely fashion.  You should plan to talk to me in person, before and after class, or in office hours regarding planned absences and other important matters.  Phone calls, especially during office hours, are a good way to communicate, as well. No Grades will be given out over the phone or by e-mail. 


Required Texts –  

Olson, Mancur. 1971. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of

            Groups. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

ISBN: 0-674-53751-3


Mayhew, David R. 1974. Congress: The Electoral Connection. New Haven, CT: Yale

University Press.

ISBN 0-300-01809-6


Fiorina, Morris P. 1989. Congress: Keystone of the Washington Establishment. 2nd

Edition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

ISBN 0-300-04640-5


Jacobson, Gary C. 2009. Politics of Congressional Elections, 7th Edition. New York:

            Pearson/Longman Publishers.

ISBN-10: 0205577024
ISBN-13:  9780205577026


Mondak, Jeffery J., and Dona-Gene Mitchell, Editors. 2009. Fault Lines: Why the

            Republicans Lost Congress. New York: Routledge-Taylor & Francis Group.

            ISBN: 978-0-415-99362-3


Dodd, Larence C. and Bruce Oppenheimer. 2009. Congress Reconsidered-9th

                Edition). Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

 ISBN 978-0-87289-616-1

The first three books are aptly considered “classics,” because of the manner in which they helped to establish the theoretical framework of much modern research in the study of Congress.  The fourth and fifth books deal with the topic of legislative elections. I put a strong emphasis on elections for two reasons.  First, the study of legislative elections often prompts quality paper topics. Second, because the study of legislative elections has implications for other subfields in political science; especially comparative politics.  Last, we will read the most recent edition of Congress Reconsidered, which is often considered an authoritative account of the most current research on a subset of relevant research topics. 


Seminar Outline/Objectives – The objective of the seminar is to expose students to important academic literature on the subject of Congress and encourage students to critique the arguments made in these works.  A second objective is to promote an understanding of the way in which the modern Congress is organized and conducts business.  Third, the seminar will ask students to form an academic research question and develop a research design capable of testing the question.  In the process, students will need to determine the relevant body of existing research on their research question.  The objective of this project will be for students to learn the process of initiating a legitimate research program. 


Withdrawal Policy – If you wish to withdraw from the course at any time you must do so yourself.  My policy is to NOT administratively withdraw any student for any reason.  It is your responsibility to keep track of the withdraw deadline.


Evaluation Process – The course will be graded on a total points system and there will be a possible 300 points for the course.  There will be eleven homework assignments (seven of them are required), a literature review, a classroom presentation, a discussion of a colleague’s research, and a research design paper.  Each homework assignment will be worth twenty (20) points; however, the two lowest score from the seven required assignments are dropped.  Hence, there will be one hundred (100) points attributed to the homework assignments.  The literature review will be worth fifty (50) points; the presentation will be worth twenty-five (25) points, the discussion of a colleague’s research will be worth twenty-five (25) points and the research design paper will be worth one hundred (100) points.  The research design paper will serve as a final exam and will be due the evening that the university has scheduled for the final exam.  


280-300 Points – A                  250-279 Points – B                  200-249 Points – C                 

180-199 – D                           < 180 – F


Homework: There are eleven (11) assignments, however, students are required to complete only seven (7).  As noted above, only scores on the five best assignments will count toward your final grade.  Note: For every assignment less than seven that is completed there will be a 20 point deduction from the student’s score on final Research Design paper.  Moreover, for every assignment less than seven where students receive a score less than 15(out of 20) there will be a 20 point deduction from the student’s score on final Research Design paper.  Assignments should be submitted as a hard copy unless otherwise indicated in the Class Schedule below.  The assignments will ask you to respond to questions posed by the Instructor.  The answers will be found in the required books.  All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date specified in the schedule below.  Late assignments will not be accepted. Assignments must be typed, double-spaced, with font Times New Roman-12. Margins should be 1¼ inches left and right and 1-inch top and bottom.  Students should include a cover page that identifies themselves and the Assignment #.  Answers should be formatted in a bulleted manner and students must include a reference to the question they are answering.  See the Grading Criteria sheet at the end of the syllabus for more details.


Literature Review: This paper should be submitted electronically by midnight on the date specified in the class schedule.  There is no predetermined length for the literature review.  Likewise, there is no predetermined number of references.  At minimum, you will want to cite all the major works in your field of study from the top journals in political science and major university presses. 


Presentation:  The presentation will be 10-15 minutes in length and ought to include a visual component; either a handout or a power point presentation.  All students must provide their Discussant a draft of their research before the night that they present. 


Discussion of a Colleague’s Research: You should provide written comments to the presenter and discuss/critique their research in class for approximately five minutes.    


Research Design Paper: Again, no predetermined length.  A short paper will be entirely obvious to me and there will be a point deduction if the paper is too short, but also a point deduction if the paper is too long. 


Attendance Policy:  Attendance IS required and will be taken randomly throughout the session.  However, there is no penalty for being absent until you have missed the fourth class period.  Students missing four or more times will receive a failing grade (an “F”) in the course. 






Classroom Time and Assignments Due

Reading Assignment


Course Introduction



No Class - MLK Holiday

1st Olson Homework Due




Discuss Olson

2nd Olson Homework Due



Discuss Mayhew

Mayhew Homework Due



Discuss Fiorina

Fiorina Homework Due



Discuss Jacobson

1st Jacobson Homework Due



Discuss Jacobson

2nd Jacobson Homework Due



Discuss M &M

1st M & M Homework Due

Mondak & Mitchell


No Class - Spring Recess

2nd M & M Homework Due


Mondak & Mitchell


Discuss D & O

1st D & O Homework Due

Dodd and Openheimer


Discuss D & O

2nd D & O Homework Due

Dodd and Openheimer


Discuss D & O

3rd D & O Homework Due

Dodd and Openheimer


Literature Review Due

@ Midnight


Discuss Literature Reviews

Independent Reading


Classroom Presentations/Discussions

Independent Reading


Classroom Presentations/Discussions

Independent Reading


Classroom Presentations/Discussions

Independent Reading


Research Design Paper Due

-Hard Copy-



Disclaimer – Due dates, class schedules and reading assignments are all subject to change.  Regular attendance in class will assure that students will have all the needed information to successfully complete the course.        


 Academic Honor Code: Academic dishonesty:  In preparing for your work and meeting the requirements of this course, you are expected to adhere to all the rules, regulations, and standards set forth by the Department of Political Science, Northern Illinois University, and the scholarly community.  This statement encompasses intentional and unintentional plagiarism; cheating on examinations; using, purchasing, or stealing others’ work; misusing library materials; and so forth.  The NIU Undergraduate Catalog states:

Good academic work must be based on honesty. 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 without identifying and acknowledging those 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. (Undergraduate Catalog)

If you are not sure what constitutes plagiarism, ask.  Ignorance will not be tolerated as an excuse.  If you are unaware of how to cite properly, visit  


Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CARR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building.  CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors.  It is important that CARR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.



Grading Rubric for Homework Assignments

POLS 608 – spring 2010


There is no predetermined length for homework assignments.  However, it is difficult to imagine an assignment less than 750 words being sufficiently complete to earn full credit.  Any paper in excess of 3000 words will be returned with out a grade (student will be expected to reformulate his/her responses to make them more concise). 


All students start with a score of “19”:


A – +1 for properly citing outside literature once

B – +1 for two additional citations to outside literature


Students must follow American Political Science Association (APSA) guidelines for parenthetical notations and references.  Acceptable “outside literature” is limited to peer- reviewed journal articles and books published by university presses.


C – minus 1 for each woefully incomplete answer

D – minus 1 for each entirely wrong answer

E – minus 1 for each failure to follow guidelines spelled out in the syllabus

F – minus 1 for each set of three grammar errors

G – minus 1 for no staple, crooked staple, or in any way stapled inappropriately




Name: ____________________________________________________


Grading Rubric for Literature Reviews

Spring 2010


Assignment is submitted on time (0 - - - - - - - - - - - -10 pts.)                         ________


Topic is approved by professor (0 - - - - - - - - - - - -10 pts.)                            ________


Literature review is comprehensive (0 - - - - - - - - - - - -20 pts.)                     ________


Introduction states the importance of the research question (0 - - -5 pts.)       ________


Grammar is good (minus 1 for each set of 3 errors) (0 - - - - - -5 pts.)             ________


Extra-credit (possible additional points for going above and beyond the call of duty in terms of the comprehensiveness of the review)                                              




Total Score                                                                                                        ________





Student Name: ____________________________________________________


Grading Rubric for Mock Conference Presentation

Spring 2010


Student presents on night scheduled (0 - - - - - - - - - - - -10)                         ________


The time spent on the presentation is appropriate (0 - - - - - - -5)                  ________

(point deduction for < 10 min. or > 15 min.)


Presentation organized in the prescribed manner (0 - - - - -- - -5)                  ________


Student handles feedback appropriately (0 - - - - - - - - - - - -5)                     ________


Total Score                                                                                                      ________







Student Name: ____________________________________________________


Grading Rubric for Discussants

Spring 2010


Student fulfills role on the night scheduled (0 - - - - - - -10)                          ________


It is obvious that the student read the paper carefully (0 - - - - - - -10)          ________


The quality of the student feedback (0 - - - - - - - - - - - -5)                            ________

(Were comments insightful?)


Total Score                                                                                                      ________





Grading Rubric for Research Design Paper

Spring 2010 (Graduate)


Assignment is submitted on time (0 - - - - - - - - - - - -20)                              ________


Student makes improvements to the Introduction (0 - - - - - -20)                  ________


Student makes improvements to the Literature Review (0 - - - - - -20)         ________


Students hypotheses are backed by quality theory (0 - - - - - - -20)                ________

‘Quality theory’ is defined as face valid explanations for why one thing should cause another. 


Research Design is well-organized and complete (0 - - - - - -10)                   ________


Grammar (minus one for each set of three obvious errors) (0 - - - - - -10)     ________


Total Score                                                                                                       ________


Note: The research design papers will not be returned to students.  Students will be able to get extensive feedback on the Research Design by setting an appointment to meet with me after finals week, spring 2010.