How to Structure an Analytical Paper (With Sample Questions)

In this assignment, students are required to write an analytical essay linking the domestic to the international context.

The paper should address the following:

Participants will be expected to choose a state and show how its domestic context influences its international relations. This will demonstrate participant’s ability to assess how various internal situations can influence a state’s foreign policy.

The assignment will test participant’s ability to apply lessons learned over the entire course to the real world. For example participants can show how issues such as civil society, elections, and economic development can have powerful links between the domestic and international contexts.     

Papers will be evaluated based on the use of evidence, the logic of the structure, the quality and originality of the argument, and the written expression. The paper will comprise 35% of the final grade.

Learning outcomes for the Analytical Paper

  • Analyze how the domestic context influences a state’s foreign policy.
  • Assess some of the key factors (groups, individuals, regions, etc.) in the state that impact foreign policy.
  • Analyze the role that institutions play in your state in both the domestic and international contexts.

Sample Discussion Topics for the Analytical Paper

  • State Capacity, Legitimacy, and Types of Government

The concept of state capacity is one the most important tools for understanding and analyzing different countries. State capacity is a defining feature of the modern nation state. While some countries possess high levels of state capacity and have the ability to “get things done,” such as building modern infrastructure networks in every corner of the state, other countries struggle to provide proper sanitation in their capital cities. Understanding state capacity and how it works is fundamental to providing a proper analysis of a country. 

Different countries utilize various types of government. These can range from presidential to parliamentary states. They can also differ by levels of democratization or levels of non-democracy. Importantly we need to have a solid assessment of the key factors in these different types of government in order to better understand a specific state. 

Learning Outcomes

1. Understand what state capacity is and why it matters.
2. Assess various ways to measure state capacity and some of the challenges associated with this.
3. Assess the various types of government and understanding how different types of political arrangements can influence domestic and international politics. 

  • State Institutions, and the Peloponnesian War Analysis

The study of institutions is a central topic in political science. Institutions refer to a set of formal and informal rules and norms that govern behaviour. Institutions come in the form of “purposive organizations” which both constrain the actions of political leaders as well as create opportunities for them to structure political order. 

States need institutions to manage change and channel participation to maintain stability. States with robust institutions where the rule of law and proper procedures are followed tend to have high state capacity and higher levels of economic development. States with weaker institutions are more likely to experience political unrest and lower levels of economic development.

In addition to the core topic of institutions we will also examine the role that institutions played in the Peloponnesian War. 

Learning Outcomes

1. Assess the concept of institutions and institutional change. 
2. Evaluate how institutional arrangements affect political outcomes and economic performance.
3. Understand how different institutions influenced the course and outcome of the Peloponnesian War.

3-    State Capacity, Institutions and Covid-19 Analysis

The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged nearly every state in the world and has revealed how strong or how weak various country’s institutions are. Why have states with robust state capacity, powerful institutions and high levels of income had a very difficult time in their struggles with the pandemic? Why have states with seemingly weaker institutions and lower levels of state capacity done extraordinary well in their response to the pandemic? Can we claim that different types of government are better suited to fighting the pandemic? Or does government type not matter as much as other factors such as culture, civic responsibility, or simple demographics and geography? This session will consist of a panel of faculty who will discuss some of the main approaches to the pandemic in Europe, North America, and the Middle East.  

Learning Outcomes 

1. Properly analyze the various strengths of specific country’s response to the pandemic.
2. Assess some of the structural challenges inherent in democratic states when confronting the pandemic. 
3. Analyze how states in the Middle East confronted the pandemic. Why have some been more successful than others?   

Discussion Questions

1. Assess why the United States fared so poorly at the national level, while certain states have been able to better handle the pandemic.
2. What role does democracy play in a state’s response to the pandemic? Are democratic states better equipped to deal with the pandemic? 
3. Explain the challenges of comparing democratic and non-democratic state’s response to the pandemic. What are some of the inherent limitations of such an assessment? 


4- Civil Society Analytical paper

Some approaches to the study of comparative and domestic politics fail to account for important identities that exist within and sometimes transcend borders. Scholars and strategists have at times ignored these nuanced identities such as tribes, geographic clans, cartels, syndicates, and various other groupings only to uncover their centrality in warfare, failing and weak states, and violent-extremist safe havens, sometimes crossing transitional areas. The topic of civil society helps to fill this gap and is frequently understudied and often misunderstood in the modern world.

At the very least, understanding civil society, which is sometimes more resilient than and outlasts residing governments, will assist our analysis of different states. One example of this phenomena is the existence of clan and contract societies.

What are the differences and similarities between a clan society and contract society (“rule of law” and “protection of the individual”)?  Clans, here, refer to subnational groups in the broadest sense: bloodline, geographic, and/or fictitious cohesion and which may perhaps cover many various identities with ebbs and flows of strength. The latter defined much of mankind outside ancient empires and most of the world until modern history. It also describes underlying drivers of individuals and communities throughout the world frequently below the level of the state.  

Although we will be speaking mostly about the state as a unit of measurement at NDC, it is important to understand the vestiges of the “rule of the clan:”

  • Clans and informal groups may be important to the constituencies of political leaders from the Philippine islands to rural Afghanistan to western Iraq to mountainous and inner-city areas of the United States to the jungles of South America to the major cities of West Africa.
    • It is also important to recognize hybrid states where there exists both clan society and emphasis on legal protection of the individual—sometimes both written directly into law.  
    • Clan identities become important in understanding weak central government institutions such as in Mexico and Guatemala’s many drug trafficking organizations (“cartels”) strongly governing swaths of territory and southern Somalia’s many warring bloodline clans, extremists, and criminal organizations.
    • During regional and international negotiations it is important to understand human impulses (even those that are heads of states and multinational corporations) that may drive some people more towards a clan-society mentality such as holding honor as more important than some standard diplomatic norm. 
    • Allied governments often fail with “state-building” because they fail to incorporate clan systems or simply do not allow the clan systems to naturally accept a legitimate government.  States often cannot be imposed and the will of the people is rarely, if ever, imposed.

    Learning Outcomes

    1. Evaluate the implications of the presence of clans and civil society on possible trajectories of the domestic and international security environment
    2. Analyze the efficacy of regional and national governance systems today as well as in the near and long-term future
    3. Assess the importance of civil society in both democratic and non-democratic states. 

Discussion Questions

1. What is the role of civil society in democratic versus non-democratic states?
2. What determines the effectiveness of a social contract?
3. How does the rule of the clan affect both domestic and international politics?
4. How can leaders work with, or influence civil society?  

4-    The United States and its Domestic Context Analysis

The United States is the world’s sole superpower and for now the largest economy. This situation did not happen purely by chance, but also as the result of long-term strategic planning and thinking on the part of American leaders. The “American experience” (Some would say “American exceptionalism”) has been a bumpy road that was born out of the ashes of a brutal civil war. In fact, America (like all countries) continues to evolve and redefine itself. Within the next 30 years Caucasians will no longer form the majority of Americans and the ever changing political dynamics of the USA can cause confusion both overseas and in the USA itself. 

One thing that the USA does possess is a very solid institution foundation that has enabled it to develop into a superpower. State capacity and power in the USA mean different things to different Americans. In some parts of the USA many Americans believe the capacity of the federal government should be curtailed, while other Americans believe that the powers and services offered by Washington need to be expanded. 

On the security front, many of the internal politics of the USA are reflected in its foreign policy and grand strategy. Increases in military spending are at times met with decreases in the budget for diplomacy. A key question is given the relative political dysfunction in the internal politics of the USA, how does the USA construct a grand strategy?

Learning Outcomes

1. Understand the domestic political structure of the USA.
2. Analyze how various political factions are able to advocate for various interests in the American political system. 
3. Assess how geographical, population and economic size impacts on the country’s domestic governance. 
4. Assess how the American domestic context influences American foreign policy. 

Discussion Questions

1. To what degree has the US’s geographical, population and economic size shaped its systems of governance?
2. Explain some of the internal political cleavages in the USA?
3. To what degree do the key concepts that we have covered influence both American domestic politics and American foreign policy?
4. To what degree do we find significant variation in American behavior based on individual leaders? 
5. Analyze how the American federal system influences foreign policy.
6. Assess the significant variation in various regions, states and sub-regions response to Covid-19. 

5-    China and its Domestic Context Analysis

The rise of China is the most important geopolitical event of the century. China’s rise influences everything from the price of oil to climate change. Understanding the internal dynamics of China is crucial for policy makers and leaders. China’s evolution into the world’s second largest economy has been a bumpy ride. While journalists and policy makers frequently speak of the “China Model,” very few have actually examined whether there is a real “model” with a coherent set of policies that have followed a well-crafted and long-term trajectory.

In all of the hype surrounding China, we frequently miss some of the structural challenges that Chinese leaders must grapple with. Will the demographic challenges that confront China prevent it from becoming a true global superpower? Will the economic imbalances in China continue, or will the government develop policies to reduce this threat? 

On the security front, will China rise peacefully? Will its rapidly modernizing military be used in a way that furthers peace, or will it become a tool of Chinese hegemony? A key question for the UAE is how will China’s rise impact the Middle East and, in particular, the UAE? 

Learning Outcomes

1. Assess how geographical, population and economic size impacts on the country’s domestic governance. 
2. Assess the internal challenges and threats to the Chinese state. 
3. Explain what the UAE can learn from China’s experience and how China can contribute to the UAE’s long-term strategic goals. 
4. Analyze the Chinese state’s response to Covid-19. 

Discussion Questions  

1. Assess how geographical, population and economic size impacts on China’s domestic governance. 
2. Assess the internal challenges and threats to the Chinese state. 
3. Assess the “peaceful” nature of China’s rise.
4. What can the UAE learn from China’s domestic situation?
5. Evaluate the Chinese government’s initial response to Covid-19 and its subsequent response. 


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