Current Event Analysis Guidelines

As a desk officer at the U.S. Department of State, you have been asked to write a 2,000-word analysis of a recent or ongoing event in African international relations to brief President Trump’s national security team. You can identify possible topics by following news online and participating in our class discussions. I am happy to work with you to select a topic that is both interesting and manageable. It is recommended that you get your topic approved by me several weeks before the deadline for the current event analysis.

Your current event analysis should include the following sections:

Overview of the situation: What happened and when? What are the basic facts of the current or ongoing event that the National Security team should know?

Background to the situation: What historical patterns provide context for the current or ongoing event? Have events like this happened before? What are the different groups or actors that have been involved?

Analysis of the situation: How can we understand the current context? What are the explanatory factors? Are there competing versions of events? If so, what are they and why are they different? This should be the longest section of your paper and should demonstrate your ability to critically analyze situations in Africa.

Implications: What are the implications of the situation for peace and security in the country? What are the regional and international implications, including for the U.S.?

For purposes of grading, an exemplary current event analysis will: include all of the sections mentioned above; reflect an understanding of the selected country/region; provide insightful analysis of the event and its implications; draw on a range of relevant sources, including at least three academic sources (see below); and be well-written and free of basic spelling/grammar errors. Be sure to fully reference all of your sources; a URL to a webpage does NOT count as a reference. I recommend APSA-style parenthetical references (Links to an external site.) Links to an external site with a full reference list at the end.

You are expected to consult at least three academic sources (refereed journal articles and books) in addition to newspapers and other sources. Academic Search Elite and JStor are good databases for academic articles. You can also find step-by-step instructions there for accessing the databases from your home computer. You may also find useful publications from organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the World Bank, and more. Many of these groups post research papers and reports on their websites. If you have questions about the extent to which you can trust information found in reports on the Internet, check with me. Some sites are more reliable than others.