There are a number of provocative issues confronting urban politics; the federal and
state budget and their impact on local government, the use of local taxes from various sources
for funding police/fire and other city or county services, police and community relations,
immigration/sanctuary cities, affordable health care, overcrowding, traffic congestion, economic
development and growth, affordable housing, water quality and access to it, environment
concerns, funding and quality of K-12 education, and many others. You are to write a research
paper on one problem/issue that confronts urban politics of your choice.
You are expected to
write a 8-10 page paper that addresses the issue, includes differing points of view, and offers
your recommendations to solve the problem. The following are the requirements.
I. A Clear Definition of the Problem
Your paper should begin with a clear thesis statement. A thesis is not a fact, which can
be verified by data, but an assertion worth discussing, an argument with more than one possible
conclusion. Your thesis sentence will indicate to your reader not only the argument you have
chosen, but also your orientation toward it, and what your paper will attempt to prove.
In looking for a thesis, you are working to establish your paper’s purpose, the reasons
why you are writing about your topic. A thesis sentence should narrow the focus of the paper
and present an arguable hypothesis.
The thesis should be stated in the opening paragraph and also restated in the last
paragraph with a brief summary of the evidence provided in the paper. Do not confuse “needs”
with “problems.” A need is not a problem, but an assumption that a particular good or services
will solve a problem. Confusing the need with problem often leads to the wrong solution. For ex.
in this statement, “there is a need for more police officers to lower crime” the problem appears to
be the lack of officers, the paper will then center on ways the police department can get more
officers. If the problem is something else, such as high turnover rates due to low pay, or a rising
crime rate that the current police department is unable to stem, then the above problem
definition may not be appropriate.
In addition to the thesis statement, the first section should include:
a. A description of the background to the problem – after the thesis statement, the
problem to be addressed must be clearly defined. The reader needs to know how the problem
arose and how serious it is. The cause of a social problem is often difficult to determine, the
attempt should be made because the solution may be possible only when the cause is able to
b. A description of the extent of the problem-after describing how the problem arose,
explain its extent. Be sure to provide evidence of how widespread the problem is as well as
other relevant facts. This section should include different assessments of the problem you are
analyzing, conservative analysts tend to have different assessments of how severe a problem is
compared to a liberal or progressive perspective.
This section should include at least 4-5 academic sources, such as research-based
books (such as Segregation by Design), peer reviewed journal articles, quality research based
studies from policy organizations and advocacy groups, data and research from organizations
such as the Brookings Institute), as well as interviews with knowledgeable informants,
supplemented by articles from newspapers and journals such as the Atlantic.
II. Possible Solutions to the Problem
In this section, you should consider distinct, mutually exclusive ways to approach the
problem you want to address, they can be practical (economics), and political (equity / social
justice). There should be a minimum of 3 options. The options should be credible, and based on
the views of policy actors involved with the issue.
For each available option, you should describe first the benefits of the positive outcomes
expected and then the costs of taking that particular action. Costs include time, money, and the
resources expected to be used as well as probable or possible negative outcomes. Both
benefits and costs may include economic, social, political and environmental factors. All
reasonable costs and benefits should be included in the paper. You should not exclude possible
costs or benefits of any one option in order to make another option appear more or less
attractive. Here is a definition of a Cost Benefit Analysis from a White Paper on the subject that
is available in your course materials section:
“Benefit-cost analysis (sometimes referred as cost-benefit analysis) is a well-established
and widely-used approach for collecting, organizing, and analyzing information on policy
impacts. If well conducted, it provides an objective, unbiased assessment of the positive and
negative effects of alternative policies. It takes into account both quantifiable and
non-quantifiable impacts and describes the implications of related uncertainties for
A summary of the benefit-cost analysis for all the alternatives to solve the problem you
have selected should be presented in a table form. Please make sure to explain the alternatives
you have selected. If the problem is whether to spend city funds to improve a local community
After you have presented the problem in table form, compare and contrast the
alternatives you have selected, especially during these tight budgetary times arriving at a
recommended course of action is not easy
III. Recommended Course of Action
Your purpose in writing a position paper is to take a position on a policy or course of
action. Your position should be clear and unambiguous. The paper will be most effective if you
arrange the options so your recommendation is the final one listed. It could produce the greatest
benefit at the lowest cost, or be based on some other criteria, such as a moral obligation of
government to address the problem, even if it is not as cost effective as another option. If you
select another criteria other than benefit-cost, state it clearly.
The implementation section of a research position paper should tell the reader not only
what should be done, but explains, how it should be done. The writer should detail in a few clear
specific steps the actions that should be taken to implement the recommendation and potential
challenges or obstacles
Include a reference page for any sources you use to complete your assignment including
complete citations from web page sites