POLI 328B: The Politics of Development
and Government Accountability

POLI 328B: The Politics of Development
and Government Accountability
How to Write a Critical Readings Memo
Memos should be 3 pages, double spaced. They should also be written in concise prose, meaning sentences
rather than phrases or bullets. They should engage in multiple course readings (generally 2–3) that we’ve
covered so far.
Always cite in line like this: “Sen (1999) argues…” or “… (Sen 1999).” AND include a
Bibliography at the end. MLA or APA citation styles are fine, just be consistent.
Here is my advice on how to approach the readings critically:
1. Before starting a reading, think about what the key questions are for the week and about how the
questions from this week relate to what you know from previous weeks.
2. Skim over the reading to get a sense of the themes it covers, and, before reading further, jot down
what questions you hope the reading will be able to answer for you.
3. Next, read the abstract, introduction, and conclusion. This is normally enough to get a sense of
the big picture.
4. Can you try summarizing the reading in one sentence?
5. Ask yourself: Are the claims in the text surprising? Do you believe them? Can you think of
examples of places that do not seem consistent with the logic of the argument? Is the reading
answering the questions you hoped it would answer? If not, is it answering more or less interesting
questions than you had thought of?
6. Next ask yourself: What types of evidence or arguments would you need to see in order to be
convinced of the results? Now read through the whole text, checking as you go through how the
arguments used to support the claims of the author.
7. It is rare to find a piece of writing that you agree with entirely. So, as you come across issues that
you are not convinced by, write them down and bring them along to class for discussion.
8. Also note when you are pleasantly surprised when the author produced a convincing argument
that you had not thought of.
Grading rubric for Critical Reading Memos (each is worth 20 pts):
1. Identify the principal argument and/or debates in the field on the issue under consideration.
2. Put into conversation multiple readings. You may draw from previous weeks and podcasts but are
not required to.
3. Discuss the main strengths and weaknesses of the readings. Consider whether the scholarly disputes/debates on this subject been resolved. What remains to be discovered?
4. Highlight practical implications for policymakers, e.g. politicians, bureaucrats, civil service, NGOs.
5. Include 2 to 3 thoughtful questions that you would like to discuss further in class. These questions
should be at the end listed in number for