Everything flows from finding a cartoon.  Do you understand the hidden connections?  Did the cartoonist use enough symbolism for you to discuss the course in depth (remember your word garden)?

Political cartoons: a step by step checklist (or seven days to checking political science off your to do list)

Break things into manageable chunks.  A teacher can identify very clearly when an assignment is done in one sitting because you lose energy and insights are considerably weaker.  Take the time to learn how to complete an assignment properly. 

This is a step-by-step approach to completing your assignment.  This will give you time to check in with your teacher if one part of the project causes difficulties.

Super Squirrel Tip: We have released the steps to ensure your success.  This is now our set of expectations…doing less won’t yield a strong result. 

Step 1 – Choosing a cartoon (must be cited)

  • Everything flows from finding a cartoon.  Do you understand the hidden connections?  Did the cartoonist use enough symbolism for you to discuss the course in depth (remember your word garden)?
  • Have you re-read the rubric to make sure you can interpret the cartoon with the detail that can deliver an A+? 
  • Be selective, because once you have chosen your cartoon the assignment has been set in motion.

Super Squirrel Tip: Choose a cartoon that is a current story.  Study smarter, not longer.  A current story will have readily available news stories that relate specifically to your cartoon.  Choosing an older cartoon may result in your having difficulty finding appropriate background information.  Context is everything when explaining a political cartoon. 

Step 2: Background information (minimum of three sources) *most time consuming step so make sure you have 2-3 hours to complete this step. 

Now you need to learn as much as you can about the background of your topic. 

  • Read some articles, watch some news clips, and have some conversations with people (this will help you really understand the issues). 
  • Remember, what information does the reader need to know to understand the cartoon? 
  • Pay special attention to the language of the course.  Use key terms where possible (but only if they enhance your arguments).
  • Once you have organized your information sources (minimum of three) do you have any remaining questions? 
  • Take care to keep track of your citations along the way.  You don’t want to have to go back and find them or they could get lost.

Citations elevate the quality of your work.  Refer to the classroom discussion in week 9.  When are citations required?  Does the information require specific data (it should)?  

  • Statistics and dates need to be cited?  Did you borrow the idea from another author (you are not expected to create the information, only to locate it)? 
  • Citing other people’s ideas elevates the quality of your work (that is the task at hand). 
  • Finally, remember that there are no direct quotations allowed.  Any direct quotation needs to be paraphrased and reworded and then it should be cited. 

Super Squirrel Tip: If there are any missing details or you still have questions remaining, your research isn’t done.  Go find another article to support your work. 

Step 3: Organize your notes

Make sure you have integrated your sources.  There should never be three citations from the same source, or you are chunking your information, rather than integrating it (yes, we notice). 

  • Often the articles will provide similar information so that will help you integrate your resources.
  • Sometimes you need to find another article if you are clinging too tightly to the same information source. 
  • Consider writing one specific piece of information on one PowerPoint slide and creating a collection of facts.  This will allow you to spread the slides out and to move them around as you organize your ideas.  The same can be achieved with file cards or webbings.  What works best for you?
  • This section of your paper should only be two pages long, so organization is key. 

*Don’t just vomit the information onto the page.  Have a plan. 

Super Squirrel Tip: When providing information that requires a citation, make sure you make it your own. Reflect on the significance of the information being cited.  This provides student ownership over the information and allows an opportunity you to tie information to the course.  A citation should never appear at the end of a paragraph.  If it does, you haven’t finished reflecting.

Step 4: Cartoon Analysis (likely little or no citations)

Reflect on what you have learned about analyzing a political cartoon. 

  • This is your opportunity to establish ownership over the course.  Provide evidence that someone who should earn a political science credit is completing the work. 
  • Discuss the cartoon with someone else.  The magic of the cartoon is the “aha” moment..  This will happen much more easily if you are examining the cartoon with someone else.

 *Having these discussions is not plagiarism, so long as you are explaining the ideas in your own words.  Forty people could discuss the cartoon and have similar observations, but all forty would express their ideas differently (infinite monkey theorem). 

Super Squirrel Tip: If you can’t identify several examples for discussion, you should choose another cartoon. 

Step 5: Make course connections and use key terms (you are not required to cite classroom course notes or classroom discussions…we are expecting you to do this).

You need to distinguish yourself from the smart guy at Tim Hortons.  Before you finish the assignment, you should have reviewed your course notes. 

  • Have you considered anatomy of power?  Have you considered political spectrum? What is the role of the government?  What drew you to the cartoon?  Discussing the cartoon with someone else will be very important.  If you haven’t thought this through you likely don’t understand the cartoon fully
  • Have you made connections to the course? 
  • Are you using the language of the course? 
  • Have you reflected on why the cited information is important? 
  • Remember, you are doing all of this in two pages, so you must know what you are doing.  Have clear organization (webbing). 
  • Don’t force key terms into the assignment.  If a word doesn’t fit, don’t make it fit.  At this point in the course, key term application should be second nature. 

Super Squirrel Tip:  The strongest indicator of understanding an issue is being able to teach it to someone else. If you haven’t had a discussion with someone, you likely don’t have a solid assignment.   

Step 6: Editing your work (leave time in between writing and editing).

You want to distance yourself between writing the paper and the editing process. Leave at least a day or two (you will be amazed at the errors you find).

  • Once you have researched, organized, and written a paper you are simply too close to the material.  This break will allow you to identify errors more easily. 
  • You should have your paper error-free before you give it to someone else, so that you can maximize their input.
  • Your name is on the paper, so you get the final say (even with the auto editing on your computer).

Super Squirrel Tip: Don’t automatically accept someone’s editing advice.  Often, someone without course knowledge can grammatically change things that alters the argument that you are trying to make.  Be honest – if an outside reader is confused you likely need to edit. 

Step 7: Proofreading and citations (OWL Purdue is your friend https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html)

  • Review your paper and make sure that you have cited where appropriate
  • Make sure that your citations have been formatted properly
  • The running head and page numbers, along with all other formatting, shows that you have taken time to complete your work properly and that you are professional in your approach.  It establishes author control
  • Return to Step 1 and notice that the citations were not documented properly.  This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have an eye for details.

                                                                                               (Dewar, 2020)


Dewar, S [Editorial Cartoon]. (2020, March 11). Toronto Sun. Toronto.

Note: APA does not provide a specific reference for an editorial cartoon.  Indicate [Editorial Cartoon] after the author’s name and use electronic source details to complete the citation.  This cartoon did not have a title but if it did you would list it in place of name of web page reference field. Since we gave you an example you can use this as a template to double check your work. 

Super Squirrel Tip: This is your opportunity to take your paper to the next level. 

  • Show the instructor that you were not rushed when completing the assignment and that it was a priority for you. 
  • Follow APA instructions on OWL Purdue. 
  • Give the paper a final read to identify typos, formatting issues and autocorrect errors that won’t appear unless you are giving the assignment a final viewing. 

*This assignment is your love letter to the course.  Demonstrate that you have interest, mastery over the material, and a strong work ethic.  Do you know enough to earn a credit in Political Science?