Political Science

Learning Goals for the Political Science Undergraduate Major

The central aim of our undergraduate courses is to enable our students to speak and write precisely about politics.  Students concentrating in political science are introduced to a range of political concepts, vocabularies and methodologies via the four disciplinary subfields of political science: political theory, American politics, international relations, and comparative politics.  Through introductory coursework in these subfields, students develop an understanding of concepts that help them to grasp what is uniquely political.  Through their selection of elective courses, students pursue topics and methodologies of particular interest to them.  As students identify and articulate pertinent political questions, we provide them with the research skills with which to acquire important information to anchor their thought and to actively engage in problem solving.  Although some of our students may pursue graduate education, most of them will be engaged in different life projects.  Our aim is to prepare them to do whatever these may be with greater thoughtfulness and responsibility.  In addition to cultivating their ability to think critically and expanding their content knowledge, many of our students are seeking models of how to be good citizens.

1. Content Knowledge

·         Understand the range of theoretical frameworks used in the four subfields

·         Demonstrate familiarity with a range of formal and informal political phenomena, including institutions, actors, levels of governments, and the ideas animating such phenomena

·         Understand the relationship between empirical social scientific and theoretical arguments

·         Demonstrate familiarity with the range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies used in the subfields

2. Critical Thinking

·         Understand the importance of bringing intellectual rigor to the study of political phenomena

·         Demonstrate competence in verbal communication through active and substantive participation in class discussion

·         Understand the difference between strong and weak counter arguments

·         Understand the logic of causal inference

3. Problem Solving

·         Demonstrate the skill of explicating complex and multi-layered arguments

·         Demonstrate the skill of formulating a research question and a hypothesis

·         Demonstrate the ability to collect and analyze data

·         Demonstrate competence in evaluating bibliographic sources

·         Demonstrate proficiency in at least one social scientific or humanistic method

4. Written Communication

·         Understand the differences among response, analytic, and research papers

·         Understand the disciplinary norms for writing analytic and research papers

·         Demonstrate the ability to work through the sequential steps of framing, drafting, and revising a research paper

·         Demonstrate the ability substantively to respond to peer and instructor feedback through revision

·         Demonstrate improvement over time in the above areas