The Major

Requirements for the Major

You can complete the political science major via one of two routes.
Each requires nine courses (plus another two if you write an honors thesis).

Four Traditional Subfields

American politics, international relations, political theory, and comparative politics are the discipline’s main organizing fields. In the major, each of these has its own introductory course and its own capstone senior seminar. Taking both of these is mandatory for any concentration. For example, to concentrate in American politics, the major would take both 201 and 410. In addition, each concentrator takes at least two electives in that subfield, preferably one at the 300 level in preparation for the senior seminar. Students concentrating in Political Theory must take either 231 (Ancient) or 232 (Modern) as one of their concentration courses. With the permission of the Department Chair, students may take a senior seminar outside their subfield of concentration, provided they also take a third elective course in that concentration.

Every major has to take two classes in two subfields outside of his or her chosen concentration, for breadth.

Four concentration classes plus two breadth classes equal six. The three classes that remain to complete the major can be anything: more concentration classes for the especially keen, more breadth classes for the wide-ranging, or more of both for the moderates among us.*

Individual Concentrations

Your choice does not have to be determined by the four subfields we use to organize the discipline. Topics that cut across these areas, such as “law” or “democracy” or “political violence” (see the list of individual concentrations we have sponsored via the Concentrations link) can serve as effective concentrations.

Requirements for an individual concentration vary slightly from those for a traditional concentration. The student writes a paragraph explaining and justifying the proposed area, and takes a total of five, rather than four, classes on this theme.* All other requirements are the same: we still ask for two breadth classes, and a thesis writer still has additional, rather than substitute, work.

In either case, students whose political science course work has been excellent (at or above a departmental 3.5 GPA) may elect to complete a senior thesis, making them eligible for honors in the major. This is in addition to the nine required courses.

*Beginning with the Class of 2011, at least one of the seven electives (that is, excluding the 20x intro and 4×0 capstone) must be at the 300 level and no more than two 100-level courses can count toward the major. Also beginning with this class, students must take a research course, designated in the catalog (most senior seminars and many 300-levels are).

Requirements for an individual concentration vary slightly from those for a traditional concentration. The student writes a paragraph explaining and justifying the proposed area, and takes a total of five, rather than four, classes on this theme.* All other requirements are the same: we still ask for two breadth classes, and a thesis writer still has additional, rather than substitute, work.

Learning Objectives

The major in political science is designed to help students obtain the following learning objectives:

  1. Understand the central importance of power in all facets of politics and government.
  2. Apply theoretical perspectives from political science to current domestic and international issues.
  3. Develop the ability to carry out original research projects on a variety of political topics.
  4. Enhance the habits and skills of clear thought, rigorous analysis, and effective argumentation in writing and speech.