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Foundational Courses

All of our degree programs build from three thematic and methodological foundations. International Studies majors take a fourth foundational course. For interested students, we also offer introductory courses in American politics and comparative politics. 

Thematic Foundational Courses

POLS 111: Principles of Political Science (required for all majors)

This course provides a general introduction to the field of political science. We explore key questions such as:

  • What is politics and what is political science?
  • How do political groups form?
  • How do individuals and groups make political decisions?
  • How are the decisions of political groups enforced?

We address these questions through the lens of important contemporary issues, such as public health crises, climate change, democratic backsliding, and immigration.

This course does not have prerequisites and is designed to equip students with the background and tools they need to take advanced courses in the field. 

POLS 110: Introduction to International Politics (required for International Studies majors)

The course will introduce you to a fundamental theoretical framework for explaining behavior in the international system. Using this framework, we will examine the nature of the international system, the causes of international conflict, and the possibilities for international cooperation.

We will particularly explore the causes of both interstate and intrastate armed conflict. The course also focuses on the role played in international politics by institutions such as democracy, regional and global security and economic agreements, and alliances.

The course uses these insights to shed light on special problem areas in world politics, from civil wars, terrorism, and nuclear weapons, to international trade relations, international lending and investment, currency disputes, the global environment, and human rights. 

Methodological Foundational Courses

QTM 100 (required for all majors)*

This course provides an introduction to descriptive and inferential statistics with emphasis on practice and implementation. The goal of this course is to introduce students to basic statistical concepts and to encourage critical thinking about data.  

POLS 208 (required for all majors)

This course provides an introduction to the theory and method of contemporary political analysis. It prepares students to read, interpret, critique, design, and conduct original, empirical research in political science.

Tracing the research process, students will learn how to formulate research questions, theoretical models, and empirical hypotheses; and then how to design a rigorous, detailed plan for collecting or creating data with which to test such hypotheses.

The course introduces common research strategies for descriptive and causal inference, which students will use to design an original research project in a group setting.

*Appropriate substitutes for QTM 100 include:

  • QTM 220
  • ECON 220
  • POLS 310
  • ISOM 350
  • MATH_OX 117Q

Optional Foundational Courses

POLS 100: Introduction to National Politics

The goal of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the contemporary American political system. The course will examine the major institutions of American national government including Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court, and the relationships among these institutions.

In addition, the course will investigate the role of non-governmental groups and actors in the political process including voters, political parties, interest groups, and the mass media. 

POLS 120: Introduction to Comparative Politics

This course offers an introduction to the comparative study of modern political systems. It outlines the major concepts and methods of comparative political analysis and applies them to a selection of advanced industrial democracies, communist and post-communist states, and developing countries.

In each case we will examine the key institutions and patterns of political behavior, as well as the historical and social contexts of present-day politics.