Political Science B.A.
The academic study of politics dates to the earliest times. Aristotle called politics “the queen of the sciences” because it addresses the fundamental question of how people can live together peacefully and productively. Traditionally, in the United States, the political science discipline has been divided into five sub-fields: political theory, American government, comparative politics, international relations and public law. More recently, political science has expanded to include areas such as media and political communication, interest group behavior and the politics of gender, race and sexual orientation.
As a liberal arts major, the main goal of the B.A. in political science program is to produce citizens who can evaluate information accurately, reason carefully, think critically and communicate effectively. In addition to allowing students to become more effective in their daily lives, these are skills that will pay off in any career. In a world where many of today’s students will wind up in a job that does not yet exist, such “transferrable skills” give the flexibility needed to adapt to a changing job environment.
Upon completion of this program, students will have:
- 1. Substantial knowledge of current political and governmental structures and processes in the United States.
- 2. An understanding of current political and governmental structures and processes outside the United States.
- 3. An understanding of influential thinkers and ideas that have shaped democratic values.
- 4. An understanding of the difference between descriptive and normative theory as it applies to politics and government.
- 5. The ability to recognize and assess evidence that supports or contradicts ideas.
- 6. Proficiency in the use technological resources such as the Internet, online data and library-based search engines.
- 7. Skill in writing papers with a clear thesis, organization and no distracting grammatical errors.
- 8. Applied what they have learned in class through active participation in politics and government through internships or other experiential settings.
- 9. Chosen a coherent set of courses within the major under the guidance of an advisor
- 10. Received active guidance in selection of post-baccalaureate opportunities, including graduate schools, law schools, a range of governmental services and other employment.
Writing in the Discipline
1. In what ways is writing important to your profession?
Writing is a central element in the political science discipline. Effective communication is one of the most important skills for the political science student to acquire. Upon graduation, political science students may choose to attend law school or graduate school, where sound writing is expected. Those who choose to enter the world of work often seek out public service or managerial-level positions; such positions often demand quality writing.
2. Which courses are designated as satisfying the Writing in the Discipline (WID) requirement by your department? Why these courses?
POL 308: Current Political Controversy satisfies the WID requirement. This course was created specifically to introduce political science majors to the various types of writing they might engage within their other political science courses, as well as in the post-graduate world of graduate school, law school and/or work. We see writing as a developmental process. Students learn to critically read, think and write in a coherent manner over time when given space to practice and to receive feedback. The department also recognizes the linkage between effective reading and effective writing; therefore, students read a variety of materials for the course and are required to use those readings to develop their writing assignments. Students are required to find and use the following secondary and primary sources: articles in academic and political opinion journals, academic and popular press literature, newspaper editorials, Supreme Court opinions, opinion surveys, and government executive and legislative documents.
3. What forms or genres of writing will students learn and practice in your department’s WID courses? Why these genres?
Students will learn about and practice a variety of genres that are essential for a political science student to know. These genres may include, but are not limited to, op-ed articles, blog posts, book reviews, annotated bibliographies, literature reviews, research designs, research papers, data analysis reports and policy memoranda. Some of these genres (ex., op-ed articles, blog posts and policy memoranda) are meant to help students practice their analytical skills. Others, (ex., book review, annotated bibliographies and literature reviews) are designed to help the student practice particular skills like reviewing and summarizing information. Research designs, research papers, data analysis reports and policy memos allow students to practice “real world” political science applications.
4. What kinds of teaching practices will students encounter in your department’s WID courses?
Faculty teaching POL 308 run the course as a seminar. They expect student-led discussion and active engagement. Students are required to present their written work in class, provide feedback to one another and work in groups. They are given the opportunity to turn in second drafts of most of their writing assignments and should expect to receive faculty feedback on each draft. This feedback generally focuses on understanding of the topic (academic context), the paper’s organization, use of evidence, clear and correct grammar, proper citation and spelling, use of punctuation and other writing “mechanics.”
5. When they’ve completed your department’s WID requirement, what should students know and be able to do with writing?
The expected outcome is that students will understand the different purposes of writing in the discipline and employ the conventions of writing in their major fields. Students will produce writing that is well organized, supported by evidence, demonstrates correct usage of grammar and terminology and is appropriate within an academic context. Additionally, students will understand when and how to employ different manuscript formats, how to properly cite sources as well as how to use the American Political Science Association’s (APSA) reference style.
Minor in Political Science
Declaring a minor allows you to explore other areas of interest and make interdisciplinary connections. Minor areas at RIC complement and reinforce all major areas of study. By declaring a minor, you can set yourself apart as a candidate for job, internship and volunteer opportunities. Click below for information on the minor in political science.
The Department of Political Science oversees degree programs in political science, public administration, geography and a certificate program in international nongovernmental organizations.