PLSC 100 Introduction to Political Science

This course introduces the field of political science through a comparative, international survey of the major issues, questions, and ideas of politics. The class provides an overview of the discipline and its subfields. Key concepts and topics include:

  • power
  • the state and the nation
  • political change
  • resistance
  • violence
  • human rights
  • ideologies of
    • liberalism
    • conservatism
    • nationalism
    • feminism
    • environmentalism
  • the organization of major political systems
  • institutions of governance, including
    • executives
    • legislatures
    • courts
  • the international dimensions of politics and economics

These themes provide frameworks to both interpret current events and describe domestic and international political systems.

Parallel goals of this course include developing effective research, analysis, critical thinking, and writing skills. The class also aims to foster a global understanding of cultural diversity and difference. Together, these objectives help form the basis for future coursework in and out of the discipline and should help students make informed judgments about the political world around them.


The following book is available in the History and Political Science Department (Founders Hall 114):

  • Ellen Grigsby, Analyzing Politics: An Introduction to Political Science, Cengage Advantage Books, 3rd edition

Additional readings can be found on Blackboard, as noted below in the schedule of course meetings and readings.

Students are also required to follow a source for current events, such as BBC World News, NPR News, The Washington Post, The New York Times, or The Economist.

Texts must be brought to class on the day they will be discussed.  Students will be considered absent if they do not bring the reading to class on the day it is discussed.


Class meetings will be grounded in discussion of the assigned texts. Readings must be completed before the class meeting in which they will be discussed. This enables students to get the most out of the lectures and to participate effectively in discussion.

Discussion: Each student will be assigned study questions to prepare for class discussion.  During these discussions, you will not be expected to have fully developed points of view about the course materials. However, you are expected to participate. No one will be penalized for being wrong or imprecise, for expressing uncertainty or frustration, or for changing their mind. But it should be clear that you are trying, that you have done the readings and are working toward a mastery of the material.

Questions: None of us, myself included, knows everything about the topics of this class. It is our responsibility to ask others who may know the answer, either in class, in office hours, or over dinner. I expect that you are learning the material, not that you know it. As much as possible, try not to be shy or embarrassed about what you don’t yet know. The biggest failure in learning any material, in college or in life, is to fail to ask questions about things you do not know.

Availability: I expect that all of you, either alone or in groups, will contact me throughout the semester. I am almost always available to discuss the course material, or other life issues. Because I maintain an “open-door” policy, you should not hesitate to stop by my office during office hours–or at other times. If you would prefer to schedule a time during non-office hours, simply contact me by phone or email and we will schedule an appropriate time.

Laptops, Cell Phones, and Tablets:  Laptops  and tablets may not be used in class.  Cell phones must be turned off AND put away during class meetings.  Students who use laptops, tablets or cell phones without explicit permission to do so will be considered absent.


The value of our meetings will hinge on your advance preparation and on your willingness to engage the issues actively in class.  When you are doing the readings, keep in mind that you will be expected to participate in the debates outlined in the readings, reject some positions, embrace others, and defend the choices you make.

Grades will be based on the following:

  • Study questions:  30%
  • Quizzes: 30%
  • Final exam:  30%
  • Attendance and participation:  10%

Study Questions:  Once a week, students must hand in responses to assigned study questions.  These responses should be between 250 and 500 words in length.  You should write down the question you are answering as well as your answer to the question.  Question sets will be assigned on the first day of class.

Quizzes: Quizzes will be given at the end of each class session.  (Each class meeting has two sessions.)  I will write one or two questions on the board.  These questions will be on the course material and on the relationship between the course material and current events.

Final Exam: The final exam will be in two parts.  The first part will ask you to answer a series of short-answer questions based on the course materials and lectures.  The second part will ask you to construct a research proposal based on a problem that will described in an article attached to the exam.

Participation: Attendance and punctuality are basic requirements for an effective discussion. Beyond that, each student’s frequency and quality of contribution to the class discussion will be assessed and reflected in the class participation score.  Students who miss more than four classes will automatically suffer a deduction of one-third of a grade (e.g. a B+ becomes a B).  Students who miss more than seven classes will suffer a full grade deduction (e.g. a B+ becomes a C+).  Students who are in class but do not have the assigned reading will be considered absent.


Aug. 29

  • Introduction
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 1
Sept. 5
  • Political Science and Scientific Methods in Studying Politics
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 2
      • Questions 1, 2, 3__HA, BenC, TC, CG, AH, AM, HS________________________________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6__PB, SC, NC, MG, EJ, BR, DS___________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8, 9__HB, BriC, BD, AG, GK, AR, AS__________________________________________
  • Key Concepts in Political Science
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 3
      • Questions 1, 2, 3___AS, DS, HS, BriC, SC________________________________________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6___AR, BR, AM, BenC_________________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8, 9___GK, EJ, AH, HB___________________________________________________
      • Questions 10, 11, 12__AG, MG, CG, PB__________________________________________________
      • Questions 13, 14____BD, NC, TC, HA___________________________________________________
Sept. 12
  • Political Theory: Examining the Ethical Foundations of Politics
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 4
      • Questions 1, 2, 3___HB, PB, BD, AR, SC_________________________________________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6___AH, CG, NC, BR, BriC_______________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8, 9___EJ, MG, TC, AM, HS, AS_____________________________________________
      • Questions 10, 11___GK, AG, HA, BenC, DS_______________________________________________
  • Political Ideologies I: Liberalism, Conservatism, and Socialism
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 5
      • Questions 1, 2, 3___BriC, HS, AR, BenC, DS______________________________________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6___EJ, CG, TC, PB, HA, BD______________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8_____AH, MG, NC, SC, AG________________________________________________
      • Questions 9, 10____AS, BR, AM, HB, GK________________________________________________
Sept. 19
  • Political Ideologies II: Fascism
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 6
      • Questions 1, 2, 3___CG, NC, BriC, _____________________________________________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6___EJ, SC, HS ________________________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8_____TC, AG, AR_______________________________________________________
      • Questions 9, 10_____PB, AS, BenC_____________________________________________________
  • Political Ideologies III: Feminism, Environmentalism, and Postmodernism
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 7
      • Questions 1, 2_____HA, BR, DS, _______________________________________________________
      • Questions 3, 4_____BD, AM, ________________________________________________________
      • Questions 5, 6_____AH, HB, ________________________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8_____MG, GK,_________________________________________________________
Sept. 26
    • John Rawls, A Theory of  Justice
      • How did Rawls attempt to synthesize Hayek’s classical liberalism and Marx’s egalitarianism? pp. 473-4_____AH, HA_
      • What are the assumptions of Rawls’ theory? p. 477______BD, MG___________
      • What is contract theory? p. 479_____BR, AM_________
      • What is the original position?  What is it meant to illustrate? pp. 480-82_____DS, HB, GK___
      • What is the first principle of justice?  Is this a principle you adopt when you imagine yourself behind a veil of ignorance in the original position? p. 482-3_____CG, EJ, TC_____
      • What is the veil of ignorance?  What is its purpose? pp. 487-9___PB, NC, SC______________
      • What is the second principle of justice (both parts)?  Is this a principle you adopt when you imagine yourself behind a veil of ignorance in the original position? p. 483-5____AS, BriC_
      • Does the difference principle discriminate against the well off?____HS, AR________________
      • What is the “utility principle?”  Why does Rawls suggest it may be at odds with justice as fairness? pp. 490-1_____BenC, AG_______________
Oct. 3
  • Comparative Politics I: Governmental Systems: Democracy and Nondemocracy
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 8
      • Questions 1, 2, 3____AS, PB, BD_____________________________________________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6____BriC, NC, MG___________________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8, 9____HS, SC, GK_____________________________________________________
  • Comparative Politics II: Governing Democracies: Executives, Legislatures, and Judiciaries
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 9, pp. 184-202
      • Questions 1, 2____AR, CG, AH_______________________________________________________
      • Questions 3, 4____BenC, EJ, HA______________________________________________________
      • Questions 5, 6____AG, TC__________________________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8____DS, BR__________________________________________________________
      • Questions 9, 10___HB, AM__________________________________________________________
Oct. 10
  • Comparative Politics II (cont’d): Governing Democracies: Executives, Legislatures, and Judiciaries
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 9, pp. 202-219
      • Questions 11, 12____HB, HS, TC, PB_____________________________________________________
      • Questions 13, 14, 15__DS, BriC, EJ, HA___________________________________________________
  • Comparative Politics III: Governing Democracies: Executives, Legislatures, and Judiciaries
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 10
      • Questions 1, 2, 3___AG, AS, CG, AH_____________________________________________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6___BenC, AM, SC, GK____________________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8, 9___AR, BR, NC, MG, BD_________________________________________________

Oct. 17

  • PRIMARY TEXTS IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS with guest instructor, Professor Kamol Somvichian
      • Readings on Blackboard
      • Terms
        • Montesquieu
        • Buddha
        • “An Eye for an Eye”
        • Joseph Nye
        • Exodus
        • Hu Jintao
        • Sochi Olympics
        • Confucius


    • Questions
      • What is soft power?  Is it a form of idealism or inaction?
      • What type or types of power does the United Nations wield?
      • How are Muslim women portrayed in Aman?
      • What is the most enduring form of soft power?
Oct. 24
  • PRIMARY TEXTS IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS with guest instructor, Professor Julio Minoves-Triquell
    • Readings on Blackboard
      • How durable is Democracy?________CG, NC, BriC_______
      • What are the conditions for a breakdown of democracy?________EJ, SC, HS_______
      • Give some examples of breakdowns of democratic regimes in the past 70 years.________TC, AG, AR____
      • Is patriotism an ancient idea?________PB, AS, BenC_________
      • How is patriotism expressed in the modern world?________HA, BR, DS________
      • Does a nation need its own language to be considered a nation?________BD, AM______
      • Is a Monarchy a democratic regime? If yes, give examples. If no, give examples.________AH, HB______
      • Is a parliamentary Monarchy better or worse than a parliamentary Republic?___________MG, GK____
Oct. 31
  • PRIMARY TEXTS IN AMERICAN GOVERNMENT with guest instructor, Professor Richard Gelm
    • Readings on Blackboard
      • How does federalism differ from unitary government?______MG, AH, BD, HA__________________________
      • What is Madison’s main argument in Federalist Paper #10?__MG, AH, BD, HA_________________________
      • What are some of the causes of government gridlock?____PB, TC, EJ, CG______________________________
      • Where did America’s political parties come from?_____PB, TC, EJ, CG_______________________________
      • Did the U.S. Constitution establish a democracy?______GK, HB, AM, BR____________________________
      • What are some of the checks and balances provided for in the Constitution?____GK, HB, AM, BR_________
      • What are the differences between liberals and conservatives?____AS, AG, SC, NC____________________
      • How did John Locke influence the founding fathers?_____AS, AG, SC, NC___________________________
      • How do political scientists “know” what the American people believe?__DS, BenC, AR, HS, BriC__________
      • How has the American Constitution changed over time?_____DS, BenC, AR, HS, BriC__________________
Nov. 7
  • PRIMARY TEXTS IN AMERICAN GOVERNMENT with guest instructor, Professor Richard Gelm
    • Readings on Blackboard
Nov. 14
  • International Relations I: Introduction
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 11
      • Questions 1, 2, 3_____MG, GK, DS____________________________________________________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6_____AH, HB, BenC____________________________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8_______BD, AM, AR____________________________________________________________
      • Questions 9, 10______HA, BR, HS____________________________________________________________
  • International Relations II: Contemporary Issues
    • Grigsby, ch. 12
      • Questions 1, 2______PB, AS, BriC_____________________________________________________
      • Questions 3, 4______TC, AG_________________________________________________________
      • Questions 5, 6______EJ, SC_________________________________________________________
      • Questions 7, 8______CG, NC_________________________________________________________
Nov. 21
  • PRIMARY TEXTS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS with guest instructor, Professor Gitty Amini
    • Readings on Blackboard
Nov. 28
  • NO CLASS: Thanksgiving
Dec. 5
  • PRIMARY TEXTS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS with guest instructor, Professor Gitty Amini
    • Readings on Blackboard
      • Why is the security dilemma a dilemma or a paradox?  Explain the mechanism that makes it so.
      • How does one differentiate between offense and defense? Is it always so easy to tell them apart? Explain.
      • What determines whether offense or defense will have the advantage?
      • How are arms races related to the security dilemma?
      • Is Robert Jervis’s argument an example of realism or liberalism/idealism?  How so?
      • Apply Jervis’s argument about the dangers of offense to the start of World War I.
      • What does Huntington mean by “civilizations”?
      • Why does he think they will “clash”?  Do you agree that this clash is inevitable?
      • Huntington sets up a scenario of “the West vs. the Rest,” how accurate is his prediction?  Is this the most significance cleavage that the current world faces? Are there other cleavages that might be just as likely?  Which ones and why?


FINAL EXAM: Thursday, December 12, 3:30-6:30


The Department of History and Political Science mandates that all submitted work adhere to the Turabian/Chicago style delineated in Kate Turabian, et. al., A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press (available at the Wilson Library Reference Desk).


  1. One seat space between students when possible.
  2. No bathroom breaks except in the case of illness or emergency.  Student should discuss this circumstance with the proctor prior to the start of the exam.
  3. No materials on the desk except for pens/pencils, bluebook or writing paper and exam.
  4. Under no circumstances can students access electronic devices during the exam.
  5. Exam proctors will note any violation of these rules and those will be considered in the final grade.


Your work will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

A— designates work of extraordinarily high quality; reflects unusually thorough and comprehensive understanding of issues at hand; presents a clearly identifiable thesis and argument that demonstrates cogent and creative development and support of ideas.

B— designates work of high quality; reflects clearly organized and comprehensive understanding of issues and hand; presents substantive thesis and argument with evident development and support of ideas.

C— designates work which minimally meets requirements set forward in assignment; reflects some organization and development of ideas, but develops argument in superficial or simplistic manner; may only address part of the assignment or be otherwise incomplete.

D— designates work of poor quality which does not meet minimum requirements set forward in assignment; demonstrates poor organization of ideas and/or inattention to development of ideas, grammar, and spelling; treatment of material is superficial and/or simplistic; may indicate that student has not done reading assignments thoroughly.

F— designates work that does not meet ANY of the standards set above or which is not handed in.


Plagiarism is a prevalent but highly unethical practice. Plagiarism will result in the immediate failure of this course and disciplinary action which could lead to expulsion from the University. If you are having problems in the course, please come and talk to me about it rather than doing something that could put your entire college career in jeopardy.

Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to the following:

·The direct copying of any source, such as written and verbal material, computer files, audio disks, video programs or musical scores, whether published or unpublished, in whole or part, without proper acknowledgment that it is someone else’s.

·Copying of any source in whole or part with only minor changes in wording or syntax, even with acknowledgment.

·Submitting as one’s own work a report, examination paper, computer file, lab report or other assignment that has been prepared by someone else. This includes research papers purchased from any other person or agency.

·The paraphrasing of another’s work or ideas without proper acknowledgment.

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