Fundamentals of political science classes

Fundamentalsof political science classes

Everydiscipline in college is unique in terms of reading, writing andresearch requirement. It is, therefore, important for students tohave an idea of reading, writing and research in their areas ofspecialization. One of the majors which have such a systematicresearch procedure is political science. Political science does notinvolve just mastering and memorization of cases, precedents laws andhistorical facts. Research, analysis and writing in political scienceis a complex, intertwined process which requires a systematicapproach both in class and in the field.

Oneof the professors who teach political science at the Universityinformed me that studying political science requires a lot ofreading. Professor Richard McMahon of the faculty of politicalscience at the University of Michigan also informed me that the firstyear of studying political science involves a number of seminarswhere students are taught how to read and interpret reading materialsin political science including scholarly articles, cases and statutes(Caterino, Brian, and Sanford 11). Due to the complexity and quantityof reading, most students find it necessary to improve their skills(Freeman 27). Some of the challenges which political science studentsface in their reading include intertextuality, language difficulty,unclear focus, unclear purpose, and complex text types. Reading inpolitical science requires one to have background knowledge beforethey can comprehend a given material. Political science students cangain background knowledge from several sources such as blogs,bullets, periodical political science magazines and newspapers (R.McMahon Interview, personal communication, July 15, 2014).

Politicalscience students can use several approaches to improve their readingskills. To begin with, students need efficient surveying skills. Thisskill is important as it enables the student to know where is headed.After establishing one`s purpose for reading a given text, theprimary step is to survey the material. One has to consider therelevance of the text material, and how it relates to a givensubject. Survey involves taking note of the terminologies and phrasesin the text, length of the reading material, as well as analysis ofheadings and sub-headings (Haas, Michael, and Henry 11).Predictability also comes in as an essential technique in reading forpolitical science students. Ability to predict enables one toestablish a connection between themselves and the text they arereading. It facilitates both concentration and attention andencourages one to get a deep meaning from reading material (Haas,Michael, and Henry 12). The third step in reading is to schematize.Schematizing helps one to establish a relationship between thereading material and the knowledge they have. A schema enables one tosystematize the new knowledge they have acquired in a logical fashion(Haas, Michael, and Henry 12). This then translates into a buildup ofknowledge necessary for future use especially during the time ofprofessional practice.

Anotherapproach used in political science studies in skimming. Skimminginvolves going through a reading material without necessarily takingnote of every single word. The aim of this is to get a rough idea ofwhat one is going to read about and prepare them psychologically. Thefirst step in skimming is to read the introductory part and theconclusion to get the gist of the author`s argument (Haas, Michael,and Henry 14). Next one has to look at the headings and sub headingto get an idea of the topic coverage. One can also have a quick lookat some selected paragraphs to locate the main argument. Sometimesone just requires specific information from a given text. In such acase, one has to scan the material for the keywords. The final stepis critical reading of a given text material. Critical reading allowsone to engage the author, analyze their arguments and their logicalinterpretation (Haas, Michael, and Henry 14). In addition, criticalreading helps one to get the author`s position whether in terms ofmoral, ethical, political or theoretical nature.

Apartfrom reading, writing also appears to be quite a complex process inpolitical science. Political science students have to be veryefficient in terms of their writing skills as it forms part of theircareer. For this reason, political science students are taught how tocommunicate efficiently through writing. A large part of a politicalscientist job involves writing communication forms such as newspapersarticles, political opinion blogs. Political scientists also offertheir advice to different clients such as politicians and otherpeople who vie for elective positions. Therefore, politicalscientists have to be professional writers in order to succeed intheir career. Writing in political science has to be persuasive andobjective in nature unlike in other disciplines (Strum, Philippa, andMichael 26). This is normally taught during the first semester wherestudents learn how to interpret and analyze given situations. Onedifference between other forms of writing and political sciencewriting is that one has to elaborate each step in their analysis.This involves clearly stating the constitutional provisionsregardless of whether the reader is well versed with it or not.Writing is quite a systematic process in political science and needsa lot of efforts. Political science students are normally advised notto focus so much on the final product, but rather on how they write.Different methods of writing exist depending on the situation. Onecan start by drafting an outline which is detailed in nature. Otherstend to organize their ideas using a flow chart. This allows astudent to develop their ideas in a coherent manner in order toensure fluency of the final written product. In the process ofwriting, ideas tend to jumble on one`s head. It is, therefore,important for students to revise their written work thoroughly sothat they can determine what to include and what not to include. Thisstep may even enable one to get an idea about their next research.The whole process takes a lot of time and effort: one cannot rush onwriting a paper. Students may sometimes experience problems such as alanguage technicality. This problem persists during the initialstages of studentship but significantly reduces with enough practice.

Researchprocess can be a very daunting task especially for a newbie. Itrequires one to have sufficient skills and critical understanding ofthe research process. Political science students have to acquaintthemselves with the procedures in research for them to becomeestablished and successful political scientist. Unlike other careers,political sciences involve a lot of writing and research. Politicalscientists need to conduct extensive reading before they can come upwith a detailed analysis of a given political scenario (Kellstedt,Paul and Guy 73). Secondary sources of information in politicalscience include materials such as treatises, practice guides,annotations, digests, journals and political science reviews(Kellstedt, Paul and Guy 74).

Politicalscientists also tend to write articles to be published in politicalscience journals, as part of the research process. Writing articlesfor political science journals involves a lot of efforts, commitmentand thoroughness. Journals contain well researched articles fromstudents, academics, practitioners and researchers therefore, one`seffort is not wasted. Articles for political science journals have tobe unique and original, generating new knowledge about certain legalissues (Haas, Michael, and Henry 10). Students, therefore, have toensure their articles contribute significantly to specific politicalissues and policies in order to attract a large number of readers(Pyrcz 44). In addition, good articles in political science journalsget cited by a large number of scholars to the advantage of theauthors. The whole process is quite complex especially consideringthat the papers have to be peer-reviewed. However, it is a rewardingexperience and acts as selling point for a person.

Aninterview with one of the political analysts who works at PolicioThink Tank also gave me an insight into the types of jobs that aperson who has done political science can take. Professor Steve Brownis a political analyst who works with a consultant company known asPolicio Think Tank. His company deals with various clients whoinclude media houses, politicians, news reporters and editors,college and universities and any other clients interested in aparticular political issue. Brown gave a brief description his job asa political scientist on a daily basis. His work entails conductingboth independent and collaborative research, statistical analysis ofa given political situation, prediction of political, social andeconomic trends, policy analysis, interpretation of election resultsand interview, as well as identification of new areas of research. Healso raises awareness on social and political issues. Brown arguedthat for one to get a good career after graduating with a major inpolitical science, they must possess some relevant skills. Suchskills include the ability to work under pressure, computer literacy,ability to interact with a large population, leadership abilities,research skills, analytical skills, problem-solving and decisionmaking skills, as well as efficiency in both oral and writtencommunication (Brown, Steve, Personal communication, 15 July 2014).The professor argued that with a degree in political science, cappedwith the necessary skills, can qualify a person for numerous jobs.Some of the jobs which a graduate of political science can getinclude human rights advocate, media specialist, politician,technical writer, policy analyst, journalist, diplomat, legalinvestigator and social worker (Brown, Steve, Personal communication,15 July 2014). Other careers include political consultant, publicopinion analyst, financial planner and executive assistant.


BeforeI undertook my research on the above, I had very limited informationas what it takes to be a political science student. I never imaginedthat studying political science can be quite a challengingexperience. Well, I have always admired the smartness portrayed bypolitical scientists on various occasions. I have never known that ithas taken them quite some efforts to reach the level they are today. When I decided to conduct an interview with one of the politicalscience professors, I got a clear glimpse of what it takes to bepolitical science students. A career in political science entails themastery of both written and spoken English, which happens to be themode of communication on several platforms. An interview with one ofthe political science professors really shed light on what isexpected of a political science student at the various levels fromthe first year of study to the final graduation year. It also openedmy years on the experience of a political science student beyond theclass setting. I was surprised that some of the things which I takefor granted do matter a lot when it comes to political sciencestudents. For instance, I never knew that reading process can be thatcomplex for political science students. Unlike the other student indifferent courses, political science students have to develop asystematic way of reading class materials in order to absorb the mostout of it. I have learned the different reading techniques which areused by political science students to bring about their desired levelof understanding. Now more than ever, I believe I have what it takesto study political science in college and will be ready for thechallenges. The whole researching experience was an eye opener forme, especially on the intrigues of academic research, as well asprofessional orientation. I have come to learn that research,analysis and writing in political science is a complex, intertwinedprocess which requires a systematic approach.


Caterino,Brian, and Sanford Schram. MakingPolitical Science Matter: Debating Knowledge, Research, and Method.New York: New York University Press, 2006. Print.

Freeman,Donald M. Foundationof Political Science: Research, Methods, and Scope.New York, 1977. Print.

Haas,Michael, and Henry S. Kariel. Approachesto the Study of Political Science.Scranton, Pa: Chandler Pub. Co, 1970. Print.

Kellstedt,Paul M, and Guy D. Whitten. TheFundamentals of Political Science Research., 2013. Print.

Pyrcz,Greg. TheStudy of Politics: A Short Survey of Core Approaches.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. Print.

ResearchMethods in Political Science.Wadsworth Pub Co, 2012. Print.

Strum,Philippa, and Michael Shmidman. OnStudying Political Science.Pacific Palisades, CA: Goodyear Pub, 1969. Print.

Van,Evera S. Guideto Methods for Students of Political Science.Ithaca [u.a.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1997. Print.