The program in political science is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to the discipline, viewed as a set of specific strategies for understanding political life. These strategies—which include conceptual, historical, structural, institutional, and behavioral approaches—are considered in the light of their theoretical presuppositions and in terms of their respective research approaches. The emphasis is less on learning the facts of politics than on being able to recognize, evaluate, and use intelligently the intellectual tools of the discipline.
Specifically, the curriculum is designed to provide:
- A basic understanding of the modes of inquiry in political science. The department’s distribution requirements and the structure of the introductory course sequence reflect a strong and continuing commitment to this goal. All majors are required to take two of the three empirical introductory courses: Introduction to Comparative Politics, International Relations, and American Politics & Public Policy. Majors are also required to take at least one Political Theory course.
- Research opportunities. Students are encouraged to explore quantitative and qualitative techniques of data collection and analysis. These efforts may be facilitated by the college’s excellent computer resources and by our access to the vast data archives of the Inter-University Consortium for Social and Political Research. The department’s public policy workshop (PPW) has meeting facilities and workstations and is available to students and faculty members for research.
- Specialized knowledge in particular facets of politics. This is provided by the department’s upper-level course offerings and by the senior thesis experience. Students choose two subfields to specialize in by taking at least two courses in each of those subfields (Comparative Politics, International Relations, American Politics & Public Policy, Political Theory)
Students have found that Reed’s political science program prepares them for careers in academia, government, law, nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, and other fields. Further information is available in the Center for Life Beyond Reed's page on what Political Science majors do after graduation.