Political Science

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the Political Science major, a student should have demonstrated the ability to engage with a broad range of topics in Political Science, the ability to complete a sustained research project in the field, and the ability to present their work in writing and in discussion. Majors should be able to:

  1. Engage serious scholarly materials in the discipline conceptually, theoretically, and methodologically:
    • Identify the scholarly problem that is being addressed, the differing or competing viewpoints that the materials are engaging, and the central claim or claims that the materials are purporting to defend
    • Situate the problem and the scholarly debate in a larger conceptual and theoretical context
    • Identify the kinds of methodologies that the materials are employing, and the specific evidence offered in support of its argument
    • Assess how well the problem has been formulated, the suitability of the methodology, the quality of the evidence itself, and the degree to which conclusions are justified
    • Engage two of four subfields of Political Science: American politics and public policy, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory.
  2. Execute and defend a significant independent research project:
    • Formulate an interesting research question and articulate its importance
    • Develop and pursue a methodology appropriate to a research question
    • Develop and engage an appropriate bibliography and literature review
    • Collect relevant data in the case of empirical work
    • Recognize the limitations of the project’s argument
    • Develop new knowledge, whether expository or innovative
    • Independently investigate the topic with the support of an advisor
    • Respond appropriately to feedback 
  3. Communicate work done
    • Write a clear and coherent document that is substantially longer than a traditional term paper or project and formatted in a style appropriate to the approach
    • Orally present, discuss and defend work done

The primary assessment tool for learning in the major at Reed and the level of student achievement in the major area is the senior thesis. The junior qualifying examination, which assesses a student's readiness for thesis, provides a second assessment tool. See more information on the thesis and the junior qualifying examination.