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What does a political science major entail from someone who has studied it? Is it difficult to study this major?

#political-science #political-science #major #choosing-a-major #college #government

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Jerry’s Answer

While I did not major in political science, I did a master's degree in international affairs, a branch of political science.

Eli's response above is very comprehensive and should give you a very good idea about what the study of political science entails. I would add one more piece of advice about selecting a program/institution where you want to study. I recommend first determining what area of political science interests you most, such as local/regional politics, elections, political theory, political economy, foreign affairs, economic development, national politics, international institutions, diplomacy, regional studies, etc.

Once you have determined category of study within the political science field, review the professors at the colleges and universities in which you are interested and look for one who teaches courses, conducts research, and has published books and articles on that subject. In my experience, if you want to be a successful student in political science, partner with a strong mentor - a professor- in your field of interest who first engages you as a research assistant in their own work, and will subsequently guide you in your own research in a field about which you are both passionate. If you are not sure about which specific topic to research, professors always have research topics on their to do lists they know they will never have the time to address and will recommend them to research assistants to pursue on their own, yet find some time to support.

Jerry recommends the following next steps:

Choose a sub-field of study in political science which interests you most (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outline_of_political_science#Fields_of_study_of_political_science)
Among the colleges and universities you are considering for the study of political science (see https://www.apsanet.org/RESOURCES/For-Students/Institutions-That-Grant-PhDs-In-Political-Science) find professors who's reaching, research and writing best align with your area of interest and apply to those institutions
Once you area admitted to a program with a professor on your target list, immediate find a way to become a research assistant for them, or at the very least, take a class with them your first term and foster a relationship with them using office hours, etc.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so so so much this was very helpful! Isabeth
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Eli’s Answer

Hi Isabeth,

Thank you for your question. I studied political science in college. I found my political science classes and work to be very interesting, and I did pretty well.

Here's what we spent a lot of our time doing:

  • Reading Specific Material and Studies: We read a lot of pretty specific material on the political situations in other countries. My political science professor was Indian, so, for example, after one class we got assigned 30 pages on how the Indian people feel about having the right to vote in elections, by a professor named Amit Ahuja. These specific studies help broaden your perspective on what can be included in politics, help you practice reading about politics in a variety of different contexts, and can be used as evidence when you try and put together your own arguments.
  • Reading More General Theories: In addition to specific case studies like the one mentioned above, we also read a lot of more general theories. These theories were not about any one particular country, or one particular political leader. These political theories would usually try to make a broad argument about how a certain kind of government does, or should, work. For example, for homework after one class, our professor told us to read a study that explained 3 different motivations that politicians have for being in office.


  • Writing: In essays, blog posts for class, and on exams, you will almost definitely have to do some writing about the reading and research you do. There are many forms this writing can take. Very often, though, politics classes will challenge you to write what is called a Policy Paper. When writing a policy paper, you are usually asked to:
  1. Identify a problem in a country
  2. Propose 3 different possible policies the government could implement to try to fix the problem
  3. Tell the reader which of the 3 policies you think is the best one, and why


  • Discussion and debate: Whether in class or out of class, structured or unstructured, most political science programs will incorporate some kind of discussion about the material you are studying. After you (and hopefully all of your classmates!) have done the reading your professor assigned, you'll all come to class and discuss the reading. Under the guidance of the professor, you'll all go back and forth on questions like:
  1. Did you agree with the argument made by the author of the reading? Why or why not?
  2. How does what the author wrote about change your opinion about what the purpose of government is?
  3. How has your understanding of what politics is changed since you started this course?

If you hate reading and writing, political science will be difficult for you to study. However, if you don't mind reading, writing, and talking, and you've ever found yourself interested or curious when people talk about politics, I think political science could be an awesome major for you!

Thank you comment icon Thank you for your extremely detailed response! Do you have any tips on how I can get involved in political research or readings in high school? Isabeth
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Jaycee’s Answer

Political Science can entail everything from current politics to political theorists. There's a lot of reading and a lot of writing and analyzing different political theories and how they've impacted today's world.

Political Science isn't hard. It's a lot of time, studying and comprehending dense information. If you have a good professor, then you're even better off!

Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! Isabeth
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Eli’s Answer

Hi Isabeth,

You're welcome! I'm glad you found the response and its details at least a little bit helpful :)

My tips for ways you might be able to get involved in political research or readings in high school are:

1) (best tip!) If possible, get involved with your school's Speech and Debate team: In 10th grade, I joined my high school's speech and debate team. The speeches people prepared and gave and the debates that team members had were almost always about current events and interesting political matters. On a speech and debate team, you can practice doing political research and reading, and turning that information into arguments. Also, it is really, really, fun to practice your public speaking. I know public speaking might sound scary (I was scared at first), but it is an amazing skill to begin practicing in high school.

2) See if there are any politics-related clubs you can check out: If your school has any international-themed clubs, or any clubs related to politics, these can be great places to meet other students who are interested in politics.

3) See if any of your favorite teachers would be willing to work with you to do an "independent study" into politics: Do you have any history or social studies teachers who you have now or have had in the past who you really liked? If so, I would encourage you to go back to them and see if they have any recommended readings about politics for you, and ask if they would be willing to meet with you every once in a while to check in on your progress and discuss the readings. Usually, teachers love it when students go above and beyond to show interest in a subject, and will be happy to support your learning and exploration.

Do you think you might be able to try to do any of these 3 suggestions? If so, let me know! And if these 3 suggestions are not possible for you for some reason, let me know and I'll think of a couple more.

From Eli

Eli recommends the following next steps:

Get involved with your school's Speech and Debate team
Check out any politics-related clubs your school has
See if any of your favorite teachers would be willing to work with you to do an "independent study" into politics
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