Politics concentrators select from among approximately 50 Politics courses each year.
To ensure that our students gain a broad and deep understanding of political analysis, the Department sets distribution requirements that govern course selection. Those rules are detailed in the four sections below:
Departmental Courses ("Departmentals")
For the Classes of 2023 and 2024:
By the end of the senior year, all students in the Department must complete no fewer than ten departmental courses, of which two may be cognates. The two prerequisites as well as a course that satisfies the analytical requirement are included within the overall count of ten departmentals. All departmentals must be taken on a graded basis; P/D/F not allowed. Students must receive a passing grade in at least ten of the courses that count as departmentals. Students must also attain an overall average of C or higher in the ten or more graded courses that count as departmentals.
[NOTE: The Department waived the rule that all Politics courses must be taken for a grade during Spring 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and disruption to that semester. The Department will count as departmentals any Politics courses for current seniors (Class of 2023) that were taken during Spring 2020 on a P/D/F basis if a student elected that grading option or if the instructor had made the course count as P/D/F only. For a course to count as a departmental course, students must have received a passing grade. This exception only applies to Politics courses taken during Spring 2020.]
For the Classes of 2025 (and beyond):
By the end of the senior year, all students in the Department must complete no fewer than eleven departmental courses, of which two may be cognates. The two prerequisites, the completion of POL 300, as well as a course that satisfies the analytical requirement are included within the overall count of eleven departmentals. Students must receive a passing grade in at least eleven of the courses that count as departmentals. Students must attain an overall average of C or higher in the eleven or more graded courses that count as departmentals.
Note that the University sets a maximum of 12 courses (plus independent work) in a given department. Additional courses in the department may be taken, but will not count towards the 31-course minimum required for graduation.
- Courses taken as prerequisites will be counted as departmentals.
- One freshman seminar may count as a prerequisite if it is taught by a regular faculty member of the Politics Department and has been approved as a prerequisite by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. In addition, on a case-by-case basis the Director of Undergraduate Studies will consider counting a course taught by a regular Politics faculty in another department that is not cross-listed with Politics for departmental credit. If appropriate, such a departmental course may be approved to count toward the 3-2-1 requirement, under the discretion of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
- For a departmental to fulfill a requirement, it must be taken for a grade. [See special Class year notes above, as applicable.]
- Any course taken in the Department counts as a POL departmental (in other words, you cannot take a POL course and not have it count as a departmental course unless it was taken on a P/D/F basis). Note that such courses have the prefix POL in their course number. This includes courses that are cross-listed with other departments, including courses where POL is not listed first—e.g. NES 269/POL 353.
- All departmentals factor into the Honors calculation.
- A POL graduate seminar (500-level) will automatically count as a departmental. Note that students must be approved to enroll in a graduate seminar by seeking the written permission of the instructor, DUS, and residential college dean using this form.
- Students may take a 200-level course in a subfield even after having taken 2, 300-level courses in that subfield. (This had not been allowed prior to Academic Year, 2020-2021.)
Upon entering the department, students designate a primary field (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, or Political Theory). Senior theses are written on a topic within the primary field.
The following policies apply to field selection in Politics:
- Concentrators must take at least three courses in their primary field.
- In addition, concentrators must take at least two courses in a second field, and at least one course in a third field. Five areas of study are eligible for designation as secondary or tertiary field: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, and Methods (which includes both quantitative methods and formal theory courses). Methods may not be used as a primary field.
- A course taken to fulfill the Analytic Requirement cannot also be counted towards a field distribution requirement.
- Prerequisites may be used to satisfy field distribution requirements.
- Some courses are listed in more than one field, but no course may be simultaneously counted toward more than one field.
- The primary field may be changed at any time before the end of the first semester of the junior year.
Students in the Department are encouraged to take cognates when such courses are not at the introductory level and have substantial political content, which is defined as having at least 50% politics content. Students can find relevant cognates in many neighboring departments, including (but not limited to) Anthropology, Economics, History, Philosophy, Psychology, the School of Public and International Affairs, and Sociology.
Click here to view the departmental policies that apply to cognates.
Questions regarding cognates including application materials should be directed to the Cognate Approval Advisor, Prof. Patricia Kirkland.
Well-prepared undergraduates may take graduate seminars for full University and departmental credit. To enroll in a graduate seminar, the student must seek the signature approval of the instructor, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and their residential deans. The graduate course approval form can be picked up at any of the residential colleges and is also available online here.
PLEASE NOTE: This website reflects changes to the Fall Junior Independent Work requirement that are currently awaiting final approval from the University. We currently expect the information on this website to be effective for the Class of 2025.