Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


This subject introduces political science PhD students to fundamental ideas, theories, and methods in modern political science through the study of a small number of major books and articles that are intrinsically good and have been influential in the field. The first semester focuses principally on issues of political theory and international relations, while the second focuses principally on American and comparative politics.


The first half of each meeting will be devoted to lecture and questions. We will then break for 15 minutes, and the second half will be devoted to student presentations and discussion. We will typically have two presentations each week, and the discussions associated with the presentation will be chaired by a member of the seminar.


Over the course of the term, you are required to submit six short, analytical papers of 1000-1200 words on assigned questions about the readings. (Do not hand in anything under 900 words or more than 1300 words.) I have listed the topics for these assignments below, after each reading assignment. You need to submit the written assignments at the start of class, and you may not go more than two weeks in a row without handing something in (put otherwise: you may not postpone all the assignments until later in the semester, or fit them all in early in the semester). In writing these short assignments, you must answer the question(s) that I have listed for each week's reading. The writing assignments get you to the central claims and arguments in the reading, and the point of the assignments is to ensure that you master those claims and arguments. Answering the questions will not require any research or any reading beyond the week's assignment. The assignments will not need (or benefit from) footnotes or literature reviews or surveys of doctrines or any references at all beyond the assigned reading.

Each week, I have also suggested some further questions to think about as you do the reading (For Further Reflection). The point of these questions is to suggest links between the ideas and arguments that we will discuss in different sessions, thus giving more continuity to the course, and to suggest areas for future reflection, research and writing. I have also listed a somewhat arbitrary set of suggested readings. I do not expect you to read these suggested works this term, and none of the written assignments will require these readings.

Aside from the short writing assignments, you are required to do four things for the course:

  1. Do all the reading each week. I have kept the assignments under 100 pages: the one exception is the assignment from Keohane, but the material is somewhat easier to read than the other assignments; with more difficult materials, I have tried kept the assignments shorter.

  2. Attend and contribute to discussion: for some of you, the required contributions will mean pushing yourself to speak up; for others, it will mean holding yourself back. (If you do not participate spontaneously, you will be encouraged—gently but unambiguously—to participate.) To prepare for the discussion, you will need to think about the question raised by the writing assignment, whether or not you do the writing assignment that week.

  3. Give a short presentation (of no more than 15 minutes) on one week's reading assignment. The presentations will focus on a theme from the week's readings, and will lead into a discussion, which will be chaired by another member of the seminar (other than the presenter and other than me). The student making the presentation will decide what to focus the presentation on. You may not make a presentation on the topic of the writing assignment, but you may take one of the questions for further reflection as the focus for your presentation.

Serve as chair for one presentation/discussion. The chair's responsibility is to ensure broad participation, keep the discussion focused, and enforce the time limits. The chair for the discussion should discuss the topic of the presentation with the presenter in advance of class.

Grading Policy

Grades are assigned based on short writing assignments, completion of readings, attendance, contribution to class discussions, short presentations, and role as chair of class discussions.