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Undergraduate FAQs

On this page you can find answers to common questions about studying political science, including major and minor requirements, choosing courses, AP/IB exam credit, and study abroad credit.

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Major and minor FAQs

What are the requirements for the Political Science major or minor?

The major requires twelve courses and the minor requires six. Visit the major and minor page to see the complete requirements.

How do I declare a political science major or minor?

Visit the How to Declare a major/minor page to see the instructions for declaring a major or minor.

Can I use AP Credit towards the Political Science major/minor?

If you received a 5 on an AP exam in American Government or Comparative Politics, you can place out of the equivalent 200-level course (POLI_SCI 220 or POLI_SCI 250), but it does not reduce the total number of courses required to complete the major or minor. Thus, instead of taking POLI_SCI 220 or POLI_SCI 250, you must take an additional 300-level course.

If you would like to use your AP credit in this way, you will need to:

  • Email the Director of Undergraduate Studies after you have taken a Poli Sci 300-level class to place the request.
  • In that email, include your student ID number, expected graduation term/year, and specify which 300-level class you have already taken that you would like to substitute for the 200-level gateway course. That information is necessary for the Registrar to make this change on your Degree Progress report.

Can I use IB Credit towards the Political Science major/minor?

Receiving a 6 or 7 on the Global Politics exam can place you out of POLI_SCI 240: Intro to International Relations. It does not reduce the total number of courses required to complete the major or minor. Thus, instead of taking POLI_SCI 240, you must take an additional 300-level course.

If you would like to use your IB credit in this way, you will need to:

  • Email the Director of Undergraduate Studies after you have taken a Poli Sci 300-level class to place the request.
  • In that email, please include your student ID number, expected graduation term/year, and specify which 300-level class you have already taken that you would like to substitute for POLI_SCI 240.

Can I use study abroad credit towards the major or minor?

Students pursuing a major or minor in Political Science may receive credit for courses taken while studying abroad. Visit the study abroad page for more information about how to apply study abroad credit towards the major or minor.

Do Chicago Field Studies courses count towards the major or minor?

Majors and minors can receive a maximum of one (1) political science credit from Chicago Field Studies. The following classes are eligible:

  • CFS 391 – Field Studies in Social Justice
  • CFS 394 – Legal Field Studies
  • CFS 397 – Field Studies in Civic Engagement

Can I waive a requirement or substitute a class from a different department for one of the requirements listed in the major/minor?

Although we encourage political science students to take courses in other departments that complement or supplement their political science courses, classes in other departments do not count towards the major or minor. Only courses listed as Political Science courses count towards major/minor requirements.

Choosing courses FAQs

I am a Political Science major/minor. How should I select my classes?

Sampling various areas and professors is a perfectly reasonable approach and is encouraged, but you can also benefit by selecting courses that address your interests and goals. Political science is typically divided up into 4 or 5 subfields and you can find our main offerings in these subfields in the course catalog. 

  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics (all the other countries and regions in the world)
  • International Relations
  • Political Theory

You may also pursue your own concentrations that cross these subfields or follow the concentrations we've identified. 

  • Law and Politics
  • Peace and Conflict Studies
  • Political Economy
  • Public Policy
  • Quantitative Analytics
  • Political Representation
  • Sovereignty and Anarchy 

To develop the major/minor that best suits your interests, consult with designated advisors or professors you know well. In particular, if you are interested in pursuing graduate training in political science or certain careers related to political science (e.g., development aid, survey research), advisors can help point you to strong course choices.

In what order should I take courses?

We encourage students to begin with our 200-level introductory courses, described in more depth here. We call these “gateway courses” because they provide an ideal entry point to each of the four major subfields of political science: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. We also offer a fifth gateway course, Introduction to Law in the Political Arena, which is a great fit for anyone who is interested in the judicial system or considering a career in law.

Gateway courses offer introductions to an entire field of study, giving students a sound grasp on its essential theories, concepts, approaches, and debates. 200-levels provide a foundation for more advanced coursework in 300-level courses.

Students may take 300-level courses in their first year. We recommend students take one or two 200-level classes first.

Students typically take the methodology course during their sophomore or junior year. They usually take Poli Sci 395 during their junior or senior year. It is recommend but not required to take the methodology course before Poli Sci 395.

 

When should I take a Poli Sci 395 (Political Research Seminar)?

Students should plan to take Poli Sci 395 in junior year or early in senior year. It is recommend that students who plan to pursue honors take Poli Sci 395 in junior year. Additionally, it is recommended that students take a political science methods course before taking a 395. Several 395 courses are offered every quarter.

What are Poli Sci 390 courses? Do they count for the major or minor?

Poli Sci 390 courses, or Special Topics courses, focus on different topics that are not covered by other course offerings in political science. They count as 300-level electives for the major and minor. They may be repeated for credit as long as the topic is different.

What are the differences between the different research methods courses?

Students should plan to complete the departmental methods requirement early. There are several options:

Poli Sci 210: Introduction to Empirical Methods in Political Science, Poli Sci 211: Introduction to Interpretative Methods in Political Science, and Poli Sci 212: Evaluating Evidence provide an introduction to how political scientists construct arguments using empirical evidence. They are designed for students who lack a strong background in research methods and may be used as a stepping stone to further training in the 300-level courses. Political Science 210, 211, and 212 fulfill the methodology requirement for the political science major and are also open to non-majors.

Students with a stronger background in methods can go straight to the 300-level methodology classes. Poli Sci 310: Methods of Political Inference, focuses on conceptual elaboration, research design, and qualitative methods; Poli Sci 312: Statistical Research Methods, features more statistical analysis. Poli Sci 311: Logics of Political Inquiry, covers non-statistical analytical strategies and methodological approaches. For more information about the specific topics covered in each course, please consult the instructor directly.

Note that not all methods courses are offered every quarter, and most are only offered once a year. Keep this in mind if you have a strong preference among these options so that you don’t miss the course you prefer.

Can methodology courses from other departments (e.g. Economics, Sociology, Statistics) count towards the methods requirement?

No. Students are encouraged to plan ahead and choose carefully between the methods courses that the department offers so that there is as little overlap as possible. Consult with the department advisors or the faculty teaching these courses for specific advice.

Can I register for graduate courses?

Undergraduate students with a strong academic record in political science are encouraged to explore enrolling in 400-level graduate seminars. These courses offer exposure to advanced debates, as well as a unique chance to get to know a professor in a small-class setting. 400-level courses are especially great learning experiences for students who are considering pursuing graduate school. Undergraduates interested in a 400-level course should reach out to the instructor, as registration requires the instructor’s permission.

What courses have prerequisites?

Most classes do not have required prerequisites. Some classes have recommended prerequisites. Any prerequisites will be listed in the class description on CAESAR.

If you don't have the necessary prerequisite, but want to take the class, consult with the instructor of the course in question about whether you are qualified to take the class.

When are future courses listed?

Each spring, the department publishes its anticipated course offerings for the following academic year. Course offerings are subject to change up until the registration period for each quarter begins. The website is updated as revisions are made.

More generally, the 200-level gateway courses are typically each offered twice per year. Other courses are usually offered once a year. We can’t guarantee that any particular 300-level course will be offered in any given year. Typically at least four or five 395 courses are offered each quarter.

Contact information

Who do I contact if I have questions?

During the academic year, Political Science Department advisors are available most days of the week to chat with you about the major, minor, course selection, or other questions you might have about studying political science. Department advisors are not assigned in the Political Science Department. You are welcome to reach out to and meet with any of the Political Science advisors.

During the summer, you contact the Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Libby Wait, with advising questions.

For information about Weinberg College advising, policies, and resources, visit the Weinberg College Advising and Support page.

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