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Requirements and Recommendations for Majors

Distribution of courses within the department

Political science majors are required to take one course or seminar in each of the following areas: 1) American politics; 2) comparative or international politics; and 3) political theory. All disribution requirements must be met by courses taken at Swarthmore.

Courses in American Politics include:

Environmental Politics, Constitutional Law, Political Parties and Elections, Congress and the American Political System, American Elections, Polling, Public Opinion and Public Policy, Urban Underclass, Democratic Theory and Practice, Is Congress Over?, The State of American Democracy, Politics by Other Means? The Supreme Court and the Federal Judiciary in Politics, Presidential Elections Then and Now, Lesbians and Gays in American Politics.

Courses in Comparative and International Politics include:

Latin American Politics, China and the World, Defense Policy, American Foreign Policy, The Causes of War, Globalization, International Political Economy, and others.

Courses in Political Theory include:

Practical Wisdom, Ancient Political Theory, Modern Political Theory, Democratic Theory and Practice, Ethics and Public Policy, Contemporary Political Theory, and others.

Political Theory Requirement

At least one course in Ancient or Modern Political Theory is required of all majors.  This requirement can be met by enrollment in either one course or one honors seminar, listed below.  We highly encourage students to complete their theory requirement within the first two years of study since it will be foundational for other courses.

Eligible courses are:

  • Political Theory: Ancient Political Theory (POLS 011)
  • Political Theory:  Modern Political Theory (POLS 012)
  • Political Theory:  Ancient Political Theory (POLS 100)
  • Political Theory:  Modern Political Theory (POLS 101)

There are other political theory courses taught in the Department. Only Ancient or Modern Political Theory, either the course or the seminar, actually count as fulfilling the political theory requirement. This is the only requirement for all majors in the Department, and the Department takes this requirement very seriously. Courses taken abroad or outside of Swarthmore are not considered the equivalent of these courses. So this requirement should be met at Swarthmore, in the Political Science Department. Any exception to this rule has to have the written approval of the Chair.

Majors and minors may take one directed reading within the department for credit with approval from the department chair.

Other courses eligible for Political Science credit are PEAC 003 and PEAC 053. These courses count towards the major/minor but do not satisfy distribution requirements.

Honors majors and minors, course majors, double majors, and special majors may take one course in the department credit/no credit after all distribution and department requirements have been fulfilled.

Lotteries. Sometimes courses have to be lotteried. If a student is lotteried for a course one semester, their name will go on a list and they will not be lotteried for that same course the next semester that the course is offered.

The Senior Comprehensive Requirement

To graduate from Swarthmore as a Political Science major, non-honors students need to fulfill the Senior Comprehensive Requirement in the Political Science Department. Majors in the Course program can fulfill the comprehensive requirement in one of two ways.  The preferred option is Pols 092: Senior Comprehensive Exam which is a .5 credit graded paper.  Working with a faculty advisor, students will produce a short paper in the spring semester of their senior year which tackles a major puzzle in political science. Students will then present their work at a department conference.  Each student will work with a faculty advisor to prepare for the paper and the conference. Option two is a one-credit graded written thesis which may be chosen by students who meet the eligibility requirements and get the approval of a faculty advisor and the Chair. All these requirements and options are discussed in detail in the Senior Comprehensive Exam Guide, available from the Department Office.

Recommended Courses in Other Departments

Supporting courses strongly recommended for all majors are Statistical Thinking or Statistical Methods (Statistics 1 or 11) and Introduction to Economics (Economics 1).

Foreign Study

The Department supports student interest in study abroad.  Students are reminded that no more than three of their eight credits (ten credits if in the Honors Program) may be taken outside the Swarthmore Department.  Expectations about foreign study should be incorporated in the sophomore paper.  Students planning to study abroad should consult the Chair and obtain approval prior to making final course selection.  Any change in course selection must ultimately be approved as well.  Upon return from a study abroad program, Political Science syllabi, papers, and other course materials should be submitted to the Chair, or faculty member designated by the Chair, for credit evaluation.