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Requirements and Recommendations for Majors

Course Requirements

To graduate with the major in Political Science, a student must complete:

  • the equivalent of at least eight courses in the department,
  • plus 0.5 credits requirement for completing the senior comprehensive exercise.  

The Department expects that at least five of these eight courses be taken at Swarthmore, including the Political Theory requirement, and that two will be taken at the introductory level (POLS 002, 003, 004, 010). No more than one course may be an Advanced Placement credit.

Lotteries: Sometimes Introductory courses have to be lotteried. If you are lotteried for a course one semester, your name will go on a list and you will not be lotteried the next semester. That is to say, no one will be lotteried more than once in Pols. 2, 3, 4.

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.  It is strongly recommended that all majors complete this requirement no later than their junior year.

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.

Distribution of Courses within the Department

Political Science majors are required to take one course or seminar in each of the three subfield areas:

  1. American Politics
  2. Comparative or International Politics
  3. Political Theory

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.

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. Students write a short paper that links work they have completed in two different subfields of Political Science and present the paper 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.