Department Learning Outcomes

The study of Political Science at Gettysburg College introduces students to a core set of themes - the state and other political structures, power, and choice - that define the discipline and provides students with the skills and tools to explore these themes in a critical and analytical fashion. The Political Science major, which consists of ten courses, is structured to guide and stimulate student learning regarding these themes and related issues such as democracy, justice, and their institutions, civic and political participation. Accordingly, there is a series of learning goals associated with the courses students take at each level of the major.

Major and Minor Learning Goals

  • Courses at the 100 level: Students will take three of the four introductory level courses which are organized by subfield - American Politics, Political Thought, International Relations, and Comparative Politics. Courses at this level introduce students to the core set of themes that define Political Science including the manner in which they are conceptualized by the particular subfield. Students are exposed to some of the theories and scholarship each subfield considers central to the study of the state and other political structures, power, and choice. Students learn what each subfield defines as the principal questions relevant to the study of these issues and, through exposure to modes of social science inquiry, begin to learn how political scientists seek answers to these questions.
  • Courses at the 200 level: Students take three to four courses at this level, including two courses in two of the three subfields in which they did coursework at the 100 level, and POL 215, the methods course. They also take either a 200 or 300 level elective course. Courses at this level explore key themes and related issues in greater depth. Students learn about the research process, in part through exposure to peer-reviewed scholarship in the discipline. Students also learn how to pose their own research questions as well as how best to go about answering these.
  • Courses at the 300 level: Students take two courses at this level which must be in the same two subfields in which students did their coursework at the 200 level. They may also take a 300 level course as their elective. Courses at this level engage the students in a critical examination of the core set of themes they explore as well as of the manner in which Political Science has sought to address these themes. Students taking courses at this level are regularly involved in the practice of finding, reading and critically dissecting sophisticated material published in peer-reviewed political science journals and scholarly books, searching for databases, using primary resources, and constructing original analyses.
  • Course at the 400 level: All students take a capstone course in the major during their senior year. The capstone course is subdivided into sub-fields and focuses on one or more of the core set of themes students examine throughout the major. Students will explore these themes in depth by reading some of the major works associated with them, engaging in the process of peer-reviewing the research others have done on questions related to these themes, and, finally, producing their own original research.

Effective Communication Conventions in Political Science

The department holds as important the ability of students to:

  • Become conversant in the fundamental issues and concepts of the discipline
  • Obtain and organize the means for addressing these fundamental issues and familiarity with the various methods used in the field
  • Understand and critically evaluate the work of political scientists
  • Analyze and interpret information relevant to answering the fundamental questions of the discipline
  • Communicate results of their analyses both orally and in writing

These goals are met through a variety of courses required as part of the major in Political Science. Specifically, at each level students will be exposed to and gain expertise in particular communication conventions in the discipline:

100-level: Introduction to the terminology and basic concepts of political science (e.g., state and other political structures, power and choice), distinction between social science theory and theory in lay terms. Students will also be introduced to modes of social science inquiry, both normative and empirical, and the distinctions between the subfields of the discipline. In addition, students in introductory courses will learn appropriate methods for citation.

200-level: In the POL 215 course required of all majors, students will build on prior exposure to modes of inquiry via an extensive exposure to the elements of the research process culminating in the production of a research paper with a literature review, research design, and data analysis. Students in this class will also engage in reading and critiquing peer-reviewed scholarship and possibly data acquisition and writing original research dealing with the fundamental questions in the respective subfield.

In other courses at this level, students will be exposed to peer-reviewed scholarship and more specific application of the concepts, theories and analyses introduced at the 100-level.

300-level: At this level students will be engaged in more in-depth analyses of scholarship and literatures on specific topics. Additionally, students at this level will regularly take part in acquiring, reading and critically evaluating peer-reviewed research and, in many cases, producing research papers and other relevant writing following the model developed in POL 215 and other courses.

400-level: The capstone course serves as the culmination of the communication conventions in the discipline. Students will be immersed in a specific area of scholarship, will read, analyze and finally produce research relevant to the topic of the course. In addition, the process of peer-review will be reinforced as students review both the work of political scientists as well as one another. The original research conducted by students will be presented orally as well as in written form.