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College of Letters & Science

Political Science

Requirements for the Major
Political Analysis and Research (PAR) Track Requirements
Enrollment Information
Honors in the Major
Distinction in the Major

110 North Hall, 1050 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-2414; www.polisci.wisc.edu

Professors Burden, Canon, Cramer, Gehlbach, Hendley, Herrera, Marquez, Martin, Mayer, Pevehouse, Schatzberg, Schweber, Shafer, Straus, Tripp, Weimer, Yackee, Zumbrunnen; Associate Professors Ahlquist, Avramenko, Copelovitch, Ewig, Kapust, Kinsella, Kydd, Owens, Ringe, Shelef; Assistant Professors Bhavnani, Lindsay, Lupu, Powell, Renshon, Simmons, Tahk, Weeks

Undergraduate advisors in the major: Ricardo Court, director of undergraduate studies, 101B North Hall, court@wisc.edu; Toni Landis, undergraduate advisor, 302 North Hall, tllandis@wisc.edu; Joel Clark, undergraduate career advisor, 306 North Hall, 263-2031, jclark24@wisc.edu. For appointments, see Political Science Major on the department website.

Faculty diversity liaison: Ben Marquez, marquez@polisci.wisc.edu

There are many definitions of political science. But whether a definition focuses on the analysis of governmental structures, or influences on voter choice, or the relationship between national governments, or the best form of government, at base, political science is about the systematic study of power. Whether power is exercised formally, as is the case between government and the individual, or informally, as is the case between individuals, it is the systematic study of power relationships that provides the subject matter for the discipline. Majors in political science obtain not only an understanding of the workings of government, but they also develop important skills in critical thinking and analysis. These skills make them ideal candidates for careers in law; in government at the state, national, and international levels; in business; in journalism; and in politics.

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 30 credits is required for the major.

At least one course in three of these subfields:

  • International Relations (103, any course at the 300 level, 442, 639, 653, 663, 664)
  • American Government (102, 104, 181, 184, 202, 205, 213, 217, 219, 220, 230, 231, 267, 271, 297, 323, any course at the 400 level except 400, 401)
  • Political Theory (181, 185, 209, or any course at the 500 level, except 544, 551, 552, 553)
  • Comparative Politics (106, 186, 220, 222, 230, 231, 244, 252, 253, 254, 260, 261, 277, 297, 318, 338, 368, 477, 505, 545, any course at the 600 level below 680, 690)

At least one research methods course, chosen from:

  • Poli Sci 200 Research Methods in Political Science (new course)
  • Poli Sci 218 Understanding Political Numbers
  • Poli Sci 274 Political Choice and Strategy
  • Poli Sci 551 Introduction to Statistical Inference for Political Science Research
  • Poli Sci 552 Multivariable Statistical Inference for Political Science Research

15 credits of upper-level work in the major (courses numbered 300 or above)

Courses listed in two groups may be counted in either, but not both, groups. Students must have a grade of at least C in at least one course in each group.

No more than 6 credits of Directed Study (199, 698, 699) and/or Internship (427, 468, 478) may be counted toward the major. Note: After the sixth week of class, students adding a Directed Study must obtain permission from the department chair.

Note that courses at the 300–600 level are generally comparable in difficulty. The 300-level courses are generally international relations; 400-level courses are American politics (with the exception of 400 and 401 Topics courses); 500-level courses are political theory; and 600-level courses below 680 are comparative politics.

Poli Sci 400 and 401 Topics courses can be used to satisfy the distribution requirements as appropriate. Distribution requirements met by a specific topics course will be announced prior to enrollment.

Political Analysis and Research (PAR) Track Requirements

The department is offering a new track to students interested in exploring politics from a quantitative perspective. This track will develop analytical research skills that will be useful to careers in political consulting, polling, and research. In addition, it provides excellent preparation for graduate programs in policy and political science. The requirements are outlined below. It is expected that students in this track will work closely with an advisor as they complete track requirements.

Minimum total credits required: 36

One introductory course in three of the four subfields (12–13 cr)

Political Analysis and Inquiry (PAI) course (3 cr):

  • Poli Sci 200 Research Methods in Political Science (new course)

One introductory-level quantitative analysis course (3 cr) chosen from:

  • Poli Sci 218 Understanding Political Numbers
  • Poli Sci 274 Political Choice and Strategy

One statistical inference course (3 cr) chosen from:

  • Poli Sci 551 Introduction to Statistical Inference for Political Research
  • Equivalent in another department

One data presentation/analysis course (3–4 cr) chosen from:

  • Poli Sci 544 Introduction to Survey Research
  • Poli Sci 552 Multivariable Statistical Inference for Political Research
  • Other substantive course in data presentation/analysis skills as identified by the Undergraduate Committee

One upper-level quantitative research course (3–4 cr):

  • This should be a Poli Sci course numbered 300 or above that allows the option of conducting quantitative research to fulfill course requirements; the PAR student must work with the instructor to select and fulfill the requirements for this option.

Capstone Project (3–6 cr) chosen from:

  • Poli Sci 696 Research in Practice (RP) proseminar
  • A senior thesis or independent study that utilizes the ability to apply research skills appropriately

Students in the PAR Track must take the PAI course, 218 or 274, and 551 before their capstone experience to ensure that they have the analytical skills necessary to complete their projects. PAR students will be required to present their capstone research orally, either in presentations in the course, or at the UW–Madison Undergraduate Symposium or similar event (e.g., Senior Honors Research Symposium, professional conference poster session).

Additional electives, chosen to develop depth in a research area, at the 300+ level.

Declaration of the major is to be made in the Department of Political Science main office, 110 North Hall.

All students are required to fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. Political science courses numbered 300 and above count toward this requirement.

Enrollment Information

Political science majors who wish to enroll in the following courses must obtain prior consent/authorization:

  • Directed Study—199, 698, 699 (Note that after the sixth week of class students adding a Directed Study must obtain permission from the department chair.)
  • Thesis—681, 682, 683, 684, 691, and 692
  • Proseminars—695 or 601 (varies by specific course; check footnotes in the class schedule)
  • Specific Topic—201
  • Honors Research Internship 685
  • Other advanced level coursework with permission of the undergraduate advisor and consent of the instructor in lieu of other required courses.

Information and course descriptions for topics courses (201, 400, 401) and proseminars (601, 695, 696) are posted on the department website prior to each enrollment period.

Legislative Internship 427 and Washington Internship 478 (summer) are available by application only. Specific deadlines will be announced each semester. For further information see Internships on the department website.

Students with a classification making them ineligible for certain courses due to retroactive or AP credits may see the instructor for possible permission to enroll on a space-available basis. Students who wish to enroll in a course that is closed may use the online wait list available through the Student Center in MyUW.

The number of credits for variable-credit courses is determined by course format and contact periods for a specific semester as noted in the class schedule.

For graduate programs, see the Graduate School Catalog.

Honors in the Major

The Honors in the Major track in Political Science is intended for students who are eager to experience the excitement of original research and who wish to graduate with the best possible undergraduate training in the discipline. Honors in the Major is especially appropriate for students who are considering graduate work in political science or who want an especially rigorous training in research, reasoning, and writing skills useful to a wide range of career choices. Students should consult with the department advisor to determine the best way to fulfill honors requirements and how to make the most out of the Honors in the Major experience in the field.

Students working toward Honors in Political Science must complete the standard major track requirements as well as meet the following requirements.

Political Science Honors Program Entrance Requirements
  • Declaration of political science major
  • 3.3 overall GPA
  • Completion of or current enrollment in at least one political science course taken for honors credit
Honors Program Requirements (in addition to the standard requirements for the major)
  • 20 political science credits taken for honors credit
  • Earn a minimum GPA of 3.5 in political science courses and an overall GPA of at least 3.3 in all courses taken at UW–Madison at the time of graduation.
  • Complete one of the following, preferably and ordinarily in the junior year:
    • A proseminar (601 or 695)
    • A research internship with a faculty member (685)
    • Other advanced level coursework with permission of the undergraduate Honors advisor and consent of the instructor in lieu of other required courses.
  • Write an honors thesis. This must be a two-semester project. If available, the student should enroll for the Honors Thesis Seminar (683/684); or a student may enroll in the independent honors thesis (681/682) with the permission of the supervising professor. Normally, the thesis will include thesis planning activities during the junior year.

Distinction in the Major

Students not enrolled in the honors program may apply for "Distinction in the Major." Criteria include:

  • 3.7 GPA on all courses in the major; minimum 3.0 overall cumulative GPA
  • A minimum of 20 credits of upper-level work in the major, in residence
    • At least one of the following: senior thesis; 695 or 601 proseminar; other advanced level coursework; or "substantial additional work" in an advanced political science course with the consent of the instructor.

For the application for distinction in the major, see The Political Science Major on the department website. Applications are due via email to a political science advisor by four weeks before graduation.