Introduction to Political Science

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Simon Hix CON3.07


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in Politics and Philosophy and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available on the BSc in Business Mathematics and Statistics, BSc in Human Resource Management and Employment Relations and BSc in Social Policy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course is an introduction to politics in a globalised world, with a focus on how political science tries to understand and explain cross-country and cross-time differences. The course will begin by introducing students to some of the main empirical variations in political behaviour, institutions, and outcomes across the world, focusing mainly on democratic and partially democratic countries (in both the developed and developing world), and introducing students to some of the basic theoretical ideas and research methods in political science. Each subsequent week will be devoted to a substantive topic, where a more detailed analysis of political behaviour, institutional design, or political outcomes will be presented and various theoretical explanations will be assessed. Most weeks will involve an interactive element. For example, students will be required to 'adopt a country', from the range of democratic or partially democratic countries across the world (which cannot be a student's home country). The aim is for a student to become an expert on the political behaviour, institutions and outcomes in his or her adopted country, particularly to provide material and knowledge for class discussions.


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 2 hours of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to submit 1 essay and 1 problem set (relating to the interpretation of political science data) in the Michaelmas Term and a country memo and an essay in the Lent Term.

Indicative reading

W Clark, M Golder and S Nadenichek Golder, Principles of Comparative Politics, 2nd edn, CQ Press, 2012; J Colomer, The Science of Politics: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2011; A Lijphart, Patterns of Government: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries, Yale University Press, 1999.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

Classification % of students
First 9.5
2:1 63
2:2 20.6
Third 4.3
Fail 2.5

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2012/13: 148

Average class size 2012/13: 14

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 74.8%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)