Introduction to Political Science

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Simon Hix


This course is compulsory on the BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations, BSc in Politics and Philosophy and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available on the BA in Geography, BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in Accounting and Finance, BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Social and Public Policy, BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science, BSc in Social Anthropology 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, political 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, political institutions, 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.


There will be reading week in Week 6 of both terms.

Formative coursework

Formative Assessment:

• Problem set (MT)

• Essay (MT)

Indicative reading

W Clark, M Golder and S Nadenichek Golder, Principles of Comparative Politics, 3rd edn, Sage, 2017*; or W Clark, M Golder and S Nadenichek Golder, Foundations of Comparative Politics, Sage, 2019*; A Lijphart, Patterns of Government: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries, 2nd edn, Yale University Press, 2012; G. Tsebelis, Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work, Princeton University Press, 2002.

*Note: the overlap between the two textbooks is very large (and almost all of the content referred to in GV101 is in both editions), therefore, either book would suffice for this course.



Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (50%, 2000 words) in the LT.



The Class Summary Grade for General Course students will be calculated as follows: 75% formative coursework, 25% class participation (including attendance and contribution).

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2018/19: 363

Average class size 2018/19: 16

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills