Advice on Methods Courses

We recommend that all Government concentrators take Gov 50, Introduction to Political Science Research Methods, no later than the end of sophomore year. Not only will Gov 50 help you to get the most out of your courses in the department, but it will give you the background to take a Research Practice course during your junior year. Gov 50 must be taken for a grade. Note that for the Classes of 2015 and beyond, Gov 50* is a concentration requirement.  Research Practice courses are designed to give prospective thesis writers the extra training they need to write a successful thesis, as well as to give all students the skills required to do research with professors in the department. The following tracks describe recommended course sequencing, depending on whether your interests lie in quantitative, qualitative, or political theory research.

*Stats 100, 104, or a higher level Stats course may be substituted for Gov 50. In that case, however, a student must take another Gov elective.


  • Gov 50. Introduction to Political Science Research Methods
  • Gov 61. Research Practice in Quantitative Methods
  • Gov 94(s) that examine a research question or topic in political science using quantitative methods.

You may also want consider Professor Shepsle’s popular EMR 13 “Analyzing Politics," which surveys rational choice theories of politics.


  • Gov 50. Introduction to Political Science Research Methods
  • Gov 62. Research Practice in Qualitative Methods
  • Gov 94(s) that examine a research question or topic in political science using qualitative methods.

Political Theory

  • Gov 50. Introduction to Political Science Research Methods
  • Gov 63. Recent Political Theory: Topics and Resources (for those interested mostly in analytic political philosophy)
  • Gov 1060 and 1061 (for those with a historical bent)
  • Gov 94(s) that examine historical and normative issues in political theory.

Graduate Courses

Qualified undergraduates are welcome to deepen their understanding of political science research methods through graduate-level courses. If you wish to go further in your study of statistics and/or modeling, please make an appointment with the DUS or ADUS to determine which course(s) would be the best fit. Undergraduates are also welcome in substantive graduate courses, which all emphasize research in political science.  For advice on graduate courses, please talk to your Concentration Adviser or the DUS/ADUS. Note that in all cases you must get the permission of the instructor to enroll.

Course Descriptions:

FALL 2016

Gov 1060: Ancient and Medieval Political Philosophy
Classical and medieval political philosophy, from Plato to Thomas Aquinas, with special attention to the question of natural right.

Gov 61: Research Practice in Quantitative Methods
Class introduces students to statistical methods and practice commonly used in political science and likely to be of utility to those undertaking a quantitative methods thesis in Government. Topics will include techniques for dealing with binary or ordinal dependent variables, time series and ’survival’ models, along with applications of more complicated approaches. Students will learn new statistical software skills, and be expected to both gather and work on their own data throughout the semester.


Gov 50: Introduction to Political Science Research Methods
This class will introduce students to techniques used for research in the study of politics. Students will learn to think systematically about research design and causality, how data and theory fit together, and how to measure the quantities we care about. Students will learn a ‘toolbox’ of methods---including statistical software---that enable them to execute their research plans. This class is highly recommended for those planning to write a senior thesis.

Gov 62: Research Practice in Qualitative Methods
With the goal of preparing students to undertake original research, this course introduces students to basic principles and tools of qualitative research in the social sciences. Focus is on comparative research design and the principal tools of qualitative research. Topics examined include the pitfalls of selection bias, the logic of causal inference, measurement and conceptualization, and the potential of mixed methods. Research techniques covered are process tracing, analytic narratives, natural experiments, archival research, interviews, and ethnography.

Gov 63: Recent Political Theory: Topics and Resources
An exploration of some central themes of recent work in English-language political philosophy, including Rawls and his critics, egalitarianism, and the nature of rights. Other topics will reflect the individual interests of students who enroll. This course is designed to help participants to make the transition from being critical readers of political thought to being independent contributors to debate.

Gov 1061: The History of Modern Political Philosophy
Political philosophy from Machiavelli to Nietzsche, with attention to the rise and complex history of the idea of modernity.