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Learning Objectives

The Department of Political Science at McMaster University has as one of its main objectives to develop among its students a passion for the liberal arts through critical thinking and knowledge based understanding of the study of government, political processes, political systems, and the relationship between politics and society.

Through inquiry, lecture, and seminar courses the Department aims at developing among students the skills needed to ask relevant questions and find the corresponding answers, learn different methodological approaches, hone their writing and speaking skills, and engage themselves in scholarship that is challenging, motivational, and meaningful.

The Department of Political Science at McMaster University offers specialization in various subfields including Political Theory, Canadian Politics, Comparative Politics of Developed and Developing Countries, International Relations, and Public Policy.

Students earning a BA or BA Honours degree can expect to pursue a career in the public sector (at all levels of government), graduate studies, law, teaching, domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, and business.

 

Depth and Breadth of Knowledge

BA

Students will gain a solid understanding of how the field of Political Science approaches the study of various dimensions of political life. The breadth of knowledge required includes the internal organization and working of political institutions and practices, including governance structures, electoral systems, social movements, and historic transformations, as well as an understanding of the state’s relationships to the social world, to other states, and to the global arena. This knowledge is gained alongside the development of skills in careful, analytic reading, thinking, and writing. The undergraduate degree at McMaster deepens students’ grasp of these issues and skills by engaging them in the study of key areas of the discipline while also requiring them to take electives outside the department, so as to see their knowledge and skills within a wider scholarly community.

Honours

Students will gain a solid understanding of how the field of Political Science approaches the study of various dimensions of political life. The breadth of knowledge required includes the internal organization and working of political institutions and practices, including governance structures, electoral systems, social movements, and historic transformations, as well as an understanding of the state’s relationships to the social world, to other states, and to the global arena. This knowledge is gained alongside the development of skills in careful, analytic reading, thinking, and writing. The undergraduate degree at McMaster deepens students’ grasp of these issues and skills by engaging them in the study of key areas of the discipline while also requiring them to take electives outside the department, so as to see their  knowledge and skills within a wider scholarly community. The Honours degree pursues three goals in addition to those of the regular degree. The first is to deepen the student’s exposure to, grasp of, and confidence in a particular key area, or areas, in which he or she has become interested. The second is to enrich students’ capacity to engage with each other and with their instructors in discussion of readings, issues, and ideas. And the third is to strengthen their analytic and especially their research skills. The Honours degree achieves these goals by teaching students in smaller classes and in seminar formats, where greater interaction occurs. It also provides the options of independent and thesis work. Honours students will be well prepared to participate in a world where strong skills of enquiry and analysis are needed.


Knowledge of Methodologies

BA

Students will learn how to find and use information about political institutions, actors, and events and to explore scholarly and other literatures to find arguments and theories relevant to interpreting or explaining these. They will learn how to obtain and manage this information and analysis, with attention to relevance, accuracy, and the efficient use of time, and to transform this information and analysis effectively into written texts or verbal communications.

Honours

Students will learn how to find and use information about political institutions, actors, and events and to explore scholarly and other literatures to find arguments and theories relevant to interpreting or explaining these. They will learn how to obtain and manage thisinformation and analysis, with attention to relevance, accuracy, and the efficient use of time, and to transform this information and analysis effectively into written texts or verbal communications. Students will also learn about research design, and how to identify interesting and important researchable problems and formulate hypotheses or arguments to address these. They will obtain experience in the use of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and to understand the reasons for using or not using them in political science research.

 

Application of Knowledge

BA

Students will learn how to independently find and assess a range of scholarly and specialized primary sources in politics and related fields; critically evaluate and make use of such sources in light of leading paradigms and/or methodologies in two or more subfields of political science; develop a well-structured, well-supported argument; effectively present such arguments and/or other findings in a variety of ways, including essays and oral presentations.

Honours

Students will learn how to independently find and assess a range of scholarly and specialized primary sources in politics and related fields; critically evaluate and make use of such sources in light of leading paradigms and/or methodologies in two or more subfields of political science; critically reflect on the appropriateness of such paradigms and/or methodologies, both for particular problems or questions and in general; devise independent research  programs and determine how best to proceed with them; develop a wellstructured, well-supported argument; effectively present such arguments and/or other findings in a variety of ways, including short as well as extended argumentative prose as well as oral presentations.

 

Communication Skills

BA

Students will develop written and oral communication skills in the areas of political theory, methodology, and coursework representing the various subfields of political science. Writing research essays, book reviews, and reaction papers to assigned readings will develop written communication skills. Participation in tutorials and inclass debates and discussion will enhance oral communication skills.

 Honours

Students will develop written and oral communication skills in the areas of political theory, methodology, and  coursework representing the various subfields of political science. Writing research essays, book reviews, and reaction papers to assigned readings will develop written communication skills. Participation in tutorials and in-class debates and discussion will enhance oral communication skills. In addition, Honours students will develop their oral communication skills through participation in small advanced seminars. The specialized knowledge acquired in these seminars will be communicated in written research papers and orally through class presentations and seminar participation. Students have the option of writing an Honours thesis under the supervision of a faculty member. The thesis will be a major  written undertaking on a specialized topic within the field.

 

Awareness of Limits of Knowledge

BA

Students will learn the importance of consciously seeking to establish support for the political or social scientific claims that they make and of knowing the limit of that support. Students will become aware of the difficulty of establishing criteria for assessing the value of one set of political or social scientific claims relative to another.

Honours

Students will become aware of the fundamentally different assumptions upon which political and social scientific claims can be based and the limits to empirically testing or otherwise adjudicating between these assumptions. Students will learn about ways that power, values, and knowledge can be entangled and the importance of critically examining their own ideas and assumptions as well as those of others.

 

Autonomy and Professional Capacity

BA

Students will be provided with the knowledge, methods and skills necessary for employment, further study or  community involvement in fields such as government, law, politics, international relations and business. As such the degree will impart the sophisticated analytical and communication skills valued by these fields and will foster behavior consistent with professional and social responsibilities and civic engagement.

Honours

Students will be provided with the knowledge, methods and skills necessary for employment, graduate level study or community involvement in fields such as government, law, politics, international relations and business. As such the degree will impart the sophisticated analytical and communication skills valued by these fields and will foster behavior consistent with professional and social responsibilities. Lastly, the degree will provide students with the advanced critical thinking skills, leadership abilities, and decision making skills characteristic of life long learners and engaged citizens.

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