Course: POL230/WWS325
Instructor: Holland
F 2018

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This course focuses on five major questions of politics, and addresses them in a comparative way, meaning students look at various case studies to see how different governmental structures, cultures, and histories affect a certain reality. The five major topics include economic development, democratization, revolution, ethnic conflict and income redistribution. The goal of this course is to provide theoretical frameworks to understand larger themes in contemporary politics, and use cross-national comparisons to understand political outcomes today.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Professor Holland lectures are very engaging and informative, but she moves quickly, so be sure get there a bit early and pay attention from the beginning. She passes out a handout at the beginning of each lecture that is a skeleton note guide for what she is going to talk about that day, which I found helpful to allow me to tailor my notes to the most important messages of the lecture, rather than frantically trying to write everything down. These lecture handouts also had a list of key terms at the bottom that you were responsible for on the midterm/final, so I tried to make sure that I had a general sense of how they all fit into the context of what she had been talking about at the end of lecture. The course was broken down into two or three week chunks, and each section focused on one of the five major themes of the course. The first and sometimes second lecture of the 2 week block generally focused on the relevant theories surrounding the topic. The second two lectures focused on relevant case studies that either refuted or supported the theoretical framework that had been previously presented. I found that the lectures surrounding the theories provided very valuable background and summary for the readings for that week, as I already had a general sense of what they were arguing, as oftentimes, the readings would center around presenting the theories we discussed in lecture in a more complex and detailed way. This class has a lot of assigned readings, so having that background before I started reading made me more efficient. Precept was helpful as well to ask questions about the readings, and to get a better understanding of the nuances that each one possesed. My preceptor usually sent out the readings that we were going to focus on during precept, which helped me prioritize when I didn’t have enough time to complete all of them. However, since you were responsible for knowing them for the exams, it was important to catch up when possible.

Learning For and From Assignments

There were two short papers (5-7 double spaced pages), that required no outside research. Although this made them easier in some sense, it also required one to really know the relevant readings and theories for their topic. These papers really allowed you to delve into one of the main ideas of the course. They were generally very rewarding. The most effective papers were the ones that engaged with the relevant theories, and put them in conversation with one another. It also was important to incorporate relevant case studies, and show how these case studies supported or refuted the relevant theoretical framework. The exams were very fair, and had three sections. One was definition of the key terms, the second was an issue spotter, where you had to identify various inaccuracies in a given statement, and use relevant readings/theories to support the changes you made to that statement. The third was an essay prompt, where you had to use relevant theories and case studies to answer a given question. There was always a list of authors and the titles of their works, which made it a bit easier to recall which author/person went with which theory. One effective way to study was to write a few key words about each reading, so when you got the question, you could go down the list, and pick out the ones that were relevant to your answer.

External Resources

Oftentimes, for readings that we didn’t discuss in lecture, it was effective to google them before beginning to gain a general sense of what the author was arguing. Because some of the readings were a bit dense and theoretical, having that background going in was effective to make sure you were gaining the main point of the argument, rather than getting mired in the minor details. Also, go to Professor Holland’s office hours! Flag questions that you have or issues you want to learn more about, and then schedule an appointment through WASE. They are only 20 minutes, so you aren’t expected to be there for hours, and you can gain a lot more out of the course if you really delve into the issues you are interested in!

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

This course is very interesting, and you will learn a lot. It does require a lot of reading, and doing the reading is important, as you are tested on your recall on both exams, and are expected to use the readings in your argument for your two short papers. Comparative Politics is a survey course, and talks about lots of very broad topics, all of which are interesting, but sometimes it was a bit frustrating, because you want to delve more into one subject. If you have a very reading heavy
semester, you might want to consider before taking this course. However, all of the subjects discussed are so relevant, and interesting that you will look forward to going to lecture and doing the readings (most of the time!). It was definitely not too theoretical, and felt like there were lots of useful applications for the material learned.
Introduction to Comparative Politics

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