Requirements for Political Science

On this page you will find described (as in the Barnard Course Catalogue) the requirements for:

Requirements for THE MAJOR

A total of nine courses are necessary to complete the Political Science major:

  • Three introductory lecture courses at the 1000-level, or selected 3000-level courses, from different subfields,
  • Three elective courses,
  • Three colloquia, one of which will be taken Senior year and designated for completion of the Senior research requirement.  The third colloquium paper will be the research paper considered for Departmental Distinction.

Please use the Major Audit to plan your courses and to track your progress toward fulfilling the requirements.

The department recognizes four subfields of the discipline:

  • POLITICAL THEORY: the study of the conceptual foundations of political systems and behavior.
  • AMERICAN GOVERNMENT & POLITICS: the study of all aspects of the American political system, including its development, institutions, procedures, and actors.
  • COMPARATIVE POLITICS: the study of the political systems of other countries and regions, including the use of comparisons across cases in order to gain a broader and deeper understanding of events, institutions, and processes.
  • INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: the study of relations between countries and the dynamics and development of the international system.

The three colloquia must be taken with faculty at Barnard College. Many of the lecture courses may be taken with faculty at Columbia College, if these courses are cross-listed. Various study-abroad options and summer courses also may meet your specialized interests, but these require (1) prior consultation with your major adviser, as well as (2) prior approval by the Department Representative and (3) subsequent approval by the Department Chair once you apply to transfer the credit to Barnard (use the Course Approval Request Form for steps 2 and 3).

Students interested in the Sciences Po–Barnard five-year joint-degree program are encouraged to meet with the Dean for Study-Abroad, also regarding the political science aspects of this BA/MA program. The requirements are at the end of this page.

Please use the Major Audit to plan your program and track your courses for the major.

Introductory-level Lecture Course Requirement (three lecture courses)

The political science department requires all students to take at least one introductory 1000- or 3000-level lecture course in three of the four subfields of political science (listed above).  These courses are designed to provide an introduction to the main subject matter and major theories of each subfield.

These courses also serve to familiarize students with the analytic approaches that political scientists use. After taking lecture courses in the relevant subfields, students are eligible to take the two required colloquium courses.

Advanced Placement Credit:

A student granted Advanced Placement (AP) credit by the College in either American Politics or Comparative Politics with an exam score of 5 will have fulfilled the prerequisite for courses that require the prior completion of POLS V 1201 or 1501. If the student wants to take the introductory American Politics or Comparative Politics course, she may do so, but she will forfeit her corresponding AP credit.
AP credit does not count toward the number of courses required for the major or minor, i.e. the student still needs to complete the nine courses for the major or the five for the minor.

Electives Requirement (three additional courses)

All political science courses emphasize social scientific reasoning and theory application. In addition, political science majors chose three electives (normally at the 3000- or 4000-level). These courses are designed to deepen and expand students’ knowledge base and encourage them to apply social scientific reasoning and theories to the analysis of a broad range of political issues and problems.

What fulfills the Three-Course Electives requirement:

  1. All courses offered at Barnard or Columbia in political science listed in the Barnard Course Catalogue, including introductory lecture courses and colloquia, satisfy elective course requirements. Courses listed in Columbia catalogues which are not listed in the Barnard catalogue require approval by the Barnard Department Representative, before counting toward the major or concentration (use the Course Approval Request Form).
  2. The Independent Study Option POLS BC3799. Students who wish to do an independent study project (ISP) should first speak to a political science faculty member willing to sponsor it. Credit is given for an academic research paper written in conjunction with an internship, but no academic credit is given for an internship or job experience per sé. The student must then apply to the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing (CPAS), which must approve all Independent Study requests. Once the request is granted, the Registrar creates a section and assigns a call number, and the student is notified of the call number so she can enter the course on her program. (Each instructor has a separate section and call number. Each instructor is limited to sponsoring one independent study per semester.) Students will consult with the sponsoring instructor as to workload and points of credit for the independent study course.  Independent study counts as a course for the purpose of the nine-course requirement, provided the project is approved for 3 or 4 points. A project taken for 1 or 2 points does not count as a course toward the major, the minor, or the concentration requirement.
  3. With pre-approval, first from the individual Major Advisor and then from the Department Representative, a student may substitute a course in another department for one of the three elective courses. This course cannot be an introductory course and it must have significant political science content (use the Course Approval Request Form). Approval after the fact will not be granted.
  4. Six of the nine courses for the major must be taken from courses listed in the political science section of the Barnard Course Catalogue. Within the three-course limit of courses taken elsewhere, the following caps traditionally apply: three transfer courses; two Reid Hall courses; two study-abroad courses; one summer session course. On rare occasions the Department Representative may grant an exception (use the Course Approval Request Form).

What does not fulfill the Three-Course Electives requirements:

The Independent Study Option POLS BC3799 does not satisfy the course requirement if the project is for 1 or 2 points.

College-granted AP credit for American Politics or Comparative Politics does not count as major course credit. (See Advanced Placement Credit, above.)

Courses taken at other colleges, in summer sessions, or abroad, which are not equivalent in rigor and workload to Barnard courses, as determined by the Department Representative, in consultation with other faculty of the department, will not count toward the major or minor requirements.

Colloquium Requirement (three one-semester courses)

Although all political science courses teach students to generate and test hypotheses about political processes, relationships and institutions and/or engage in conceptual analysis and interpretation of political ideas, arguments and phenomena, students are encouraged to do this at a higher level in their two required colloquia. These colloquia feature intensive, small group discussions and a major research paper, and provide students with an opportunity to work more independently than they probably have in previous courses.

The colloquium format involves weekly discussion of readings, and development of research skills through completion of a 25- to 30-page research paper, constituting the major piece of written work for the course. Admission is limited to sixteen students who are assigned by the department, not by individual instructors. Students must have completed one lecture course in the relevant subfield before enrolling in the colloquium (or must receive special permission from the instructor for that requirement to be waived). The three required colloquia must be taken with different Barnard instructors and selected from the asterisked colloquium offerings listed in the Barnard course catalogue. Columbia seminars do not fulfill this requirement.

If you plan on spending part or all of junior year abroad:

This will require some long-term planning and consultation with your advisor and the Department Representative.  If you plan to be away for the entire junior year, you may need to take a colloquium during your sophomore year.  Indicate on your colloquium application that you plan to be abroad one or both semesters of your junior year.

Requirements for THE COMBINED MAJOR

A student doing a combined major in Human Rights and Political Science must complete the full nine-course requirements for the Political Science major in addition to Human Rights courses. Both departments must agree on the potential departmental honors nomination.

A student doing a combined major in Jewish Studies and Political Science must complete the full nine-course requirements for the Political Science major in addition to Jewish Studies courses. Both departments must agree on the senior thesis grade and the potential departmental honors nomination.

A student doing a combined major in Women's Studies and Political Science must complete the full nine-course requirements for the Political Science major in addition to Women's Studies courses. She must consult both thesis advisors (=sponsors) on a regular basis and the completed thesis must integrate the two fields of inquiry. Both departments must agree on the senior thesis grade and the potential departmental honors nomination.

For any other combined major (for example, Art History-Political Science), follow the procedure for the special major, below.

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Requirements for THE SPECIAL MAJOR

A special major, or a combined major other than listed above, requires a petition to the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing (CPAS) and the approval of the Chairs of the sponsoring departments. (For Political Science, please obtain the approval of the Department Representative.) Obtain forms and instructions from the Class Dean in the Dean of Studies Office. The student will be required to take a minimum of seven political science courses of at least three points each, including two lecture courses and three colloquia, to be selected in consultation with the Department Representative. She must consult both essay advisors (=sponsors) on a regular basis and the completed thesis must integrate the two fields of inquiry. Both departments must agree on the senior thesis grade and the potential departmental honors nomination.

Requirements for THE DOUBLE MAJOR WITH ONE INTEGRATING SENIOR ESSAY

The student is required to complete the coursework for each major with no overlapping courses, but will write only one integrating senior thesis with two thesis advisors (=sponsors), one from each of the two departments. She must consult both advisors on a regular basis and the completed thesis must integrate the two fields of inquiry. Both departments must agree on the senior thesis grade and the potential departmental honors nomination.

Requirements for THE SCIENCES PO – BARNARD B.A./M.A. EXCHANGE PROGRAM

In order to complete the Sciences Po – Barnard five-year Bachelor/Master of Arts requirements, the Barnard political science major should:

  • Complete all her major requirements at Barnard, including the THREE required colloquia;
  • Fulfill her senior project requirement by choosing one of the following two options:

Option 1: The student enrolls in the third colloquia in the Political Science Department at Barnard.

Option 2: When at Sciences Po, the student takes a personal one-semester tutorial with a Sciences Po professor assigned according to the student’s interest. The tutorial must focus on advice on bibliographical search, research strategy, methodological issues, and writing on a given topic, in order to help the student write a research paper equivalent to a Barnard senior thesis in political science. The research paper should meet the following criteria:

  • It should be a minimum of 30-40 pages double-spaced;
  • It should be a coherent piece of analytical writing;
  • It should embody the answer to some question about the operation of certain aspects of political or governmental institutions or processes, broadly conceived;
  • It should be based on original research conducted by the student;
  • It should be theoretically informed. It should be a social science paper, and not a policy one;
  • The student should use, at least, secondary sources.

For additional information, please contact Gretchen Young, Dean for Study Abroad, in the Global Programs office, 10 Milbank Hall.

Please use the Major Audit to track your Barnard courses for the major.

Requirements for THE MINOR

A total of five courses are necessary to complete a minor. Four of these courses must be taken from courses listed in the Political Science section of the Barnard Course Catalogue. Only one political science course taken in a summer session, study-abroad program, Reid Hall Program, or another undergraduate college may be used to satisfy the five-course requirement for the minor, with the approval of the Department Representative.

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Updated November 19, 2013 by Anne Wolff-Lawson.