Introduction to Politics

Purpose of Course  showclose

This is a survey course, and as such it can either be used by students who are looking to take just one general overview course, or for students who want to go on to more advanced study in any of the subfields that comprise the political science discipline, such as American politics, comparative politics, international politics, or political theory.  This course will survey the different ways in which political scientists study the phenomena of politics and will deepen your understanding of political life as both a thinker and a citizen.  The goal of this course is to introduce you to the discipline’s concepts, terminology, and methods and to explore instances of applied political science through real world examples.

As an introductory course, POLSC101 will focus on the basic principles of political science by combining historical study of the discipline’s greatest thinkers with analysis of contemporary issues.  We will also identify and discuss the questions that perennially drive the field of political science, including (among many others): “How do we define the changing nature of power?,” “How do we differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate governance?,” “What are the differences between political institutions and political behavior?,” and “How do leaders define who gets to be heard and counted in a political community?”  By the end of this course, you will be familiar with these issues and capable of discussing them within the context of contemporary politics.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to POLSC101. General information about this course and its requirements may be found below.

Course Designer: Dana R. Schueneman, Professor Angela Bowie

Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of free online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:
Requirements for Completion: In order to compete this course successfully, you will need to work through each unit to read all of the materials, gleaning the important ideas and taking notes.  Use the Learning Outcomes below to help you identify important material.  Unit 1 covers introductory views into political philosophy; Unit 2 covers political participation; Unit 3 covers political ideologies, with many videos that bring them to life; Unit 4 covers the state, with a major reading by Oppenheimer; Unit 5 covers political institutions; and Unit 6 covers international relations, again with several videos to bring them to life.  You will also need to complete:
  • Unit 3 Assignment
  • Final Exam
Note you will only receive an official grade on your final exam.  In order to adequately prepare for the exam, you will need to read through the materials in this course and review any notes you took on these resources.  In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you approximately 113 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take you about 10 hours.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 (a total of 2 hours) on Monday night; subunit 1.2.1 (a total of 4 hours) on Tuesday and Wednesday; subunit 1.2.2 (a total of 3 hours) on Thursday; etc.

Tips/Suggestions: Use the Learning Outcomes, which are broken down under each unit, to help you take notes and look for important information.  The questions on the Final Exam will be based on general ideas rather than specifics.   As you read, take careful notes on a separate sheet of paper.  These notes will be useful to review prior to completing the final exam.

A version of this course is also available in iTunes U.
Preview the course in your browser or view all our iTunes U courses.  

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  • describe and evaluate the concepts of power, legitimacy, and authority;
  • discuss the origins and developments of the nation-state;
  • distinguish between traditional and behavioral approaches to the study of politics;
  • discuss general approaches to the study of politics, such as political philosophy, political systems theory, and political economy;
  • describe and discuss the political socialization process;
  • examine the nature of political participation from a comparative perspective;
  • discuss the nature of public opinion from a comparative perspective;
  • identify the different types of electoral systems and be able to assess the implications of those systems;
  • identify the role and functions of political parties;
  • identify the different types of party systems from a comparative perspective;
  • describe and evaluate the general principles of presidential and parliamentary political systems;
  • describe and compare the essential features of at least three governments of Western Europe;
  • identify and evaluate the principles of authoritarian and totalitarian governments;
  • discuss the concepts of political development and problems facing developing nations;
  • discuss and explain the origins and principles of Democratic Capitalism, Democratic Socialism, Marxist Socialism, National Socialism, Fascism, and third world ideologies;
  • describe the origins, development, and principles of international law;
  • identify and assess the influence of major international organizations;
  • describe and analyze the causes of international conflict; and
  • analyze current critical issues in international relationships.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course you must:
√    Have access to a computer.
√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.
√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).
√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.
√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).
√    Be competent in the English language.
√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Unit Outline show close