Introduction to Political Science


Austin Community College



Instructor: Karry L. Evans                                          Course #: GOVT2304

Office: Room 3118 Bldg. 3000                                                                  

Phone: 512-223-3394                                                




Course Description


This course is an introductory survey of the discipline of political science, focusing on the history, scope, and methods of the field and the substantive topics in the discipline. This course includes a survey of the political culture, institutions, political parties, and domestic and foreign policies of the United States, Britain, Russia, China, Japan, Mexico, India, Iran and Nigeria.



Needed Resources


The required text for this course is Comparative Politics in Transition (6th ed.) by John McCormick. There are new copies available in the bookstores around the Rio Grande Campus or you can order online through Amazon or other book sites. You will also be expected to access information on current issues in the countries we will be studying. This can be done via the internet using web sites provided in the text, as well as others you may find in your research.



Course Rationale


The purpose of this course is to provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to understand and participate in a complex political system that includes the United States and 187 other states that all interact, along with other governmental and non-governmental actors, in the international political system. This course utilizes a comparative approach that will broaden your understanding of yourself and the world in which you live and allow you to meet the challenges and opportunities the future holds.



Course Objectives


The following is a list of the main objectives this course is designed to help you achieve. These are items we will be focusing on in our reading both in the text and through other sources. After completion of this course, you should be  able to:


1. Discuss the major social, economic and political variables used to compare different countries and understand the effect of each on their political and economic development.

2. Compare and contrast the common features found in liberal democracies, communist and post-communist countries, newly industrializing countries, less developed countries, Islamic countries, and marginal countries.

3. Compare and contrast the political development of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Iran.

4. Compare and contrast the political culture of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Iran.

5. Compare and contrast the political institutions of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Iran.

6. Compare and contrast the electoral systems of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Iran.

7. Compare and contrast the political parties in the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Iran.

8. Compare and contrast policymaking in the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Iran.

9. Compare and contrast the major economic policy issues facing the United States, great Britain, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Iran.

10. Compare and contrast the major foreign policy issues facing the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Iran.



Instructional Methodology


This course is designed to introduce you to the comparative political method by studying the politics and government of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Iran. We will look at the political development, culture, institutions, parties, and policies in each of these countries and compare and contrast their similarities and differences in an attempt to better understand their strengths and weaknesses and the potential for workable solutions for the problems faced by each.


Effective preparation and meaningful participation are very important in determining the quality of this course. I believe that you learn by doing. Therefore, numerous individual and group activities are planned throughout the semester. These activities allow for much better understanding of the topics and make the class more enjoyable for everyone.


There is no single, correct way to view politics and economics. During the course of this semester, I urge you to be open-minded, to engage in critical thinking and to question text and lecture materials, as well as other supplemental sources of information. My view of education includes the notion that the classroom is a community of scholarship. This requires an open-minded approach to the topics and consideration of other opinions. In order to get answers you must ask questions and the best questions follow from reading, thoughtful analysis of the material and listening to others.




Grading and Course Requirements


Your grade will be whatever you want it to be. I do not grade on a curve; consequently everyone can earn an A. Your grade will come from a total of three unit tests, six comparative analyses, one research paper, and ten news summaries. The possible points are distributed in this manner:


Three Unit Tests worth 50 points each =                150 points

Six Comparative Analyses worth 25 points each = 150 points

Research Paper worth 100 points =                       100 points

Ten News Summaries worth 10 points each =        100 points

TOTAL                                                                500 points



Letter grades will be assigned based on the total number of points accumulated.


450-500 points = 90-100% = A

400-449 points = 80-89% = B

350-399 points = 70-79% = C

300-349 points = 60-69% = D

0-299 points = F



Unit Tests


There will be four unit tests, but only the top three test grades will count. The fourth test is on the scheduled final exam day, but it is not comprehensive. The points on each unit test will be divided as follows:


25 multiple-choice questions worth 2 points each =                                           50 points


Make-up Exams


Tests must be taken on the date they are scheduled unless prior arrangements are made with me. There are no make-up tests. You must take at least three of the four tests to pass the class.


Comparative Analyses

The written part of the assessment for each unit will be completed outside of class. You will be required to write two comparative analyses per unit for a total of six. Each comparative analysis must identify some aspect of the two countries covered in that unit that you assess using four key points. You will need to develop a thesis that states your argument in terms of "country x's president is more powerful than country y's president because of a, b, c, and d" or "four main differences in the political systems of country x and country y have contributed to the greater stability of country x". The analyses should be done in outline form with your thesis followed by point 1,2 3, and 4. Make sure you use complete sentences that clearly explain your points. The assignments must be typed and turned in via email by the deadlines given in the calendar at the end of the syllabus.


News Summaries


There will be ten required and four optional news summaries due throughout the semester. The first ten assignments are worth ten points each and any additional assignments will count five points each. The assignments must be turned in via email by the dates given in the calendar at the end of the syllabus. No late assignments will be accepted and you must be present the following class to receive participation credit when we discuss the news summaries.



Research Paper


You will need to write a research paper that compares and contrasts certain political aspects of a country or countries. You do not have to cover the same countries that we are studying in class, but you may choose to do so if you wish. Examples of acceptable topics include comparing political parties in two or more countries, comparing presidential systems versus parliamentary systems, comparing the political institutions in the Soviet Union to current Russian institutions, etc.


Your research should consist of a minimum of ten sources, including books, newspapers, magazines, and web sites. The final paper must be a minimum of five typed pages, double-spaced and in a normal 12 point font. Your research should be cited within the paper itself using standard MLA format and all sources should be included in a Works Cited page, also in MLA format, at the end of the paper.



Attendance and Participation


Class attendance is mandatory, but it is not enough to just show up. The only way to make the class interesting and relevant to your lives is for everyone to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned reading and the current news items for the day. Attendance will have a significant impact on your final grade. Information on the test will be covered in class discussions and video clips shown and discussed in class. In addition, I will calculate attendance and participation into the final grade when determining those cases where the average is close to the next highest letter grade.



Classroom Etiquette


Tardies and other disturbances will not be tolerated. Expected classroom etiquette includes arriving to class on time, remaining in class until you are dismissed, and controlling whatever urges you feel to get up or disrupt class in other ways. Please inform me about any medical or other condition that might prevent you from meeting these basic requirements. It is also expected that you will show respect and consideration to me and your fellow students at all times. This includes paying attention and not engaging in other activities not related to what is happening in the class. If this is seen to be a regular problem, a mandatory conference will be scheduled to determine if you will remain in the class.



Incomplete Policy


In the event that a student successfully completes 2/3s of the coursework, but fails to attend sufficient classes to adequately fulfill the remaining requirements and has acceptable documentation explaining the reasons (hospitalization, incarceration, military duty) for their inability to do so, I will give an Incomplete final grade. You are then responsible for making arrangements with me to fulfill the remaining course requirements by the end of the next semester. At that time, the Incomplete will be changed to the appropriate letter grade in your files.



Withdrawal Policy


Another alternative in the case of failure to attend class or meet the course requirements, is to officially withdraw from the class. It is your responsibility to officially withdraw from class if necessary. Withdrawal forms are available from the Admissions Office.




Evaluation and Feedback


There will be continuous evaluation of your performance and my performance throughout the semester. I will give you regular feedback through evaluation of your performance on quizzes and unit tests and through conversations with you about your participation in group activities and discussions. In return, I will be asking for periodic feedback from you concerning this course and my performance as your instructor. All of this is designed to allow everyone to perform to the best of their ability and improve the overall content and dynamics of the course.




Instructor Conferences


My office is located in Room 212 in the Attache building at 1209 Rio Grande. I am available for consultation during my posted office hours. If you need to meet with me at a different time, you can talk to me during class, email me or call my office at 223-3394 and make an appointment.



Scholastic Dishonesty


As described in the ACC Student Handbook, scholastic dishonesty constitutes a violation of college rules and regulations and is punishable according to the procedures outlined in the Handbook. Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating on an exam (either providing answers to or stealing answers from another student), plagiarism and collusion. Plagiarism includes use of another authors words or arguments without attribution. Collusion is defined as the unauthorized collaboration with another person in preparing written work for fulfillment of any course requirement.


In the event of scholastic dishonesty, I will meet with the student to discuss the alleged offense. If evidence supports the charge, I will inform the student and the Assistant Provost in writing. The Assistant Provost shall asses a penalty appropriate to the charges and shall inform the student of such in writing. The student may appeal the decision of the Assistant Provost.



Disability Services


If you have a documented disability and wish to request accommodations, you should contact the Office of Students with Disabilities at 223-3142. The office is located in Room A155. The office director will meet with you and recommend appropriate accommodations and services after you have submitted the required documentation. Individuals eligible for services include, but are not limited to, those with chronic problems related to health, mobility, orthopedic, hearing, vision, speech, traumatic head injury, attention deficit, learning or psychiatric disabilities.



Academic Freedom


Each student is strongly encouraged to participate in class discussions. In any classroom situation that includes discussion and critical thinking, particularly about political ideas, there are bound to be many differing viewpoints. Students may not only disagree with each other at times, but the students and instructor may also find that they have disparate views on sensitive and volatile topics. It is my hope that these differences will enhance class discussion and create an atmosphere where students and instructor alike will be encouraged to think and learn. Therefore, be assured that your grades will not be adversely affected by any beliefs or ideas expressed in class or in assignments. Rather, we will all respect the views of others when expressed in classroom discussions.



My Pledge to You


         I will do my best to instruct this class and to increase your understanding of the world you live in.

         I will be kind and respectful to you as long as you treat me with the same kindness and respect.

         I will be fair in grading and expectations.

         I will do everything I can to make class interesting and applicable to your life.

         I am interested in who you are and what you do.

         I will be available to meet with you. If you need to meet with me and cannot make it to my office hours we will work out another time to meet.



My Expectations of You


         You will arrive to class on time and remain until class is dismissed.

         You will read the assigned chapters before coming to class and be prepared to discuss the issues covered in those chapters.

         You will complete all assignments and turn them in on time.

         You will conduct yourself in a mature manner appropriate for a college student and not disrupt class when I am presenting information to the class.

         You will show respect for me and your fellow classmates.

         You will let me know when you do not understand the material or have difficulty with homework assignments or tests.





This course guide represents the course as it was planned prior to the beginning of class. I will make every effort to adhere to all the policies and procedures outlined above, as well

as the following calendar. In the event any changes are necessary, I will let you know.