Introduction to Political Science


ACC Summer Institute at Marista University, Merida, Yucatan



Instructor: Karry L. Evans                                          Office: Austin Community College

Phone: 512-223-3394                                                             1209 Rio Grande St.

Email:                                                    Room 212, Attache Bldg.

Fax: 512-223-3414                                                                 Austin, TX 78701



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, India and Mexico. Prerequisites for taking this course are satisfactory completion of both GOVT2305 (U.S. Government) and GOVT2306 (Texas Government).


Instructional Methodology


This course combines classroom work, independent research and fieldwork at ACC and Marista University in Merida, Yucatan. All of this will be accomplished in an intensive four week program designed to maximize the learning experience and it will require your total commitment to the work, schedule and rules laid out in this syllabus.


Course Rationale


The purpose of this course is to enrich your personal and intellectual growth through a combination of stimulating coursework and hands on field research in Mexico. The comparative approach and the exposure to primary research methods will be very beneficial in broadening your understanding of yourself and the world you live in, as well as preparing you for the many challenges and opportunities in this increasingly interdependent world. Your range of knowledge will increase tremendously through learning about different ways of dealing with social, political and economic issues facing all societies. This will allow you the opportunity to synthesize once separate and unique bits of knowledge into new ways of addressing the major questions confronting us in the 21st century.


Needed Resources


The required text for this course is Comparative Politics in Transition (5th ed.) by John McCormick. There are new and used copies available in the bookstores around the Rio Grande Campus or you can order online through Amazon or other book sites. I do not have any problem with students using the 4th edition if you can purchase it at a savings. 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.



Learning Outcomes


This course is designed to help you achieve the following learning outcomes:

  • Measure the impact of the major variables that effect social, political and economic development
  • Evaluate major theories in the field of political science.
  • Compare and contrast the political development, political culture, political institutions, and public policies of different countries.
  • Conduct primary and secondary research on a key question in political science.
  • Compile research into a formal paper on a key question in political science.



Grading and Course Requirements


Your grade will come from a total of six chapter quizzes, four country studies, a final paper, and your attendance and participation. The possible points are distributed in this manner:


3 Tests worth 100 points each =                                   300 points

4 Country Studies worth 50 points each =                     200 points

1 Research Paper worth 300 points =                           300 points

Attendance and Participation =                         200 points

TOTAL                                                                        1000 points


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


90-1000 points =         90-100% =      A

800-899 points =         80-89% =        B

700-799 points =         70-79% =        C

600-699 points =         60-69% =        D

0-599 points =             0-59% =          F





There are three tests worth 100 points each. Each test is made up of a variety of multiple-choice and short answer questions. The questions will come from material covered in the chapter notes posted on the course Blackboard site and from information covered in lectures, discussions and multi-media presentations. The test dates are listed in the calendar at the end of this syllabus.


Country Studies


The country studies will constitute the supporting research for your final paper. You will need to choose a topic that you can research for the United States, Mexico and two of the other four countries covered in this course. The topic should relate to political values, institutions, parties, elections, or policies. You may choose to look at the balance of power in federal systems, the electoral success of third parties, environmental groups, voter turnout, education policy, economic development, etc.


You can research your topic using the websites I have provided on the Blackboard site. You will then summarize the information you have found for each country and type out a page or two noting the sources for each separate piece of information. This does not have to be in paragraph or essay form. The main point is to compile relevant information that you can use in your final paper. Make sure you save your work on your computer so you can use it in your final paper. The due dates are listed in the calendar at the end of this syllabus.


Research Paper


The more in-depth portion of your research will be conducted in Mexico where we will focus on the topics you have chosen. We will include these topics in our class lectures and discussions. You will also have access to primary sources of information including scholars, government officials, and citizens involved in the political process. This will take place during class time and in meetings outside of class. Depending on your topic, we will work on survey and interview questions that you can use to deepen the scope of your research. You will need to take notes or use a recorder to make sure you get the information you are seeking.


The final paper will consist of your introductory paragraph and thesis statement, the supporting information on the U.S. and the two other countries you chose, the more detailed research on Mexico from primary and secondary sources, and your conclusion. It must be typed using a normal 12 point font, double-spaced, and a minimum of five pages. The paper is due three days after our return to Austin.


Attendance and Participation


Once you have enrolled in this course, you have made the commitment to attend every class, to arrive on time and to be prepared to discuss the topics for the day. Failure to do so during the first two weeks of class will result in you being dropped from the course and loosing whatever money you have paid for the study abroad portion of the course. Failure to do so the second two weeks of class will result in you being dropped from the course. Once again, there are no refunds of money paid toward the study abroad portion of the course.


Etiquette and Cultural Sensitivity


This course and the study abroad experience can have a very positive impact on you and your future life decisions. In order to maximize this potential and minimize any negative impact, you will have to conduct yourself in a mature manner that is an asset to the entire course. No rudeness or disruptions will be tolerated in class or in any meetings or events outside of class. Your behavior must be kind and respectful toward everyone. While we are in Mexico you must demonstrate a sensitivity to cultural differences and language difficulties even when things are not to your liking. Never forget you are a guest in their country and you should conduct yourself accordingly. If there is a problem with your behavior you will be dropped from the course and sent back to Austin.


Communication and Feedback


Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns about the course. It is very important for me to get feedback from you about the class, so I will be available to meet with you anytime before we leave for Mexico. Once in Mexico, I will make a point of speaking with each of you individually to monitor the quality and effectiveness of the class and to resolve any potential problems that may arise.


Withdrawal Policy


One option in the case of failure to meet the course requirements, is to officially withdraw from the class. It is your responsibility to officially withdraw from class. Withdrawal forms are available from the Admissions Office at each ACC campus.


Incomplete Policy


There is no opportunity for receiving an Incomplete for this course since the final portion is offered in Mexico and cannot be repeated the next semester.


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 author’s 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 any of the ACC campuses. 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


Please be assured that your grade will not be adversely affected by any beliefs or ideas expressed in or outside of class as long as you follow the requirements outlined under “Etiquette and Cultural Sensitivity.” I believe every person’s views are legitimate and I expect each of you to respect the views of others. All comments should reflect this mutual respect.




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.






Date                Topics and Assignment                                                          Reading


5/2                   Required Meeting – No Exceptions


6/1                   The Comparative Approach                                                      pp. 1-21

                        Research Methods


6/2                   Liberal Democracies                                                                 pp. 23-35

U.S. Government and Politics                                                   pp. 38-77

Comparison of Executives                                                         pp. 78-79


6/3                   British Government and Politics                                     pp. 82-123

                        Comparison of Legislatures                                                       pp. 166-167


6/4                   Test 1

Communism and Socialism                                                        pp. 169-180

                        Russian Government and Politics                                               pp. 184-204


6/5                   Russian Government and Politics                                               pp. 204-221

                        Comparison of Electoral Systems                                              pp. 222-223

                        Research Notes Due for U.S.


6/8                   Chinese Government and Politics                                              pp. 226-263

                        Comparison of Political Parties                                      pp. 264-265

                        Research Notes Due for 2nd Country


6/9                   Test 2

Developing Countries                                                                pp. 267-280

                        Indian Government and Politics                                     pp. 328-347                

6/10                 Indian Government and Politics                                     pp. 348-363

                        Comparison of Ideologies                                                         pp. 366-367

                        Research Notes Due for 3rd Country


6/11                 Mexican Government and Politics                                             pp. 284-323

                        Comparing Judiciaries                                                   pp. 522-523


6/12                 Test 3

                        Research Notes Due for Mexico


6/13                 Fly From Austin, TX to Merida, Yucatan

                        Orientation on Room and Board


6/14                 Orientation on Marista University

                        Tour of Zocalo and Museum


6/15                 10:00 – 12:30 : Mexican Culture & Geography

                        1:00 – 2:30 : Mexican History & Student Topics

                        2:45 – 4:00: Intro to Culture of Merida through Language


6/16                 10:00 – 12:30 : Modern Religion of Mexico

                        1:00 – 2:30 : Mexican Political Culture & Student Topics

                        6:00 – 9:00: Field Trip / Primary Research


6/17                 10:00 – 12:30 : Mayan Society in Yucatan

                        1:00 – 2:30 : Mexican Executive & Student Topics

                        2:45 – 4:00: Intro to Culture of Merida through Yucatan


6/18                 10:00 – 12:30 : Pre Columbian Origins & Culture of Yucatan

                        1:00 – 2:30 : Mexican Parliament & Student Topics

                        6:00 – 9:00: Field Trip / Primary Research


6/19                 10:00 – 12:00 : Cultural Geography / Discussion Forum

                        1:00 – 2:30: Mexican Judiciary & Student Topics 


6/20                 Celestun and Surrounding Areas

                        Focus on Social, Political and Economic Development


6/21                 Chichen Itza and Surrounding Areas

                        Focus on Historical Connections


6/22                 10:00 – 12:00 : Cultural Geography / Discussion Forum

                        1:00 – 2:30 : Mexican Elections & Political Parties

                        2:45 – 4:00: Intro to Culture of Merida through Language


6/23                 10:00 – 12:00 : Cultural Geography / Discussion Forum

                        1:00 – 2:30 : Mexican Social Policies

                        6:00 – 9:00: Field Trip / Primary Research


6/24                 10:00 – 12:00 : Cultural Geography / Discussion Forum

                        1:00 – 2:30 : Mexican Economic Policies

                        2:45 – 4:00: Intro to Culture of Merida through Language


6/25                 10:00 – 12:00 : Cultural Geography / Discussion Forum

                        1:00 – 2:30 : Mexican Foreign Policies

                        6:00 – 9:00: Field Trip / Primary Research


6/26                 Progresso and Surrounding Areas


6/27                 Fly from Merida, Yucatan to Austin, TX