University of Toronto Department of Political Science
Undergraduate Political Science Curriculum
Generally speaking, students will be introduced to Political Science through the 100-level course and will take more specialized preparatory work in fields at the 200-level before attempting the 300- and 400-level courses. The numbers attached to courses indicate the year in which it is probably most appropriate to take a course, the level of difficulty of the course, and the amount of preparation required. Thus, 400-level courses are not simply to be regarded as suitable for upper level students; they are designed for students who have had considerable preparation in the discipline or area.
Under exceptional circumstances (e.g., preparatory courses in other disciplines) students may have the prerequisites for intermediate and advanced courses waived. This requires the approval of the instructor in the course.
The first-year (100-level) course introduces students to concepts and issues in Political Science. This is done by using an ”area” of Political Science (e.g. Canadian politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory).
In the introductory course students will become acquainted with: basic normative and empirical issues; key concepts that constitute the core of the discipline; some analytical skills so that students can read the literature critically and write essays based on specialized secondary sources.
The first-year course is set up to appeal to a broad range of students: those who may already have made a commitment to Political Science; those who may be considering entry into one of our programs; those who may want to take an additional two or three courses; and, those for whom the introductory course may be the only Political Science course taken in university.
The Department’s second-year courses consist primarily of “foundation” courses that serve as gateways into each of the fields. The exception is the comparative politics area where entry into the field is through individual country studies.
The objective of the foundation courses is to provide an in-depth understanding of the major concepts, issues, and debates that inform the field. These courses serve as a base for further specialized study.
The Department also offers a limited number of broad courses at the 200-level. These courses will appeal to students who are pursuing programs outside the Department but who may want to take one or more courses in Political Science. They also serve students in our programs.
Third-year courses are lecture courses on specialized topics. Some of these courses cross the traditional fields.
Fourth-year courses offer students the opportunity to pursue specialized topics in seminars. These seminars may focus in depth on topics that were covered in lower level lecture courses. The topics covered often reflect the current research interests of the instructor.
Students who enrol in the Political Science Specialist Program will be required to complete a course introducing them to research methods (POL 242Y). The course is an introduction to some of the major approaches and techniques employed in contemporary Political Science to describe, explain and interpret the political world we study. No prior background in mathematics or experience with computers is required. Students will have the opportunity to learn how to use statistics, computers, the Internet and other basic research tools.
The specialist and major programs in Political Science provide two elements. First, students cover a core that constitutes basic knowledge and understanding in Political Science. This common core includes: introduction to issues and concepts; basic understanding of Canadian politics and the history of political thought; basic skills in political analysis; foundations in at least two fields other than Canadian and theory. Second, options allow students to take courses in one field or across fields at the intermediate and advanced levels.