Political Science | American Politics: Approaches & Issues
Y561 | 25777 | Alex-Assensoh

This graduate level seminar is designed to acquaint graduate
students with the most current research as well as classic questions
and approaches in the major subfields of American politics. In this
regard, the course is ideal for students, who intend to specialize
in a subfield of American politics and also for those who want to
acquire a basic understanding of American politics without broader
specialization. Of particular emphasis are contemporary debates
regarding theory, methods and substance, with attention also given
to subfield areas like the presidency, race-cum-ethnicity, the
courts and other institutions as well as intermediaries in areas for
which the Department does not typically offer seminars.

Each week, we will focus on a critical analysis of an identified
problem or issue using the assigned readings, which will include
primary journal articles and book chapters, as the basis for
discussion. Toward that end, we will use “analysis briefs”, which I
developed a few years ago to provide a structured and systematic way
of teaching graduate students how to critically read, think and
analyze written materials (the analysis briefs mode that I
introduced has been adopted by other professors in our Department!).
Graduate students have reported the success of this tool in helping
them to think a lot more critically and systematically in evaluating
research and facilitating the development of new research ideas. The
analysis briefs will serve as a foundational basis for weekly class
discussions, in which we will explore the underlying research
themes, theories and findings, investigate the viability of
alternative explanations, critique conceptualization as well as
operationalization and, in the end, suggest new lines of inquiry.
In this sense, advance preparation and class discussions are
important to the success of the class.

The class is also aimed at providing students with some of the basic
skills that all graduate students need to acquire before leaving
graduate school, including the following: (i) how to present your
ideas with confidence and in a way that engages others; (ii) how to
review an article at the request of a scholarly journal, and (iii)
how to review a book for a major political science journal.
Therefore, graduate students, who enroll in the course, will have an
opportunity to practice each of these important skills during the
course of the semester.

The final class assignment, due on the last scheduled day of class,
will be an assignment that asks you to write about the underlying
connections among the subfields in American politics in terms of
theories, substance and methods. Students should feel free to ask
questions and to seek relevant clarifications!