Intro to Political Science

June 17, 2011


This course explores basic issues of political science including political theory, comparative political institutions, dominant ideologies and ideas, the importance of law, the domestic and Third World struggles for civil and political equality, and international relations.

At the end of this course, each student will have:
A. developed an understanding of the history of political science as well as the methods, concepts, and language which political scientists use to study and interpret politics, political regimes, ideologies, political institutions and public policies.
B. developed an awareness of the structure and operation of the components of different political systems so as to cultivate more sophisticated and intelligent participation in the political system.
C. developed a capacity to appreciate the merits of alternative perspectives – ideological, ethnic, or national – on global or regional political ideas and issues.
D. developed the ability to identify and apply factors that hinder the establishment of democratic systems in both developing countries as well as in former communist states.
E. developed an ability to analyze political violence in order to identify and explain contributing factors.
F. acquired the ability to engage in the political science research process including to choose a research question, to identify the theoretical framework used in similar research, to design a hypothesis, to write an abstract, to review the literature, to collect and analyze data, and to present references.
G. ability to express thoughts in a public forum by participating in class discussion.
H. reasoning and problem solving abilities beyond the level of recognition and recall including evaluation, synthesis, and integration.


Marcus Ethridge and Howard Handelman. Politics in a Changing World: A Comparative Introduction to Political Science. Thomson/Wadsworth.

Students are also expected to be informed of domestic and world events by reading regularly a major newspaper such as The New York Times or The Washington Post, and a newsweekly such as Time or Newsweek. In addition, the following websites are great sources of information on voting and elections:

American Political Science Association. This website provides information about important publications in political science, career opportunities, internships, etc.

National Political Science Honor Society (Pi Sigma Alpha). For students majoring or minoring in political science.

Northampton County Department of Voter Registration and Elections Website. Voting machine instructions, voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications, and polling place locations in Northampton County.

Project Vote Smart – 2008 Presidential Candidate information (biographical information, issue position, voting records, etc.). Great resource for congressional and state legislative races.

Politics 1. A guide to U.S. political parties and party organizations, including information on small and most obscure political parties. www.politics1/parties.htm.

Global Issues. Information on a number of major issues, many related to developing countries, including trade, economic debt, and war.

Women’s Issues. A guide to women’s issues in the developing world.


The final grade for the course will be calculated as follows:

First Exam: 10%
Second Exam: 10%
Third Exam: 10%
Option A: Research paper or Option B: Service Learning Journal: 20%
Final exam: 20%
Group project: 20%
Class participation/Attendance: 5%
Homework assignments: 5%

Group work/class participation/attendance: There will be several in-class group projects where students will be asked to work in dyads or in groups of 3-4. To be able to do meaningful group work you should:

1. Be in class on time and not leave early.
2. Complete all readings and other preparatory assignments.
3. Give thoughtful answers to questions.
4. Participate in small-group and whole-class discussions.
5. Be an active listener and respect the opinions of others.
6. Be open to changing or rethinking your perspective.
7. Contribute actively to your group’s tasks.


1. Current events: Every class I will be calling randomly on students who must at that time describe briefly a recent article from a major newspaper / magazine (i.e., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, the Nation, the Atlantic, Mother Jones, National Review, Harper’s etc.). The student must explain why he/she selected the article, why they think it’s “newsworthy” and in what way it is relevant to the material we are covering/discussing in class. A hard copy of the article must be submitted at this time.

2. Group Project: Students will be divided in groups of 4-5 and will work on this semester’s theme “Water & Peace.” Each group will prepare a 10-15 minute class presentation – please be creative (you can use photographs, videos, music etc — don’t just read from index cards!). Groups will be assigned to present the history, economy, government, foreign relations, the status of women, water crisis or other topics related to Kenya or other country assigned to their group. Each group will also design a plan for raising campus awareness and fundraising to help w/ the building of water wells or other solutions. You will be asked to evaluate yourself and your team. You will also be evaluated by the rest of the class. I will take these evaluations into consideration when grading you for this assignment. Your grade will be based on how successfully you meet the criteria described in the Rubric for Oral Presentation. More details on this project will be discussed in class.

We will go over the Interpersonal Skills to become familiar with specific individual behaviors which help the group function effectively and promote group learning. The Rubric for Class Participation/Group work explains the criteria that I will use to grade you in this area. In some cases, groups will be asked to present their work to the rest of the class. In those cases, the criteria for your grade will be based on how successfully you meet the criteria described in the Rubric for Oral Presentation.


Option A: Research paper

Your research paper (4 pages long, double-spaced, size 12 font) should focus on a topic selected from a list of broad topics provided below. You are expected to use 4 sources (use a variety of sources: books, scholarly journal articles, newspaper articles, official government websites, official non-profit organization websites etc.) You will be expected to follow the process of writing the paper in phases and will be graded for each phase. Research paper counts for 20% of final grade.

Phase One – 10 % of grade: Please submit your topic, a paragraph describing what your paper will be about and how you plan to go about researching for it (what research tools you plan to use?). Include two (2) scholarly sources in correct MLA format in a Works Cited list.

Phase Two – 10 % of grade: Includes all of the above, corrections suggested by the instructor during Phase One, an outline of your paper (what you are going to talk about first, second, etc., intro, conclusion) and full-length copies of all 4 scholarly sources. Also, a Works Cited page in correct MLA format should be attached.

Phase Three – 80 % of grade: Your final paper with corrections suggested by the instructor in previous phases. Include previous drafts, corrections by instructor, full-length copies of all your sources, and complete Works Cited Page in correct MLA format. You can download the MLA Handbook from the NCC Library’s website at (Go to “Help with Research” and click on “MLA”). Also, use parenthetical citations when you quote directly from a source.

You should narrow down your topic, if appropriate. If you are interested in a topic not on this list, please discuss with me.

*The Global Water Crisis (select a particular region or country)
*The impact of water scarcity on women and children.
*Water pollution in rivers, oceans, lakes etc. (select a country or region or case study).
*Water conservation / Sustainable development.

One good place to start your research is
Read the information about the crisis and then go to the “Featured Projects” part of the drop-down menu to select your topic. Also, look at ongoing water projects in selected countries at

Please see the Rubrics for Research papers, attached in the back of the syllabus, to familiarize yourself with the criteria used to grade your paper. Plagiarism will not be tolerated.

Option B: Service Learning

Students must select a project that is relevant to the course and have it approved by the instructor. Students choosing the S/L option must submit two (2) progress reports and a final journal instead of the research paper.

Service learning is a collaborative teaching and learning strategy designed to promote academic enhancement, civic engagement, and personal growth. Students who choose this option will do volunteer work for 15 hours over the semester for a project that addresses critical political, social or economic needs in our communities. This component of the course will deepen the students’ understanding of who they are, what they know, how the world around them works and their place in it and responsibility to it. The work site will be arranged for the students and the workload in the course will be adjusted to reflect time spent in service work. Students who choose the S/L option for this course can participate in one of the following areas:

Voting / Elections: Participants will have the opportunity to work as assistants at the Northampton County or Lehigh County Voter Registration Office; or the Northampton County Democratic/Republican committees as well as political campaigns and candidates at the local and state levels. They will also get involved in various aspects of planning and execution of voter registration drives and other election-related events carried out primarily at NCC’s main campus. Activities include, but are not limited to, publicity around campus, manning voter registration tables, and assisting in organizing round-table discussions or candidates’ forums during local, state, or national elections. Students are responsible for adhering to a precise work schedule that will satisfy the required 15 hours throughout the semester.

Social / Environmental Justice: Students who choose this S/L option will be assigned to a local government agency or non-profit organization addressing community needs such as homelessness, immigration, women’s rights, gay rights, and other aspects of political, economic and/or social exclusion. Students are responsible for adhering to a precise work schedule that will satisfy the required 15 hours throughout the semester. Work cites include, but are not limited to, Community Action Committee of Lehigh Valley (CACLV), Boys and Girls Club of Bethlehem, Meals on Wheels, NCC Adult Literacy Program, NCC Environmental Task Force, Second Harvest Food Bank, Sixth Street Shelter, Trinity Ark Soup Kitchen, Cedarbrook Nursing Home, and Turning Point.

Diversity / Multiculturalism: Students who choose this S/L option will be assigned to a local non-profit organization or government agency addressing issues related to racial, ethnic, religious, economic, cultural or other diversity in our communities. Students are responsible for adhering to a precise work schedule that will satisfy the required 15 hours throughout the semester. Work cites include, but are not limited to, Casa Guadelupe Center, Latino Outreach Program, Muslim mosque – Lehigh Valley, Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center, NCC Adult Literacy Program, AIDS outreach, and Lehigh Dialogue Center.

Peace / Conflict Resolution: Students will be required to spend 15 hours working w/ NCC’s Forum on Peace, Justice and Conflict Resolution. Work will be done at the Bethlehem campus and will include attending meetings, creating and posting promotional material on campus, assisting w/ event planning and organization etc. This semester’s activities include the first ever Peace Conference to be held at NCC.

Service Learning Expectations and Responsibilities:

Students participating in the Service Learning option in this course are expected to:

a. Fulfill their 15 hours and complete projects.
b. Agree to a precise work schedule with the site supervisor and adhere to it.
c. Provide a minimum of 24 hours notice of absence.
d. Participate in any required orientation/training in their work site.
e. Follow work site regulations and respect fellow co-workers.
f. Serve in a manner that reflects positively on Northampton Community College.
g. Notify the instructor if the site supervisor terminates the volunteer position.
h. Submit 2 one-page progress reports at specific points in the semester (due dates provided in the syllabus).
i. Submit a final journal (5 pages long, typed, double spaced, size 12 font) on the day of the final exam. Guidelines are provided at the end of the syllabus.
j. Reflect on their experience and share their insights during class discussions.

Work site supervisors are expected to:

a. Provide meaningful work related to skills, interests, and available time.
b. Provide orientation/training to the site and position.
c. Provide the student with a clear schedule of work hours.
d. Offer sound guidance, direction, and input.
e. Provide opportunity for the student to make suggestions and receive feedback.
f. Ensure that student is treated as an integral part of the organization.
g. Complete an evaluation of the student’s efforts at the end of the term.
h. Recognize the student’s efforts as a volunteer.
i. Notify the NCC Service Learning Administrator if the student does not complete the required 15 hours of service.

Below is a list of questions you should reflect upon in your journal:

a. What type of service learning project did you participate in? Describe the project and/or the structure, functions, and goals of the agency you worked in.
b. What were your reasons for selecting this particular work site?
c. What tasks did you perform during the project?
d. How was your S/L project related to material discussed in class or covered in the textbook? Which readings or concepts from Loeb’s book come to mind as you reflect on your S/L project?
e. What did you learn from the project about yourself, your role in the community, and others?
f. How does this project relate to your own personal experiences, or professional / personal goals?
g. In what ways did the project force you to question your own assumptions, beliefs, or stereotypes?
h. What do you plan to do with the new skills/awareness you acquired?
i. How can we sustain an active role in our communities throughout our lifetime? What are the challenges in doing so and how can we deal with such challenges?

Please read the Rubric for Service Learning Journals attached to this syllabus to familiarize yourselves with the criteria used to grade your service learning journal.

Rubric for Research Paper in Political Science Courses

Criteria – Thesis, 20%
Superior – The main thesis or central purpose of the writer is readily apparent to the reader.
Good – The main thesis or purpose is clear but sometimes it digresses from it.
Needs Improvement – The main thesis or purpose is not consistently clear throughout the paper.
Unacceptable – The thesis or purpose is generally unclear.

Criteria – Content – 20%
Superior – Presentation of relevant information clearly supports a main thesis and shows a thoughtful, in-depth analysis of a significant topic.
Good – Information provides reasonable support for a main thesis and shows evidence of a basic analysis of a significant topic.
Needs Improvement – Information supports a main thesis at times. Analysis is basic or general.
Unacceptable – Information does not support main thesis. Analysis is vague or not evident.

Criteria – Organization – 20%
Superior – Ideas are arranged logically to support the main thesis and are clearly linked to one another.
Good – Ideas are arranged logically to support the main thesis and are usually clearly linked to one another.
Needs Improvement – Ideas are arranged logically to support the main thesis but occasionally are not clearly linked to one another.
Unacceptable – Ideas are not logically organized and fail to make sense together.

Criteria – Sources – 15%
Superior – Research shows effective use of a wide variety of reference tools appropriate to the political science discipline.
Good – Research shows effective use of an adequate variety of reference tools appropriate to the political science discipline.
Needs Improvement – Reference tools are used but some may be narrow in range or questionable.
Unacceptable – Little evidence of any deliberate research choices or sources used are few, inappropriate, or questionable.

Criteria – Language – 15%
Superior – Sentences are well-phrased and word choice is consistently accurate.
Good – Sentences are well-phrased and word choice is generally good.
Needs Improvement – Some sentences are awkwardly constructed and word choice is merely adequate.
Unacceptable – Sentence structure contains frequent errors and many words are used inappropriately.

Criteria – Writing Mechanics (grammar, italics, capitalization, punctuation, etc.) – 5%
Superior – The writing is free or almost free of errors.
Good – The writing contains occasional errors.
Needs Improvement – The writing contains several errors.
Unacceptable – The writing is full of errors.

Criteria – Length – 5%
Superior – Paper is the number of pages specified in the assignment.
Unacceptable – Paper has fewer pages than specified in the assignment.

Rubric for Reflective Journal in Political Science Courses

Criteria – Relevance
Superior – Reflection demonstrates very clearly the relevance of the learning experience to the course and its significance to student learning.
Good – Reflection demonstrates clearly the relevance of the learning experience to the course.
Needs Improvement – Reflection demonstrates little relevance of the learning experience to the course.
Unacceptable -Reflection fails to show relevance to the course.

Criteria – Clarity
Superior – Language is very clear and situations are described accurately. Abstract concepts are always presented accurately.
Good – Language is mostly clear and situations are described fairly accurately. Abstract concepts are presented fairly accurately.
Needs Improvement – Language is frequently unclear and situations are often not described with accuracy. Abstract concepts are presented inaccurately.
Unacceptable – Language is unclear and situations are described inaccurately. Abstract concepts are presented inaccurately.

Criteria – Analysis
Superior – Reflection moves beyond simple description to a deep analysis of how the experience impacted student understanding of self, others and/or course concepts.
Good – Reflection moves beyond simple description of the experience. Analysis is insightful but lacks significant depth.
Needs Improvement – Reflection shows attempts to move beyond simple description. Analysis of the learning experience lacks depth.
Unacceptable – Reflection does not move beyond simple description of the learning experience.

Criteria – Interconnection
Superior – Reflection demonstrates connections between learning experience and course material, student experience, and personal goals.
Good – Reflection demonstrates connections between learning experience and course material.
Needs Improvement – Reflection demonstrates few connections between learning experience and course material.
Unacceptable – Reflection does not demonstrate any connections between experience and course material.

Criteria – Self-Awareness
Superior – Reflection demonstrates student ability to question own biases, stereotypes, and/or assumptions and become aware of new ways of thinking as a result.
Good – Reflection demonstrates student ability to question own biases, stereotypes, and/or assumptions.
Needs Improvement – Reflection demonstrates a limited attempt to question own personal biases.
Unacceptable – Reflection does not demonstrate any attempt to question personal biases.

School: Northampton Community College
Professor: K. Anastasakos
  • update-img-new

    Get updates on what's new in the Campus Compact Network