Political Science 310
Theories of American Politics

Course Syllabus
Winter 2011
TR 9:30 - 10:50 a.m. in B142 JFSB

Instructor: Jay Goodliffe
Office: 752 SWKT
Office Hours: TR 3-4 p.m.
Phone: 422-9136
e-mail: goodliffe@byu.edu


Home Page
Office Hours
How to Succeed in this Course
Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

Home Page

The home page for Political Science 310 is http://goodliffe.byu.edu/310/. Check the home page often for announcements, corrections, instructions for assignments, syllabus, etc. You should also check your email regularly.

Office Hours

I will hold office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays 3-4 p.m. I am also available at most other times if you make arrangements with me. I encourage you to come by to talk about assignments in the class, suggestions for improving the class, politics and current events, the perils of student life, or for any other reason. (Suggested topics: playing the organ, practicing yoga, student evaluations, Choose to Give program, BYU tuition.)


It is understood that students enrolled in this class will have taken at a minimum Political Science 110 (Introduction to American Politics) and Political Science 200 (Political Inquiry). Thus, I expect all students to have a working knowledge of American politics, and to know how to write an academic research paper. If you have not taken both of those courses, take this course after you have. Without these prerequisites, it will be more difficult to succeed in this course.

As with other upper-level courses, it will also be of benefit to have taken other lower-level required courses (e.g. Political Science 150, Economics 110, American Heritage, etc.).


This course is designed to serve as the intermediate theory course for the sub-field of American politics. This course also fulfills the General Education Arts, Letters, and Sciences (Social Sciences) requirement. In the first section of the course, we will study the major approaches to studying political science and social science. Students should be able to identify and apply these approaches to various topics in American politics. We will put particular emphasis on what constitutes the scientific method in political (and social) science, or if such a method is even possible. In the second section of the course, we will address several topics in American politics (one per week), and examine theories that attempt to explain political phenomena, often using seminal readings on the subject. Throughout the course, you will have the opportunity to develop your critical thinking skills through writing assignments and a group presentation. At the conclusion of this course, students will:

As a result of its recent accreditation experience (and increasing emphasis from the Department of Education to measure educational outcomes, e.g. NCLB), each program at BYU has developed a set of expected student learning outcomes. These will help you understand the objectives of the curriculum in the program, including this class. To learn the expected student outcomes for the programs in this department go here.

The specific learning objectives that this course fulfills include:


The course will be conducted primarily as a seminar. Therefore, it is incumbent that you have read the material to be discussed during each class period prior to the class (thus, the quizzes--see below). It is expected that you will attend regularly and come prepared to participate in the discussion. You should anticipate that I will call on you to contribute your opinion. We will also have various in-class activities and exercises designed to stimulate interest and enhance learning.

I actively encourage questions, interruptions, cries for help, protests of disbelief, etc. You will never be penalized for participating--even when this takes the form of vague complaints like, "I've got no clue why we are reading this stuff!" I urge--indeed, I expect--you to take advantage of the chance to talk with me during office hours.


A Chinese proverb (supposedly) says, "I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand." This philosophy drives the requirements of the class.



Class Participation


Preliminary Papers


Final Paper 25%
Group Presentation 20%
Final Examination 25%


To encourage reading before class, there will be a short quiz about once a week or so. You may use any notes that you have written yourself for the quiz (i.e., you may not bring anyone else's notes, the text, or any articles). The quiz will have (a) short-answer question(s) relating to the main point(s) of the reading(s) for that day's class. If you have done the reading, the quiz will be straightforward. If you come late to class or miss class altogether (no matter how good your reason), you cannot make up the quiz--you receive a zero. However, since everyone has difficulties at one time or another, I will drop the two lowest quizzes for the semester. I suggest you save your dropped quizzes for when you have a good excuse for missing.

Class Participation

Since this class is a seminar, students should be ready to engage one another in discussion. Of course, to participate, one needs to attend class. In addition to listening attentively and taking notes, participation entails asking thought-provoking questions and answering questions of the discussion leader(s). I am particularly interested in your participation when other groups make their presentations, though you should follow each group's cue for when verbal participation is appropriate. (When I lead discussion, questions and comments are always welcome.) In addition, class participation includes submitting evaluations of presentations and exam questions (see below). Learning by participation not only enhances your education, but is more interesting to both student and instructor.

Preliminary Papers

There will be two 1500-word papers (equally weighted) to help you develop your critical thinking skills and evaluate your understanding of the reading. This semester, we will use the FHSS Writing Lab on the preliminary papers. You will need to bring your paper to the FHSS Writing Lab before turning in the paper. (Usually, students sign up in class for a time to visit the lab.) Failure to visit the lab results in losing 10 out of 100 points. I also encourage you to consult with me on your papers. Please use the Turabian in-text citation style taught in Political Science 200. The due dates are noted in the Schedule. If you cannot make it to class, please leave the assignment with the department secretaries (in the Political Science office--745 SWKT) before class begins. You may also submit your assignments via email (as one--not multiple--attachment). I will deduct 10 points per day (including weekends) for late assignments (on a 100 point scale). That said, I am a reasonable person; if you anticipate a problem with submitting an assignment when it is due, speak to me before the assignment is due so that we can try to work out an alternative arrangement. If you disagree with a paper grade, follow the instructions here.

Final Paper

At the end of the semester, each individual must submit a 2500- to 3500-word paper that synthesizes and applies the theories in the section that he or she presented with her or his group (see below). The paper must explain a current practice in American politics using the theories that you covered in your section and other sections. Therefore, you are responsible to pay attention during the group presentations and read the required readings so that you can incorporate the appropriate corresponding theories into your final paper. You will select one event, practice, or institution in American politics that you personally used during your presentation and specify how the theories explain its occurrence. Please use the Turabian in-text citation style taught in Political Science 200. I strongly encourage you to consult with me on your paper. More detailed instructions are found here.

Students will be assigned to a group of three (or four). Each student in the group will distribute his or her paper to the other two students for peer evaluation. (Students will evaluate two peers' papers, and return each of them with an evaluation sheet. Peers will also give grades to the instructor only. Finally, authors will give grades to their peers on how well they were able to constructively criticize authors' arguments, and give specific suggestions on how to strengthen those arguments.) After incorporating the appropriate suggestions and criticisms, students will turn in their final paper. Authors will also grade the peer reviewers. Ten percent of your final paper grade is determined by your initial submission, 10% of your final paper grade is determined by how well you evaluate your peers, and the final 80% is determined by your final submission to me.

The paper is due at the beginning of class on the day designated in the course Schedule. If you cannot make it to class, please leave the assignment with the department secretaries (in the Political Science office--745 SWKT) before class begins. You may also submit your assignments via email (as one--not multiple--attachment). I will deduct 10 points per day (including weekends) for late assignments (on a 100 point scale). That said, I am a reasonable person; if you anticipate a problem with submitting an assignment when it is due, speak to me before the assignment is due so that we can try to work out an alternative arrangement. If you disagree with a paper grade, follow the instructions here. The papers may be picked up in the Political Science office (745 SWKT) after they are graded. The papers will be discarded at the end of the Summer 2011 term.

Group Presentation

To facilitate discussion of the issues, each student will participate in a 45-minute group presentation at some point during the semester ("I do and I understand"). A group presentation should identify the one or two most important questions that the readings seek to answer, consider alternative explanations and answers from other theoretical approaches, examine recent occurrences in American politics and what the theories say about them, the progressiveness of the theories, and analyze the importance of the theories for the future of American democracy. You must use a visual aid for your presentation ("I see and I remember"). You can be as creative as you wish in your approach to the group presentation. You can use video clips from news programs or movies to illustrate a particular point. You may want to use music that expresses the same themes found in the readings. You are responsible for helping us to understand why these theories and the questions they raise explain such persistent patterns in American politics. The first presentation will be October 9th to give you time to think about what you might want to do. More substantive details on the group presentation can be found here.

The groups will be small to minimize the "free-rider" problem. However, 40% of your grade for the group presentation will depend upon the evaluation of the other members of the group. If the other students do not think that you contributed significantly and meaningfully to the presentation, they can penalize you. After your presentation, you must turn in a self-reflection within 24 hours, as well as grades of your peers. Peer grades will influence, but not constrain the instructor's grades. More details on the self-reflection can be found here.

Each person in the group must apply a theory to a recent example in American politics during the presentation. Each person must use a different example; the example the person presents will be used in that person's final paper (see above).

Each group must meet with me before their presentation to discuss their plans, and to examine the readings.

At the end of the semester, each student will turn in a ranking of all group presentations (excluding her/his own), with written justification. In addition, there will be questions on the final exam that will refer to the group presentations.

You should treat the presentation in a professional manner, similar to making a presentation to a prospective client for your company. Therefore, you should practice your presentation, and have contingency plans in place when things go wrong. (For example, when IT services fails to deliver the correct cable, what will you do? How would a prospective client view comments such as, "This never happened before--can we reschedule?") Do not apologize or give me any reason not to take your presentation seriously (lack of time, poor dress, etc.). Further suggestions on presentations generally can be found here.

Final Exam

There will be a final examination that will be comprehensive. The final exam will be a take-home exam that you can take any time during the final exam period. Do not ask to take the final examination early. It is against university policy to give final examinations outside of the scheduled time. You should not make any plans that interfere with the final exam schedule. Please do not ask for exceptions. I am not authorized to grant them.

You may use any notes that you have written yourself for the exam (i.e., you may not bring anyone else's notes, the texts, or any articles/chapters). You must take the exam in one sitting, after which you email your answers to me (in an attachment). Check out the exam questions from the Political Science office (745 SWKT) one day, and return the questions the next day (or earlier). The exam will consist primarily of short-answer questions and essay questions that assess the skills listed in Objectives. The examination will be difficult. I expect you to be able to apply the material that we have covered in class, to apply current events, and to answer questions about different groups' presentations. You have the opportunity to suggest questions for the exam here. A mock-up of a previous semester's final can be found here. The exams may be picked up in the Political Science office (745 SWKT) after they are graded. The exams will be discarded at the end of the Summer 2011 term.

How to Succeed in this Course

I do not grade on a curve.

I include the following information from the BYU 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog which guides how I grade and determine workload:

"The grade given in a course is the teacher's evaluation of the student's performance, achievement, and understanding in that subject as covered in the class. The following adjectives indicate the meaning of the letter grades:
"Hence, the grade A means that the student's performance, achievement, and understanding were excellent in the portion of the subject covered in the class.

"There are prerequisites that qualify students to be admitted to the more advanced classes offered by a department. A senior has added experience, understanding, and preparation and, consequently, progresses in courses that would have been impossible when the student was a freshman. The level of performance, achievement, and understanding required to qualify for each grade that carries credit (any grade other than E, I, IE, or WE) is higher in a more advanced class than in those classes that precede it, and the student is prepared to work at this higher level." (cite).

"The expectation for undergraduate courses is three hours of work per week per credit hour for the average student who is appropriately prepared; much more time may be required to achieve excellence" (cite).

Students who have succeeded in this course have the following characteristics. They

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

From the Academic Honesty section of the BYU Honor Code: "The first injunction of the BYU Honor Code is the call to `be honest.' Students come to the university not only to improve their minds, gain knowledge, and develop skills that will assist them in their life's work, but also to build character. `President David O. McKay taught that character is the highest aim of education' (The Aims of a BYU Education, p. 6). It is the purpose of the BYU Academic Honesty Policy to assist in fulfilling that aim."

"BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct" (cite). Read the full version here (parts attached to the original paper syllabus).

A colleague (Mitch Sanders, former professor at Notre Dame) has already explicated these issues specifically for political science. Please read here (also attached to the original paper syllabus).

If you write a paper for another course (past or present) that uses the same topic as a paper for this course, you need to approve it with me first, and then you must turn in to me a copy of the paper from your other course.


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds. The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student to student sexual harassment. BYU's policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender based discrimination, please talk to your professor; contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895 or 367-5689 (24 hours); or contact the Honor Code Office at 422-2847.

Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities Office (422-2767). Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the SSD office. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures. You should contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895, D-282 ASB.


It is essential that you keep up with the reading. Indeed, I expect you to have completed reading assignments before the class in which we discuss it (thus, the quizzes).

Some of readings are from the text (available in the bookstore); the book is also on reserve at the Lee Library:

(You can also obtain this book through an on-line bookstore. The following website searches out several bookstores simultaneously: BooksPrice.com.)

Most of the other readings are journal articles and book chapters. These readings may be accessed through the internet via links provided below. For some readings, you will have to enter a user ID and password, provided separately. For other readings, you may have to enter your Route Y ID and password if you are accessing the readings off campus. To view or print most documents, the computer must have the Adobe Reader (downloadable free here). If you cannot access the readings in this manner, please let me know and I will try to make alternative arrangements.

You should read a national newspaper daily. Knowledge of current events will help you in your group presentation, preliminary and final papers, and active participation in class. I suggest subscribing to a national paper, or at the very least, reading on the web the national news of The New York Times (free with registration), or The Washington Post (free with registration).

There are also recommended readings available for most sections. You can access the recommended readings here. Students are not required to know the recommended readings. They are provided if students want to pursue subjects in more detail, though they could be used as additional sources in papers or presentations.

If I find something that provides greater insight or additional knowledge to our subject, I will add or substitute the reading.

The number of pages for book chapters are placed in {braces} and do not include endnotes or references.

Scientific Method and Progress (January 4 - 11)

Progress in Political Science (January 11)

Philosophy of Social Science (January 13 - 18)

Causality and Explanation (January 20)

Research Traditions in Political Science (January 25 - February 3)

Rational Choice

Applications of Theories to American Politics

Power I (February 8 - 10) [study questions]
Power II (February 15 - 17) [study questions]
Interest Groups (February 24 - March 1) [study questions]
Social Movements (March 3 - 8) [study questions]
Representation (March 10 - 15) [study questions]
Congress (March 17 - 22) [study questions]
Bureaucracy (March 24 - 29) [study questions]
Constitution (March 31 - April 5) [study questions]

Critique (April 7 - 12)

Schedule (subject to change)

Date Readings Assignments
January 4 Popper  
6 Kuhn; Lakatos  
11 Laudan; Ball  
13 Hollis; Marsh and Furlong  
18 Riker; Taylor  
20 Little 1-2, 8  
25 Dahl; Easton; Little 3  
27 Little 7, 5  
February 1 Marx; Little 6, 4  
3 Bevir and Rhodes; Ackerly and True  
8 Polsby; Bachrach and Baratz; Gaventa  
10   Paper #1
15 Foucault; Dowding; Allen  
22 No class--Monday teaching day  
24 Truman; Olson; Teske  
March 1    
3 McCarthy and Zald; Piven and Cloward; Taylor and Whittier  
10 Fenno; Stimson, MacKuen, and Erikson; Tamerius  
15   Paper #2
17 Weatherford; Weingast and Marshall; Hawkesworth  
24 Edelman; Masters; Mandel  
31 Roche; Riker; McGuire and Ohsfeldt  
April 5   Peer Draft
7 Little 11; Wilson Peer Reviews
12 Shapiro; Diamond Final Paper
14-15 Reading Days  
16-21   Final Exam


I often use video clips from popular culture (television programs, movies) to illustrate and emphasize the readings. In this class, I especially use clips from "The Simpsons." If you consider "The Simpsons" to be inappropriate, then do not take this class.

Some of the readings use adult and graphic language.

Jay Goodliffe's home page

This page is http://goodliffe.byu.edu/310/syllabus.htm