Core Focus Areas



Undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with faculty on internationally recognized research in the department’s six specialty areas: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, public policy, and research methods.


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American Politics


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Faculty and students in American politics are making significant theoretical, empirical and methodological contributions to the field. Our faculty have particular expertise in national-level institutions, political behavior and public policy. In research courses, students examine the politics of all branches of the U.S. government as well as political campaigns and communication.

Recent faculty research in this area has covered gender and political campaigns, partisan gerrymandering and immigration policies. They have authored many nationally acclaimed books in the field and their research routinely appears in the discipline's top journals.

Faculty in This Area


Comparative Politics


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The comparative politics field combines attention to theoretical issues with a grounding in the politics of specific countries and regions. Related courses examine issues such as political violence, nation-building and development, and authoritarianism.

The primary theoretical interests of our faculty include democratization and related issues of political change and post-communist transitions; political economy of both the advanced industrialized countries and the developing world; comparative public policy; ethnic politics or nationalism; and women in politics. Our faculty also specialize in geographical interest, with experts on Latin America, Western, and Central Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Africa and East, Southeast, and South Asia. Our faculty and students conduct frequent trips abroad for field research and conferences.

Faculty in this area have published books with prestigious presses such as Cambridge, Cornell, Oxford, and Princeton, and their articles have appeared in World Politics, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, and many more scholarly journals.

Faculty in This Area



International Relations


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In the international relations focus, 15 faculty members lead students to examine the problems and possibilities of our age. A 2018 survey conducted by Foreign Policy magazine, in collaboration with the Teaching, Research, and International Policy project at the College of William & Mary, ranked GW 17th in the world for Ph.D. programs preparing graduates for an academic career in international relations.

Faculty in this area have experience with theoretical and methodological eclecticism and problem-oriented research. Faculty research represents a wide range of methodological approaches (including case studies, formal models, surveys, and quantitative analysis), across specialty areas including regional security architectures, global governance, preemption and deterrence, internet politics, wars of choice, identity politics, and human rights.

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Political Theory


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The department focuses on both the history of political and social thought and contemporary debates within political theory and social science. Our greatest strengths are in modern and contemporary thought, especially democratic and liberal theory, and continental and critical theory.

Recent research has focused on the origins of liberalism and arguments for toleration, the idea of the enemy, and the aesthetic and cultural dimensions of politics. We see a political theory as integrally engaged with concrete problems, and we understand our research to have implications for contemporary thinking about questions of justice, freedom, human rights, group identity, education, and the role of scholars in addressing these questions.

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Public Policy


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Public policy faculty have a wide range of research interests, from decision making in the executive branch and the ways Congress interacts with public policy to federal funding for higher education and the politics of urban areas. Collaborating with faculty in related fields in the department and around the university, the public policy faculty offer students both broad analytical training and specific guidance in the making of public policy in many areas of American politics.

Related coursework includes Executive Branch Politics, Military Effectiveness, and Politics and Organizations.

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Research Methods


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The field of the political methodology is growing rapidly, enhancing the quality of empirical research and making important methodological contributions both within political science and beyond. Due to the broad applications of the field, research methods align closely with the other departmental focus areas.

Research methods are applied throughout both undergraduate and graduate coursework. Faculty methodological interests cover research design, generalized linear models, game theory, network analysis, survey design, lab and field experiments, causal inference, qualitative methods, and multilevel modeling. In related research courses, students learn about building surveys and experiments, political inquiry, and empirical political analysis.

Faculty in This Area

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