Fields of Study

Doctoral students choose a major field of study and a minor field. We offer training in three major fields of political science: American Politics, International Relations, and Comparative Politics. In addition to these three, students may choose as a minor field political theory, public policy, or quantitative methods. 

American Politics

Faculty and students in American politics are making significant theoretical, empirical, and methodological contributions to the field. Their work routinely appears in the discipline's top journals and presses. And Washington, D.C. offers unrivaled research advantages as a variety of institutions and archives afford many opportunities for assembling unique data sets. We have particular strengths in national level institutions, political behavior, and public policy. Sarah Binder, Christopher Deering, Eric Lawrence, and Forrest Maltzman give us particular strength in legislative politics. Likewise, Brandon Bartels, Forrest Maltzman, and Paul Wahlbeck give us similar strength in the study of judicial process, constitutional law, and the courts. Brandon Bartels, John Sides, Danny Hayes, Corrine McConnaughy, and Ismail White focus on public opinion, electoral behavior, and national identity both in the United States and abroad. And, Steven Balla, Eric Lawrence, Kimberly Morgan, Robert Stoker, and Harold Wolman anchor our public policy group.

Comparative Politics

The comparative politics field combines an attention to theoretical issues with a grounding in the politics of specific countries and regions. 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.

Along with these theoretical interests is a strong commitment to area studies. Our faculty include experts on Latin America, Western and Central Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, and East, Southeast, and South Asia (especially China and Japan). Our faculty and students conduct frequent trips abroad for field research and to attend international conferences.

The ambitious agendas of original research are reflected in the quality of our publications, with numerous books and articles published by first-tier academic presses such as Cambridge, Cornell, Oxford, and Princeton, and journals, including World Politics, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, and all the main area studies journals.

International Relations

The international relations faculty is well versed to examine the problems and possibilities of our age. Over fifteen faculty members focus specifically on international affairs and teach classes that amply cover the recognized fields in international relations: international institutions and law (Martha Finnemore, Michael Barnett, Henry Farrell, Yon Lupu), international political economy (Susan Sell, Henry Farrell, and Henry Nau), international security (James Lebovic, Charles Glaser. Alexander Downes, Stephen Biddle, Eric Grynaviski, Caitlin Talmadge), and foreign policy (Henry Nau, Elizabeth Saunders, and Rachel Stein).  
The IR faculty prides itself on theoretical and methodological eclecticism and problem oriented research. While the faculty's research represents a wide range of methodological approaches (including case studies, formal models, surveys, and quantitative analysis), it has a particular focus on the connections between international and domestic variables in the creation of regional security architectures (David Shambaugh, Mike Mochizuki, March Lynch), preemption and deterrence (Charles Glaser, James Lebovic, Stephen Biddle), internet politics (Henry Farrell), wars of choice (Elizabeth Saunders, Alexander Downes), identity politics (Henry Nau, Marc Lynch), human rights and humanitarian action (Michael Barnett, Yon Lupu) and the general workings of global governance (Martha Finnemore, Michael Barnett, Eric Grynaviski).

Political Theory

The political theory faculty represent a range of historical and philosophical approaches to studying both the history of political and social thought, and contemporary debates within political theory and social science more generally. Our greatest strengths are in modern and contemporary thought, especially democratic and liberal theory, and continental and critical theory. Ingrid Creppell's research has focused on the origins of liberalism and arguments for toleration and she is currently studying the idea of the enemy. Associated faculty member William Winstead focuses on Nietzsche, education, and the aesthetic and cultural dimensions of politics.

A common predisposition, regardless of the specific approach each one of us adopts, is a strong interest in linking the interpretation of texts and conceptual analysis to politically salient issues, past and present. We see political theory as integrally engaged with concrete problems, both in its historical development and its current debates, 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.

While the graduate program does not offer political theory as a primary field for the Ph.D., the department is clearly committed to integrating theory with research in other fields. Many graduate students pursue political theory as a secondary (minor) field, supplementing the design and pursuance of questions in American Politics, International Relations, and Comparative Politics.

Public Policy

The public policy faculty have a wide range of research interests. Steve Balla studies public participation in decision making in the executive branch, as well as the interaction of Congress and the bureaucracy in the making of public policy. Eric Lawrence is a student of Congress and research methods. His research addresses policymaking in areas ranging from federal funding for institutions of higher education to state policies aimed at reducing uninsurance among their populations. Bob Stoker has examined the difficulties inherent in policy implementation in a system of government in which separate institutions share power. He also has extensive experience as a policy analyst. Clarence Stone's research focuses on the politics of urban areas, including issues pertaining to policymaking in the area of public education.  Along with faculty in related fields in the department and around the university, the public policy faculty have the expertise and experience to offer students both broad analytical training and specific guidance in the making of public policy in many areas of American politics.

Research Methods

The field of political methodology is growing rapidly, influencing the quality of empirical research in every substantive field of the discipline, and making important methodological contributions that transcend disciplinary boundaries. Our methods faculty are actively involved in these exciting developments, publishing in first-rate journals in a variety of fields both within and beyond political science.

Faculty members involved in teaching methods courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels include Steve Balla, Brandon Bartels, Eric Kramon,  Eric Lawrence, Jim Lebovic, Yon Lupu,  Corrine McConnaughy, Mike Miller, Harris Mylonas, John Sides, Paul Wahlbeck, and Susan Wiley. Their 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. Substantive interests of the group have spanned American politics, public policy, international relations, political economy, and comparative politics.