Political Science BA

Program Purpose


The political science major is designed to fulfill the admonition of the Doctrine and Covenants (88:79–80) to teach one another "things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms that ye may be prepared in all things." Politics extends far beyond the immediate concerns of politicians or pollsters; it is essential to the human condition. Since we are all shaped by the institutions we inhabit, political science helps us to understand not only our world, but ourselves. It involves fundamental choices concerning our life in communities whether locally, nationally, or globally. Without politics there could be only chaos and conflict. With politics there is the chance for order and thus the opportunity to seek prosperity and fulfillment. Often conflictual, but just as often cooperative, politics reflects our basic needs and interests, our highest aspirations, and the often harsh requirements of power.

Political science involves this full range of inquiry, including questions of "who gets what," questions of the best or most just political order, and questions of the nature, uses, and abuses of power. Political science students will be exposed to a broad range of perspectives or great ideas about politics to better understand questions such as "Why is campaign finance reform so difficult?" "Why did the Soviet Union fall?" "Were the Athenians justified in condemning Socrates to death?" and "Do democracies fight fewer wars?" Students will learn a variety of methods ranging from statistical analysis of quantifiable data to historical comparison of institutions to reflection on influential texts. Before graduating, students will not only better define their own values and ideas about politics but also develop their own significant research project as political scientists. Students will be prepared "in all things" to influence their communities for the better.

The paragraphs above are our Department mission statement, which we believe serves multiple goals. The learning outcomes for students are given in this statement, but we also give examples and explain the breadth of political science topics in this same statement.

Curricular Structure

Major Academic Plan (MAP)

Undergraduate Catalog

Learning Outcomes


Not every one of these goals can be easily measured with direct assessment techniques. Nevertheless, our list of goals is inclusive because we believe that goals should not be chosen or given priority because a certain goal is easily measurable in contrast to a different, perhaps more appropriate goal, that is more difficult to measure.

We have distilled the following expected learning outcomes from our mission statement and organized them under the "Aims of a BYU Education." Successful graduates of the political science major will:

Be intellectually enlarged.

Understand Political Science and Its Subfields

Demonstrate advanced understanding of the discipline of political science, including familiarity with each of the four major subfields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political philosophy.

Courses that Contribute: PL SC 101R PL SC 110 PL SC 150 PL SC 201 PL SC 202 PL SC 399R POLI 110 POLI 150 POLI 170 POLI 201 POLI 202 POLI 210 POLI 249R POLI 250 POLI 270 POLI 311 POLI 313 POLI 315 POLI 316 POLI 318 POLI 321 POLI 324 POLI 331 POLI 335 POLI 344 POLI 354 POLI 362 POLI 363 POLI 364 POLI 365 POLI 367 POLI 371 POLI 372 POLI 373 POLI 375 POLI 377 POLI 381 POLI 382 POLI 386 POLI 387 POLI 391 POLI 392R POLI 393R POLI 394R POLI 399R POLI 400 POLI 410 POLI 420 POLI 421 POLI 430 POLI 444 POLI 450 POLI 452 POLI 462 POLI 466 POLI 470 POLI 472 POLI 498R POLI 499 POLI 579R
Linked to BYU Aims: Human knowledge, Competence
Employ Rigorous Research Methods

Use rigorous methods of research design and analysis to answer political questions, including multiple research methodologies.

Courses that Contribute: PL SC 150 PL SC 202 PL SC 399R PL SC 539R POLI 200 POLI 202 POLI 210 POLI 249R POLI 250 POLI 270 POLI 278 POLI 303 POLI 304 POLI 305 POLI 306R POLI 315 POLI 317 POLI 324 POLI 328 POLI 331 POLI 332 POLI 333 POLI 343 POLI 344 POLI 347 POLI 348 POLI 354 POLI 358 POLI 362 POLI 364 POLI 367 POLI 371 POLI 372 POLI 374 POLI 375 POLI 376 POLI 377 POLI 380 POLI 386 POLI 392R POLI 393R POLI 394R POLI 399R POLI 400 POLI 410 POLI 420 POLI 421 POLI 430 POLI 450 POLI 465 POLI 470 POLI 475 POLI 497R POLI 498R POLI 499 POLI 539R
Linked to BYU Aims: Quantitative reasoning, Competence
Write and Speak with Originality and Clarity

Write and speak with originality and clarity, providing reasons and evidence to support claims using proper citation of source material.

Courses that Contribute: PL SC 201 PL SC 399R PL SC 539R POLI 200 POLI 201 POLI 210 POLI 249R POLI 250 POLI 278 POLI 302 POLI 303 POLI 304 POLI 305 POLI 306R POLI 313 POLI 324 POLI 328 POLI 331 POLI 341 POLI 342 POLI 343 POLI 344 POLI 347 POLI 348 POLI 354 POLI 358 POLI 362 POLI 364 POLI 367 POLI 371 POLI 372 POLI 373 POLI 375 POLI 376 POLI 377 POLI 380 POLI 385 POLI 386 POLI 387 POLI 392R POLI 393R POLI 394R POLI 397 POLI 399R POLI 400 POLI 410 POLI 420 POLI 421 POLI 422 POLI 430 POLI 444 POLI 450 POLI 462 POLI 470 POLI 475 POLI 476 POLI 497R POLI 498R POLI 499 POLI 539R POLI 579R
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively, Competence
Think Critically and Analytically about Politics

Think critically and analytically about government, political processes, and political theories, including the components of a good society.

Courses that Contribute: PL SC 201 PL SC 202 PL SC 339R PL SC 539R POLI 150 POLI 170 POLI 201 POLI 202 POLI 210 POLI 249R POLI 250 POLI 270 POLI 278 POLI 302 POLI 303 POLI 304 POLI 305 POLI 306R POLI 313 POLI 315 POLI 316 POLI 317 POLI 318 POLI 321 POLI 324 POLI 328 POLI 331 POLI 333 POLI 334 POLI 339R POLI 341 POLI 343 POLI 344 POLI 345 POLI 347 POLI 348 POLI 354 POLI 357 POLI 358 POLI 362 POLI 364 POLI 367 POLI 371 POLI 372 POLI 373 POLI 374 POLI 375 POLI 376 POLI 380 POLI 381 POLI 385 POLI 386 POLI 387 POLI 392R POLI 393R POLI 394R POLI 400 POLI 420 POLI 421 POLI 422 POLI 444 POLI 462 POLI 465 POLI 466 POLI 472 POLI 473 POLI 474 POLI 475 POLI 476 POLI 497R POLI 498R POLI 499 POLI 539R POLI 599R
Linked to BYU Aims: Think soundly, Human knowledge

Have a lifelong desire to learn and to serve.

Collaborate Effectively

Collaborate effectively with others, including participation in political processes and engagement on issues of political importance. 

Courses that Contribute: PL SC 150 PL SC 201 PL SC 297 PL SC 399R POLI 110 POLI 150 POLI 170 POLI 201 POLI 297R POLI 311 POLI 324 POLI 354 POLI 362 POLI 373 POLI 376 POLI 386 POLI 391 POLI 397 POLI 399R POLI 420 POLI 421 POLI 472 POLI 599R
Linked to BYU Aims: Lifelong learning, Lifelong service

Evidence of Learning


Direct Measures

"Demonstrate advanced understanding of the discipline of political science, including familiarity with each of the four major subfields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political philosophy." Scores on the senior exam for political science, comparing BYU student scores against scores of comparable seniors at universities across the nation. Improvement in these exam scores comparing 1st year BYU students with graduating seniors.

"Use rigorous methods of research design and analysis to answer political questions, including multiple research methodologies." Improvement on the quantitative exam given before and after the Department's methodological sequence of courses. Student participation in publishing and conferences.

"Write and speak with originality and clarity, providing reasons and evidence to support claims using proper citation of source material."  Evaluations of selected capstone papers using nationally normed writing evaluation software. Improvement in writing from first year papers to capstone papers using nationally normed writing evaluation software. The number of students completing the oral presentation requirement in capstone courses. Student participation in conferences, thesis defenses, and publishing.

"Think critically and analytically about government, political processes, and political theories, including the components of a good society." Comparative data on student admissions to professional and academic graduate degree programs.

"Collaborate effectively with others, including participation in political processes and engagement on issues of political importance."  Participation in political processes, including voting, deliberation, and community service as assessed by the alumni survey. Membership in political discipline-related service organizations.

Indirect Measures

"Demonstrate advanced understanding of the discipline of political science, including familiarity with each of the four major subfields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political philosophy." Senior and alumni surveys on the political science knowledge learned in the major. Faculty evaluation through the annual stewardship process of the quality of course syllabi used in Department courses. Virtually all course assignments. The ETS exams administered to freshmen and seniors.

"Use rigorous methods of research design and analysis to answer political questions, including multiple research methodologies." Student performance on the Graduate Record Examinations, Law School Admissions Test, and Graduate Management Admissions Test. Comparative data on student admissions to professional and academic graduate degree programs. Senior and alumni surveys on methodological education in the major. Feedback from alumni through the national advisory council. The annual quantitative skills tests administered to 328 students.

"Write and speak with originality and clarity, providing reasons and evidence to support claims using proper citation of source material." Feedback from students and alumni on writing in the major through surveys, the national advisory council, and informal professor-student discussions. Number of courses that meet the Department minimum standards for writing in a course. Comprative assessment of capstone papers. Course-level writing assessments. Student publications and professional presentations. Feedback from students and alumni on presentation skills through surveys and the national advisory council. Course-specific oral presentation assessments.

"Think critically and analytically about government, political processes, and political theories, including the components of a good society." Feedback from students and alumni on thinking skills through surveys, the national advisory council, and informal professor-student discussions. Course-based assessment.

"Collaborate effectively with others, including participation in political processes and engagement on issues of political importance." Senior and alumni surveys on political participation and community engagement. Senior and alumni survey responses on attitudes towards service.

Learning and Teaching Assessment and Improvement


The department chair is ultimately responsible for collecting this data. The Department Executive Committee is responsible for evaluating the data and recommending changes, at least once year year. The Department as a whole is responsible for approving and implementing any changes.