Political Science Research 1The goal of this list of 1500 political science research paper topics is to provide students and researchers with the fullest outline of the study of politics. Politics has many definitions; Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary offers one of the classic and broadest definitions of politics as the quest for good government. Politics is thus one of the most consequential of collective human activities and, next to religion, possibly the oldest. The search for good government has engaged humans from the time they formed groups and communities; modern political science brings an unprecedented toolbox of conceptual and empirical instruments to this search.

1500 Political Science Research Paper Topics

The Discipline of Political Science

1. History of Political Science
2. Political Science Associations
3. Political Science Journals
4. Politics

African Politics and Society

5. African Political Economy
6. African Political Thought
7. African Politics and Society
8. African Union
9. Afro-Marxism
10. Anglophone Africa
11. Authoritarianism, African
12. Francophone Africa
13. Horn of Africa
14. Lusophone Africa
15. Pan-Africanism
16. Postindependent Africa, Politics and Governance in
17. Prebendalism

American Politics and Society

18. Americanization
19. Articles of Confederation
20. Electoral College
21. Faith-based Initiative
22. Great Society
23. Jacksonian Democracy
24. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender U.S. Legal Questions
25. McCarthyism
26. New Deal
27. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
28. Pork Barrel
29. State of the Union
30. Town Hall Meeting
31. U.S. Political Thought
32. U.S. Politics and Society: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Political Identity
33. White Primary

Asian Politics and Society

34. Asian Political Thought
35. Asia Pacific Region Politics and Society
36. Chinese Political Thought
37. Gandhism
38. Glasnost
39. Indian Ocean Region
40. Kashmir
41. Mandarins
42. Oriental Despotism
43. Panchayat
44. Perestroika
45. Russian Political Thought
46. Satyagraha
47. Soviet Union, Former
48. Tiananmen Square

Comparative Politics

49. Communism, Fall of, and End of History
50. Constitutional Systems, Comparative
51. Convergence Theory
52. Decolonization
53. Economic Systems, Comparative
54. Electoral Systems, Comparative
55. Federalism, Comparative
56. Institutionalism, Comparative
57. Judicial Systems, Comparative
58. Law, Comparative
59. Legislative Systems, Comparative
60. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Movements, Comparative
61. Mission Civilisatrice
62. Party Systems, Comparative
63. Political Economy, Comparative
64. Politics, Comparative
65. Postcommunism
66. Regional Integration, Comparative
67. Reparations
68. Social Movements, Comparative
69. Transitional Justice
70. Transitional Regimes
71. Transitology
72. Women’s Movement, Comparative

Constitutions and Constitutionalism

73. Commerce Clause
74. Constitutional Amendments
75. Constitutional Democracy
76. Constitutional Law
77. Constitutional Monarchy
78. Constitution Amending Procedures
79. Constitutions, Unwritten
80. Constitutions and Constitutionalism
81. Emergency Powers
82. Federalist Papers
83. Manifesto
84. Necessary and Sufficient Condition
85. Original Intent
86. Pronunciamiento

Culture, Media, and Language

87. Blogs and Bloggers
88. Cartoons, Political
89. Censorship
90. Cultural Relations
91. Humor, Political
92. Information Society
93. Internet and Politics
94. Journalism, Political
95. Language and Language Policy
96. Language and Politics
97. Media, Political Commentary in the
98. Media and Politics
99. Media Bias
100. Media Effect
101. Motion Pictures and Politics
102. Music, Political
103. National Anthems
104. Network Society
105. News, Construction of
106. Novel, Political
107. Poetry and Politics
108. Political Correctness
109. Political Culture
110. Politics, Literature, and Film
111. Press/Fourth Estate
112. Protest Music
113. Satire, Political
114. Talk Radio
115. Television and Politics
116. Theater, Political

Democracy and Democratization

117. Anti-democratic Thought
118. Capitalism and Democracy
119. Civic Education
120. Consociational Democracy
121. Deliberative Democracy
122. Democracy
123. Democracy, Future of
124. Democracy and Democratization
125. Democracy and Development
126. Democratic Peace
127. Democratic Transition
128. Digital Democracy
129. Direct Democracy
130. Emerging Democracies
131. Empire and Democracy
132. Global Democratic Deficit
133. Greek Democracy, Classical
134. Industrial Democracy
135. Liberal Democracy
136. Parliamentary Democracy
137. Participatory Democracy
138. Polyarchy
139. Representative Democracy
140. Self-determination
141. Third Way and Social Democracy
142. Toleration

Ethics and Political Corruption

143. Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard
144. Corruption, Political
145. Corruption and Other Political Pathologies
146. Democracy and Corruption
147. Ethics, Political
148. Patronage
149. Scandals and Blame Management, Political
150. Spoils System

European Politics and Society

151. Balkans
152. Baltic States
153. Basque Separatism
154. British Political Thought
155. Europe, Democracy in
156. Europeanization
157. European Political Thought
158. European Politics and Society
159. European Union (EU)
160. French Political Thought
161. German Political Thought
162. Immobolisme
163. Italian Political Thought
164. New Europe
165. Northern Ireland
166. Old Europe
167. State Formation, European
168. West, Decline of the

Federalism and Local Politics

169. Autogestion
170. Center-periphery Relations (Federalism)
171. Centralization, Deconcentration, and Decentralization
172. Commonwealth
173. Community Power
174. Devolution
175. Distribution of Powers (in a Federation)
176. Divided Government
177. Federalism and Foreign Relations
178. Federal Mandates
179. Inner Cities
180. Intergovernmental Relations
181. Interstate Compacts
182. Interstate Rendition
183. Local Politics
184. Mayor
185. Megacities
186. Municipal Government
187. Power Sharing
188. Regions and Regional Governments
189. States’ Rights
190. Subsidiarity
191. Unitary Government
192. Urban Economic Development
193. Urban Housing
194. Urban Inequality and Poverty
195. Urbanization
196. Urban Land Use and Town Planning
197. Urban Migration

Foreign Policy

198. Alliances
199. Atlantic Charter
200. Bandwagoning
201. Boundary Making and Boundary Disputes
202. Brinkmanship
203. Chauvinism
204. Diplomacy
205. Doctrines
206. Extradition
207. Extraterritoriality
208. Foreign Aid
209. Foreign Policy
210. Foreign Policy Role
211. Great Power
212. Gunboat Diplomacy
213. Humanitarian Intervention
214. International Cooperation
215. Iron Curtain
216. Isolationism
217. Marshall Plan
218. Millennium Development Goals
219. Monetary Union
220. Monroe Doctrine
221. Multilateralism
222. New World Order
223. Nobel Peace Prize
224. Nonalignment
225. Nonstate Actors
226. North-South Relations
227. Pax Americana
228. Power Cycle Theory
229. Power Transition Theory
230. Public Diplomacy
231. Refugees
232. Sanctions and Embargoes
233. Statecraft
234. Strategic Interest
235. Summit Diplomacy
236. Third World Debt

Gender and Politics

237. Feminism
238. Feminism, Postcolonial
239. Feminism, Radical
240. Feminism, Socialist
241. Feminist Legal Theory
242. Feminist Movement
243. Feminist Political Theory
244. Feminization of Poverty
245. Gender and Globalization
246. Gender and Politics
247. Gender Gap
248. Gender Issues
249. Gender Mainstreaming
250. Gender Quotas
251. Glass Ceiling
252. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Political Participation
253. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Politics
254. Misogyny
255. Patriarchy
256. Presidency and Women
257. Queer Theory
258. Sexism
259. U.S. Politics and Society: Women, Political Participation of
260. Womanism
261. Women, Violence Against
262. Women and Security
263. Women in Islamic Nations
264. Women Legislators
265. Women’s Representation
266. Women’s Rights
267. Women’s Studies
268. Women’s Suffrage

Globalization and Politics

269. Anti- and Alter-globalization Movements
270. Clash of Civilizations
271. Globalism
272. Globalization
273. Globalization and Development
274. Guest Workers
275. Human Development Index
276. Interdependence
277. Mass Immigration
278. Modernization
279. Structural Adjustment Program (IMF)

Political Ideologies

280. Agrarianism
281. Anarchism
282. Anticlericalism
283. Baathism
284. Bolshevism
285. Caesarism
286. Chartism
287. Christian Socialism
288. Communism
289. Communitarianism
290. Conservatism
291. Contagion of the Left
292. Democratic Centralism
293. Democratic Socialism
294. Dialectical Materialism
295. Fabianism
296. Fascism
297. Federalism
298. Fidelism (Castroism)
299. Fiscal Conservatism
300. Guild Socialism
301. Hamiltonianism
302. Ideologies, Political
303. Individualism
304. Irredentism
305. Kemalism
306. Keynesianism
307. Leninism
308. Libertarianism
309. Maoism
310. Market Socialism
311. Marxism
312. Menshevism
313. Multiculturalism
314. Mutualism
315. Nationalism
316. National Socialism
317. Negritude
318. Neoconservatism
319. Nepotism
320. New Conservatism
321. New Left
322. Peronism
323. Primitive Communism
324. Progressivism
325. Radicalism
326. Republicanism
327. Revisionism
328. Social Conservatism
329. Social Darwinism
330. Social Democracy
331. Socialism
332. Socialist Transition
333. Stalinism
334. Syndicalism
335. Thatcherism
336. Totalitarianism
337. Zionism

Institutions and Checks and Balances

338. Accountability
339. Advise and Consent
340. Censure
341. Checks and Balances
342. Coalition Theory
343. Executive Privilege
344. Executive, The
345. Governance
346. Impeachment
347. Impoundment
348. Ombudsman
349. Term Limits
350. Transparency

Interest Groups and Lobbies

351. Advocacy Groups
352. Business Pressure in Politics
353. Campaign Finance
354. Davos Conference
355. Farm Lobby
356. Interest Aggregation and Articulation
357. Interest Groups and Lobbies
358. Labor Unions
359. Lobbies, Professional
360. Lobbying
361. Patron-client Networks
362. Political Action Committee (PAC)
363. Pressure Groups
364. Proletariat
365. Public Interest Groups
366. Third Sector

International Relations

367. Balance of Power
368. Collapsed and Failed States
369. Economic Interdependence
370. Federation and Confederation
371. G7/G8 and G20
372. General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
373. Human Security
374. International Administration
375. International Court of Justice (ICJ)
376. International Criminal Court (ICC)
377. International Criminal Tribunals
378. International Labor Organization (ILO)
379. International Labor Standards
380. International Law
381. International Monetary Fund
382. International Norms
383. International Organization
384. International Relations
385. International Relations Doctrines of Power
386. International Relations Worldviews and Frameworks
387. International System
388. League of Nations
389. Mandate System
390. Multinational Corporation (MNC)
391. Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)
392. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
393. Organization of American States (OAS)
394. Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
395. Peace Corps
396. Relative Power
397. South (Third World)
398. State Compliance with International Law
399. Systems Structure
400. Systems Transformation
401. Transnationalism
402. Transnational Movements
403. Transnational Voting
404. Trusteeship System
405. United Nations
406. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
407. World Bank
408. World Trade Organization (WTO)

International Security and Arms Control

409. Arms Control
410. Arms Race
411. Conflict Resolution
412. Containment
413. Cooperative Security
414. Detente
415. Deterrence
416. Domino Theory
417. Insurgency
418. Intelligence Failure
419. Intelligence Services
420. Money Laundering
421. Mutual Assured Destruction
422. Nuclear Club
423. Nuclear Proliferation and Nonproliferation
424. Preemption
425. Reciprocity
426. Regional Security
427. Rogue States
428. Third-Party Intervention
429. Threat Perception
430. Weapons of Mass Destruction

Latin American Politics and Society

431. Aprismo
432. Caciquismo/Coronelismo
433. Caribbean
434. Clientelism
435. Clientelistic Parties in Latin America
436. Dependency Theory
437. Drug Cartels
438. Encuentros
439. Latin America and Globalization
440. Latin American Political Economy
441. Latin American Political Thought
442. Latin American Politics and Society
443. Latino Politics
444. Presidencialismo
445. Sandinismo

Law and Courts

446. Adjudication
447. Administrative Courts
448. Amicus Curiae Briefs
449. Arbitration
450. Capital Punishment
451. Civil Law
452. Common Law
453. Constitutional Courts
454. Due Process
455. Equal Protection
456. Executive Pardon
457. Habeas Corpus
458. Judicial Activism
459. Judicial Behavior
460. Judicial Independence
461. Judicial Philosophy and Decision-Making
462. Judicial Restraint
463. Judicial Review
464. Judicial Selection and Nomination
465. Judicial Supremacy
466. Judiciary
467. Jurisprudence and Legal Theory
468. Law and Society
469. Legal Profession
470. Legal Realism
471. Military Courts
472. Political Law
473. Political Prisoners
474. Precedent
475. Rule of Law
476. Sources of Law
477. Supreme Court
478. Trial Courts
479. Universal Jurisdiction

Legislative Studies

480. Appropriation
481. Caucus
482. Cloture
483. Congress, Contempt of
484. Delegated Legislation
485. Deliberation
486. Dissolution
487. European Parliament
488. Filibuster
489. Gatekeeping
490. General Assembly, United Nations (UN)
491. Incumbency
492. Legislative Drafting
493. Legislative Hearings
494. Legislative Systems
495. Legislature-court Relations
496. Lower Chamber
497. Ombudsman, Parliamentary
498. Parliamentary Discipline
499. Parliamentary Government
500. Parliamentary Immunity
501. Parliamentary Privilege
502. Parliamentary Rhetoric
503. Petition
504. Position Taking
505. Question Time
506. Recall
507. Redistricting
508. Rules of Order
509. Select Committee
510. Standing Committee
511. Unicameralism and Bicameralism
512. Upper Chamber
513. Ways and Means
514. Westminster Model
515. Whip

Middle Eastern Politics and Society

516. Arab-Israeli Relations
517. Arab League
518. Arab Political Economy
519. Arab Political Thought
520. Arab Socialism
521. Gulf States
522. Maghreb
523. Mashriq
524. Middle East Democratization
525. Middle Eastern Politics and Society
526. Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
527. Palestine
528. Pan-Arabism and Pan-Islamism
529. Sharia
530. Ummah

Nation and State

531. Administrative State
532. Autocracy
533. City-republic
534. Consent of the Governed
535. Divine Right of Kings
536. Dual Citizenship and Dual Nationality
537. Economic Theories of the State
538. Interregnum
539. Meritocracy
540. Minimal State
541. Monarchy
542. Nation
543. Nationality
544. Nationalization
545. Nation-Building
546. Nation-State
547. Oligarchy
548. Police State
549. Raison d’Etat
550. Regime
551. Republic
552. Sovereignty
553. State, Fiscal Crisis of the
554. State, Functions of the
555. State, Rights of the
556. State, The
557. State, Theories of the
558. State, Varieties of the
559. State Capacity
560. State Failure
561. State Formation
562. Stateless Nation
563. States, Size of
564. Welfare State

Political Behavior

565. Advocacy Coalition Networks
566. Boycott
567. Citizen Knowledge
568. Coalition Formation
569. Collective Action, Theory of
570. Cue Taking
571. Leadership
572. Negotiations and Bargaining
573. Political Agents
574. Political Attitudes and Behavior
575. Political Network Analysis
576. Political Participation
577. Principal-agent Theory
578. Prisoner’s Dilemma
579. Prospect Theory
580. Student Politics

Political Change

581. Assassinations, Political
582. Autogolpe
583. Civil Disobedience
584. Civil Wars
585. Collective Action and Mobilization
586. Coup d’Etat
587. Critical Juncture
588. Critical Realignment Theory
589. Labor Strikes
590. Nonviolence
591. Political Change
592. Postcommunist Transformation
593. Protests and Demonstrations
594. Regime Change
595. Revolutions, Comparative
596. Secession

Political Communication

597. Advertising, Political
598. Campaign Advertising
599. Communication, Two-step Flow of
600. Crisis Rhetoric
601. Debates, Political
602. Framing and Public Opinion
603. Jeremiad
604. Political Communication
605. Political Discourse
606. Propaganda
607. Rhetoric
608. Spin

Political Concepts

609. Alienation, Political
610. Allegiance
611. Anarchy
612. Authority
613. Autonomy
614. Charisma
615. Civic Humanism
616. Civil Society
617. Community
618. Consensus
619. Cosmopolitanism
620. Covenant
621. Deontology
622. Distributive Justice
623. Equality and Inequality
624. Essentialism
625. Fairness
626. False Consciousness
627. Freedom
628. General Will
629. Geopolitics
630. Group Cohesion
631. Groupthink
632. Judgment, Political
633. Justice and Injustice
634. Legitimacy
635. Natural Law
636. Political Obligation
637. Power
638. Prerogative
639. Priming
640. Progress
641. Public Good
642. Public-private Dichotomy
643. Relativism
644. Republicanism, Classical
645. Responsibility
646. Social Contract
647. State of Nature
648. Teratopolitics
649. Tradition
650. Tragedy of the Commons
651. Trust and Credibility
652. Tyranny, Classical
653. Universalism
654. Withering Away of the State

Political Economy

655. Autarky
656. Business Cycles, Political
657. Business Preference Formation
658. Centrally Planned Economy
659. Class and Politics
660. Class Consciousness, Envy, and Conflict
661. Common Goods
662. Consumer Society
663. Corporation
664. Democracies, Advanced Industrial
665. Dependence
666. Development, Economic
667. Development, Political Economy of
668. Development Administration
669. Dirigisme
670. Economic Development, State-led
671. Foreign Direct Investment
672. Free Trade
673. Heckscher-Ohlin Theorem
674. International Political Economy
675. Laissez-faire
676. Macroeconomics
677. Mercantilism
678. Microeconomics
679. New Institutionalism
680. Newly Industrializing Countries (NIC)
681. Nontariff Barriers to Trade
682. Numeraire and Dollarization
683. Political Economy
684. Postindustrial Society
685. Protectionism and Tariffs
686. Rent-seeking
687. State Capitalism
688. Stolper-Samuelson Theorem
689. Trade Blocs
690. Trade Diplomacy

Political Economy

691. Autarky
692. Business Cycles, Political
693. Business Preference Formation
694. Centrally Planned Economy
695. Class and Politics
696. Class Consciousness, Envy, and Conflict
697. Common Goods
698. Consumer Society
699. Corporation
700. Democracies, Advanced Industrial
701. Dependence
702. Development, Economic
703. Development, Political Economy of
704. Development Administration
705. Dirigisme
706. Economic Development, State-led
707. Foreign Direct Investment
708. Free Trade
709. Heckscher-Ohlin Theorem
710. International Political Economy
711. Laissez-faire
712. Macroeconomics
713. Mercantilism
714. Microeconomics
715. New Institutionalism
716. Newly Industrializing Countries (NIC)
717. Nontariff Barriers to Trade
718. Numeraire and Dollarization
719. Political Economy
720. Postindustrial Society
721. Protectionism and Tariffs
722. Rent-seeking
723. State Capitalism
724. Stolper-Samuelson Theorem
725. Trade Blocs
726. Trade Diplomacy

Political Organizations and Parties

727. Bloc
728. Campaigns
729. Candidate Recruitment
730. Candidate Selection
731. Christian Democratic Parties
732. Confessional Parties
733. Conservative Parties
734. Dealignment
735. Democratic Theory, Parties in
736. Emerging Democracies, Political Parties in
737. Ethnic Parties
738. Faction
739. Fascist Parties
740. Feminist Parties
741. Freezing of Party Alternatives
742. Fringe Parties
743. Green Parties
744. Left
745. Liberal Parties
746. Machine Politics
747. Marxist Parties
748. Nationalist Parties
749. New Right
750. One-party Systems
751. Opposition Politics
752. Organization Theory
753. Party and Social Structure
754. Party Discipline
755. Party Finance
756. Party Identification
757. Party Law
758. Party Membership
759. Party Organization
760. Political Parties
761. Programmatic Party
762. Realignment, Partisan
763. Religious Right
764. Right
765. Secular Realignment
766. Selectorate

Political Psychology

767. Cognitive Theory and Politics
768. Elite Decision Making
769. Elites, Political
770. Emotions in Politics
771. Group Relations
772. Human Nature and Politics
773. Judgment and Decision Making
774. Mass Political Behavior
775. Neuroscience and Politics
776. Political Psychology
777. Proportionality
778. Public Opinion
779. Social and Political Cognition
780. Socialization, Political

Political Theory

781. Cambridge School
782. Communalism
783. Consequentialism
784. Constructivism
785. Contractarianism
786. Counter-Enlightenment Political Thought
787. Critical Theory
788. Decisionism
789. Decision Theory, Foundations of
790. Democratic Theory
791. Empiricism
792. Enlightenment Political Thought
793. Formal Political Theory
794. Frankfurt School
795. Functionalism
796. Game Theory
797. Greek Political Thought, Ancient
798. Group Theory
799. Historical Interpretation
800. Historicism
801. Idealism
802. International Relations Theory
803. Liberal Theory
804. Liberalism, Classical
805. Normative Theory
806. Obligation, Theories of
807. Political Anthropology
808. Political Geography
809. Political Philosophy
810. Political Sociology
811. Political Theory
812. Political Thought, Foundations of
813. Positive Theory
814. Postcolonial Theory
815. Postmodernism
816. Pragmatism
817. Rational Choice Theory
818. Realism and Neorealism
819. Roman Political Thought
820. Scottish Enlightenment
821. Social Choice Theory
822. Sophists
823. Straussianism
824. Structuralism
825. Systems Analysis
826. Thomist, Scholastic, and Medieval Political Thought
827. Utilitarianism
828. Utopias and Politics
829. Virtue Theory

Politics and Society

830. Abortion and Politics
831. Affirmative Action
832. Assimilation
833. Civic Engagement
834. Commune
835. Contentious Politics
836. Culture Wars
837. Elite Theory
838. Euthanasia
839. Family Values
840. Individual and Society
841. Intersectionality
842. Lustration
843. Oligarchy, Iron Law of
844. Positive Discrimination
845. Reverse Discrimination
846. Social Capital
847. Social Engineering
848. Social Movements
849. Social Order
850. Subaltern Politics

Politics of Oppression

851. Absolutism
852. Anti-Semitism
853. Apartheid
854. Armenian Genocide
855. Banana Republic
856. Caste System
857. Collectivization
858. Colonialism
859. Cult of Personality
860. Dhimmi
861. Dictatorship of the Proletariat
862. Discrimination
863. Disinformation
864. Endangered Cultures
865. Ethnic Cleansing
866. Feudalism
867. Genocide
868. Gleichshaltung
869. Hate Speech
870. Hegemony
871. Holocaust
872. Homophobia
873. Imperialism
874. Internal Colonialism
875. Jacobinism
876. Organized Crime and Mafia
877. Paternalism
878. Predatory Government
879. Sedition
880. Sex Workers and Trafficking
881. Slavery
882. State Repression
883. Torture
884. White Supremacy
885. Xenophobia

Public Administration

886. Administrative Law
887. Attorney General
888. Budgeting
889. Bureaucracy
890. Bureaucratic Authoritarianism
891. Cabinets and Cabinet Formation
892. Central Bank
893. Chancellor
894. Civil Service
895. Cohabitation
896. Conseil d’Etat
897. Deregulation
898. Dual Executive
899. Executive Immunity
900. Executive Order
901. Good Governance
902. Governor
903. Inspector General
904. Knowledge Management
905. National Archives
906. Open Government
907. Performance Management
908. Police Powers
909. Prime Minister (Head of Government)
910. Privatization
911. Public Domain
912. Public Enterprises
913. Public Utilities
914. Quangos
915. Regulation and Rulemaking
916. Rulemaking
917. Self-government
918. Semi-presidential System
919. Shadow Cabinet

Public Policy

920. Agenda Control
921. Agenda Setting
922. AIDS, Politics of
923. Antitrust Policy
924. Climate Change Conferences, United Nations
925. Crime Policy
926. Cultural Policy
927. Disaster Relief
928. Drug Policy
929. Economic Policy Formulation
930. Education Policy
931. Education Policy, Higher
932. Environmental Policy
933. Fiscal Policy
934. Food Policy
935. Garbage Can Model of the Policy Process
936. Governability
937. Health Care Policy
938. Homelessness
939. Immigration Policy
940. Incrementalism
941. Labor Policy
942. Mining Policy
943. Monetary Policy
944. National Security Policy
945. Oversight
946. Policy Analysis
947. Policy-centered Entrepreneurship
948. Policy Evaluation
949. Policy Innovation
950. Policy Meta-analysis
951. Policy Networks and Communications
952. Policy Theory
953. Political Party Platform
954. Poverty
955. Price and Wage Controls
956. Program Evaluation and Auditing
957. Public Policy
958. Public Policy Development
959. Punctuated Equilibrium
960. Quality of Life
961. Science Policy
962. Sentencing Policy
963. Social Policy
964. Social Security
965. Social Welfare
966. Stages Model of Policy Process
967. Taxation
968. Telecommunications Policy
969. Think Tanks

Qualitative/Quantitative Methods

970. Analytic Narrative
971. Bayesian Analysis
972. Behavioral Game Theory
973. Case Studies
974. Causal Inference
975. Causation and Correlation
976. Computational Modeling
977. Concept Analysis
978. Content Analysis
979. Correlation
980. Cost-benefit Analysis
981. Counterfactual
982. Discourse Analysis
983. Duration Model
984. Ecological Fallacy
985. Elite Interview
986. Equilibrium and Chaos
987. Error Correction Model
988. Event History and Duration Modeling
989. Experimental Design
990. Field Experiment
991. Forecasting, Political
992. Heuristics
993. Hierarchical Modeling
994. Historical Method, Comparative
995. Inference
996. Interview Techniques
997. Linear Model
998. Logistic Regression
999. Measurement Theory
1000. Minimal Effects Model
1001. Mixed Method
1002. Multilevel Analysis
1003. Multiple Streams Theory
1004. Panel Studies
1005. Parametric Statistical Model
1006. Partial Least Squares
1007. Participant Observation
1008. Path Dependencies
1009. Political Risk Assessment
1010. Power Indices
1011. Process Tracing
1012. Q-methodology
1013. Qualitative Analysis
1014. Qualitative Methodologies
1015. Quantitative Analysis
1016. Quasi-experiment
1017. Questionnaire
1018. Regression with Categorical Data
1019. Reliability
1020. Reliability and Validity Assessment
1021. Resampling Methods
1022. Research Design
1023. Roll-call Analysis
1024. Simulation
1025. Simultaneous Equation Modeling
1026. Small-n and Case Study
1027. Spatial Analysis
1028. Statistical Analysis
1029. Structural Equations Model (SEM)
1030. Survey Research
1031. Survey Techniques and Design
1032. Time-series Analysis
1033. Validity

Race, Ethnicity, and Politics

1034. Asian American Identity and Groups
1035. Critical Race Theory
1036. Deracialization
1037. Diasporas
1038. Ethnocentrism
1039. Identity, Politics of
1040. Immigration, Effects on Intergroup Relations
1041. Immigration, Politics of
1042. Jim Crow
1043. Latino Partisanship and Ideological Orientations
1044. Mexican Immigration
1045. Migration
1046. NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
1047. Panethnicity
1048. Race and Gender
1049. Race and Racism
1050. Racial Discrimination
1051. Segregation and Desegregation
1052. U.S. Politics and Society: African American Political Participation
1053. U.S. Politics and Society: African American Social Movements
1054. U.S. Politics and Society: Latino Political Participation
1055. U.S. Politics and Society: Minority Interest Groups

Religion and Politics

1056. Buddhist Political Thought
1057. Church and State
1058. Civil Religion
1059. Clericalism
1060. Concordat
1061. Confucian Political Thought
1062. Evangelicalism
1063. Fundamentalism
1064. Hindu Political Thought
1065. Investiture
1066. Islamic Political Thought
1067. Jewish Political Thought
1068. Laicite
1069. Liberation Theology
1070. Orthodoxy in Political Thought
1071. Papacy
1072. Pentecostalism
1073. Political Theology
1074. Protestant Political Thought
1075. Puritanism
1076. Reformation Political Thought
1077. Religion and Politics
1078. Religious Minorities
1079. Religious Parties
1080. Religious Persecution
1081. Roman Catholic Social Thought
1082. Secularism
1083. State Church
1084. Theocracy

Representation and Electoral Systems

1085. Absentee Voting
1086. Additional Member System
1087. Alternate Delegate
1088. Apparentement
1089. Approval Voting
1090. At-Large Election
1091. Australian Ballot
1092. Ballot Design
1093. Binomial Electoral System
1094. Block Vote
1095. By(e)-election
1096. Compulsory Voting
1097. Constituency
1098. Constituency Relations
1099. Consultants, Political
1100. Convenience Voting
1101. Cube Law
1102. Cumulative Voting
1103. Delegation, Theories of
1104. Descriptive Representation
1105. D’Hondt Method
1106. Disenfranchisement
1107. Districting
1108. District Magnitude
1109. Droop Quota
1110. Duverger’s Law
1111. Election Commission
1112. Election Monitoring
1113. Electoral Administration
1114. Electoral Cycles
1115. Electoral Formulas
1116. Electoral Geography
1117. Electoral Quotas
1118. Electoral Reform
1119. Electoral Rules
1120. Electoral Systems
1121. Electronic Voting
1122. Empowerment
1123. Estates
1124. Exit Poll
1125. First Past the Post
1126. Floating Voter
1127. Fractionalization Index
1128. Functional Representation
1129. Gerrymandering
1130. Impossibility Theorem
1131. Indirect Elections
1132. Initiative and Referendum
1133. Limited Vote
1134. Majority-minority District
1135. Mandate Theory
1136. Marginal District
1137. Minority Representation
1138. Mobilization, Political
1139. Negative Campaigning
1140. Pillarization
1141. Plebiscite
1142. Pluralism
1143. Polling, History of
1144. Preferential Voting
1145. Primaries
1146. Proportional Representation
1147. Psephology
1148. Qualified Majority Voting
1149. Quotas
1150. Representation and Representative
1151. Representative Systems
1152. Reserved Seat
1153. Roll Off
1154. Rotten Boroughs
1155. Run-off
1156. Sacrificial Lamb Candidacy
1157. Split Ticket Voting
1158. Strategic Voting
1159. Tactical Voting
1160. Ticket Splitting
1161. Turnout
1162. Vote, Transferable and Nontransferable
1163. Voter Registration Drive
1164. Voting Behavior
1165. Voting Cycles and Arrow’s Paradox
1166. Voting Machines and Technology
1167. Voting Procedures
1168. Weighted Vote Systems
1169. Winner-Take-All

Rights and Freedoms

1170. Academic Freedom
1171. Animal Rights
1172. Asylum Rights
1173. Bill of Rights
1174. Children’s Rights
1175. Citizenship
1176. Civil and Political Rights
1177. Civil Rights Movement
1178. Copyright
1179. Cultural Rights
1180. Disability Rights
1181. Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
1182. Entitlements
1183. Freedom of Assembly
1184. Freedom of Association
1185. Freedom of Conscience
1186. Freedom of Information
1187. Freedom of Movement
1188. Freedom of Religion
1189. Freedom of Speech
1190. Freedom of the Press
1191. Freedom to Bear Arms
1192. Human Rights
1193. Intellectual Property Rights
1194. International Bill of Rights
1195. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights
1196. Magna Carta
1197. Naturalization
1198. Natural Rights
1199. Privacy
1200. Privacy Rights
1201. Property Rights
1202. Reproductive Rights
1203. Right to Die
1204. Right to Life
1205. Tyranny of the Majority and Minority Rights
1206. Universal Declaration of Human Rights
1207. Voting Rights and Suffrage
1208. Welfare Rights
1209. Workers’ Rights

Science, Technology, and Politics

1210. Bioethics and Politics
1211. Biology and Political Science
1212. Cryptography
1213. Cybersecurity
1214. Ecological Analysis
1215. E-governance, E-voting, E-democracy, E-politics
1216. Environmental Political Theory
1217. Information Technology and Politics
1218. Kyoto Protocol
1219. Political Ecology
1220. Science, Technology, and Politics
1221. Sociobiology and Politics

War, Peace, and Terrorism

1222. Appeasement
1223. Asymmetric Wars
1224. Casus Belli
1225. Civil-military Relations
1226. Cold War
1227. Colonial Wars
1228. Cyberterrorism
1229. Eco-terrorism
1230. Geneva Conventions
1231. Homeland Security
1232. Insurrection and Insurgency
1233. Jihad
1234. Just War Theory
1235. Legitimate Violence
1236. Martial Law
1237. Military-industrial Complex
1238. Military Rule
1239. Militias
1240. Neutrality
1241. Noncombatant Prisoners
1242. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
1243. Occupation and Annexation
1244. Pacifism and Conscientious Objection
1245. Peace
1246. Post-9/11 Politics
1247. Prisoners of War (POWs)
1248. Strategy, Military
1249. Surveillance
1250. Terrorism, Financing of
1251. Terrorism, Political
1252. Terrorism, State-sponsored
1253. War, Distraction Theory of
1254. War Crimes
1255. Warlordism
1256. War Powers
1257. Wars of Independence
1258. War Termination


1259. Addams, Jane
1260. Adorno, Theodor W.
1261. Aflaq, Michel
1262. Alighieri, Dante
1263. Alker, Hayward R.
1264. Almond, Gabriel
1265. Althusius, Johannes
1266. Althusser, Louis
1267. Anthony, Susan Brownell
1268. Arendt, Hannah
1269. Aristotle
1270. Arnold, Thurman Wesley
1271. Aron, Raymond
1272. Astell, Mary
1273. Augustine of Hippo
1274. Bachrach, Peter
1275. Bagehot, Walter
1276. Bahro, Rudolf
1277. Bakunin, Mikhail
1278. Banfield, Edward C.
1279. Banks, Jeffrey S.
1280. Barker, Ernest
1281. Barres, Maurice
1282. Bassett, Reginald
1283. Baudrillard, Jean
1284. Bauer, Otto
1285. Beard, Charles A.
1286. Beauvoir, Simone de
1287. Beccaria, Cesare
1288. Beer, Samuel Hutchison
1289. Bellarmine, Robert
1290. Bentham, Jeremy
1291. Bentley, Arthur Fisher
1292. Berelson, Bernard R.
1293. Berle, Adolf Augustus
1294. Berlin, Isaiah
1295. Bernstein, Eduard
1296. Blackstone, William
1297. Blanqui, Louis-Auguste
1298. Bloch, Ernst
1299. Bobbio, Norberto
1300. Bodin, Jean
1301. Boff, Leonardo
1302. Bonald, Louis Gabriel-Ambroise, vicomte de
1303. Bookchin, Murray
1304. Bourdieu, Pierre
1305. Bryce, James
1306. Bukharin, Nikolai Ivanovich
1307. Bull, Hedley
1308. Bunche, Ralph Johnson
1309. Burke, Edmund
1310. Burnham, James
1311. Calhoun, John
1312. Calvin, John
1313. Campbell, Albert Angus
1314. Camus, Albert
1315. Carr, E. H.
1316. Carter, Gwendolen M.
1317. Castoriadis, Cornelius
1318. Catlin, George Edward Gordon
1319. Chamberlain, Houston Stewart
1320. Cicero, Marcus Tullius
1321. Cole, George Douglas Howard
1322. Comte, Auguste
1323. Condorcet, Marquis de
1324. Constant de Rebeque, Henri-Benjamin
1325. Corwin, Edward Samuel
1326. Croce, Benedetto
1327. Crosland, Charles Anthony Raven
1328. Crossman, Richard
1329. Derrida, Jacques
1330. Deutsch, Karl W.
1331. Dewey, John
1332. Dexter, Lewis Anthony
1333. Dicey, Albert Venn
1334. Diderot, Denis
1335. Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt
1336. Durkheim, Emile
1337. Eckstein, Harry
1338. Edelman, Murray J.
1339. Einaudi, Mario Luigi
1340. Elazar, Daniel J.
1341. Engels, Friedrich
1342. Fainsod, Merle
1343. Fanon, Frantz
1344. Al-Farabi
1345. Filmer, Sir Robert
1346. Follett, Mary Parker
1347. Ford, Henry Jones
1348. Foucault, Michel Paul
1349. Frank, Andre Gunder
1350. Freire, Paulo
1351. Freund, Ernst
1352. Friedan, Betty
1353. Fromm, Erich
1354. Furnivall, John Sydenham
1355. Garvey, Marcus M.
1356. Gellner, Ernest
1357. Gentile, Giovanni
1358. George, Alexander L.
1359. George, Henry
1360. Gilman, Charlotte Anna Perkins
1361. Godwin, William
1362. Goldman, Emma
1363. Goodnow, Frank Johnson
1364. Gosnell, Harold Foote
1365. Gramsci, Antonio
1366. Grotius, Hugo
1367. Gulick, Luther Halsey, III
1368. Hamilton, Alexander
1369. Harrington, James
1370. Hartz, Louis
1371. Hayek, Freidrich August von
1372. Heckscher, Gunnar
1373. Hegedus, Andras
1374. Hegel, Georg W. F.
1375. Heidegger, Martin
1376. Herzen, Alexander I.
1377. Hilferding, Rudolf
1378. Hobbes, Thomas
1379. Hobhouse, Leonard Trelawney
1380. Hobson, John Atkinson
1381. Holcombe, Arthur N.
1382. Hook, Sidney
1383. Hooker, Richard
1384. Horkheimer, Max
1385. Horvat, Branko
1386. Hume, David
1387. Huntington, Samuel P.
1388. Hyneman, Charles S.
1389. Ibn Taymiyya
1390. Illich, Ivan
1391. Jabotinsky, Vladimir
1392. Jacobson, Harold K.
1393. James, Cyril Lionel Robert
1394. James, William
1395. Jennings, Ivor
1396. Kant, Immanuel
1397. Kautilya
1398. Kautsky, Karl Johann
1399. Kelsen, Hans
1400. Key, V. O., Jr.
1401. Keynes, John Maynard
1402. Kirchheimer, Otto
1403. Kita Ikki
1404. Kohr, Leopold
1405. Kollontay, Aleksandra Mikhaylovna
1406. Kropotkin, Peter
1407. Kuhn, Thomas
1408. Laski, Harold Joseph
1409. Lasswell, Harold Dwight
1410. Lazarsfeld, Paul F.
1411. Le Bon, Gustave
1412. Lenin, Vladimir Ilich
1413. Lerner, Max
1414. Liang Qichao
1415. Li Dazhao
1416. Lieber, Francis
1417. Lincoln, Abraham
1418. Lipset, Seymour Martin
1419. Lipsius, Justus
1420. Locke, John
1421. Lowell, A. Lawrence
1422. Lukacs, Gyorgy
1423. Luther, Martin
1424. Luxemburg, Rosa
1425. Lu Xun
1426. Lyotard, Jean-Francois
1427. Machiavelli, Niccolo
1428. Macpherson, Crawford Brough
1429. Madison, James
1430. Maistre, Joseph Marie de
1431. Malatesta, Errico
1432. Mannheim, Karl
1433. Marcuse, Herbert
1434. Mariategui, Jose Carlos
1435. Maritain, Jacques
1436. Marsilius of Padua
1437. Marx, Karl
1438. McKelvey, Richard
1439. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
1440. Merriam, Charles E.
1441. Michels, Robert
1442. Miliband, Ralph
1443. Mill, James
1444. Mill, John Stuart
1445. Miller, Warren
1446. Mills, C. Wright
1447. Milton, John
1448. Montaigne, Michel de
1449. Montesquieu, Charles-Louis
1450. Moore, Barrington, Jr.
1451. More, Sir Thomas
1452. Morgenthau, Hans Joachim
1453. Morris, William
1454. Mosca, Gaetano
1455. Neumann, Franz
1456. Neustadt, Richard E.
1457. Niebuhr, Reinhold
1458. Nietzsche, Friedrich
1459. Nove, Alec
1460. Nozick, Robert
1461. Oakeshott, Michael Joseph
1462. Ogg, Frederick Austin
1463. Okin, Susan Moller
1464. Olson, Mancur
1465. Ortega y Gasset, Jose
1466. Orwell, George
1467. Otsuka Hisao
1468. Owen, Robert
1469. Paine, Thomas
1470. Pareto, Vilfredo
1471. Parsons, Talcott
1472. Peuchet, Jacques
1473. Plato
1474. Plekhanov, Grigorgii Valentinovich
1475. Polanyi, Karl
1476. Polsby, Nelson
1477. Polybius
1478. Pool, Ithiel de Sola
1479. Popper, Karl Raimund
1480. Poulantzas, Nicos
1481. Prebisch, Raul
1482. Priestley, Joseph
1483. Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph
1484. Ptolemy of Lucca
1485. Pufendorf, Samuel
1486. Pye, Lucien
1487. Rand, Ayn
1488. Rawls, John
1489. Reich, Wilhelm
1490. Renner, Karl
1491. Ricardo, David
1492. Riker, William
1493. Rokkan, Stein
1494. Rorty, Richard
1495. Rothbard, Murray N.
1496. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques
1497. Roy, Manabendra Nath
1498. Russell, Bertrand
1499. Sabine, George Holland
1500. Said, Edward
1501. Saint-Simon, Claude-Henri
1502. Sartre, Jean-Paul
1503. Schattschneider, Elmer E.
1504. Schmitt, Carl
1505. Schumacher, Ernst Friedrich
1506. Schumpeter, Joseph Alois
1507. Shklar, Judith N.
1508. Sidgwick, Henry
1509. Sidney, Algernon
1510. Sieyes, Emmanuel-Joseph
1511. Simon, Herbert Alexander
1512. Singer, J. David
1513. Skinner, Burrhus Frederic
1514. Smith, Adam
1515. Socrates
1516. Sorel, Georges
1517. Spengler, Oswald
1518. Spinoza, Baruch
1519. Stokes, Donald
1520. Strauss, Leo
1521. Sumner, William Graham
1522. Swift, Jonathan
1523. Tawney, Richard Henry
1524. Thomas Aquinas
1525. Thoreau, Henry David
1526. Thucydides
1527. Tocqueville, Alexis de
1528. Tolstoy, Leo
1529. Trotsky, Leon
1530. Unamuno, Miguel de
1531. Uno Kozo
1532. Veblen, Thorstein
1533. Voegelin, Eric
1534. Voltaire, Francois-Marie
1535. Washington, Booker T.
1536. Webb, Sidney and Beatrice Potter
1537. Weber, Max
1538. Weil, Simone
1539. Wheare, Kenneth C.
1540. White, Leonard D.
1541. Wildavsky, Aaron
1542. William of Ockham
1543. Williams, Raymond
1544. Wittgenstein, Ludwig
1545. Wittig, Monique
1546. Wollstonecraft, Mary
1547. Wright, Quincy
1548. Xenophon
1549. Yoshino Sakuzo
1550. Young, Iris Marion
1551. Zetkin, Clara

Political science is one of the world’s most interdisciplinary disciplines—there is scarcely any area of human life untouched by it. Political science impinges on and is influenced by public administration, electoral processes, economics, religion, legal systems, societal ethos, education, technology, science, and a host of other related activities and disciplines. Politics is about power: who wields it, how it should be used, and the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. Because politics determines the pathways to power, it also serves as the gateway to history: what is politics today is history tomorrow. Additionally, we have included a sample political science research paper on the evolution of the field. This sample research paper on evolution of political science features: 7000+ words (24 pages), APA format in-text citations, and a bibliography with 38 sources.

Evolution of Political Science Research Paper


I. Introduction

II. Conceptualizing Political Science: Truth, Knowledge, and Scientific Method

III. Evolution of Political Science: Debating the Scientific Methodologies

A. Beginning: Positivism and Inductive Political Science

B. Adjustment: Falsificationism and Deductive Political Science

C. Departure: Scientific Paradigms and Interpretive Political Science

D. Synergy: A Mixed Approach to Political Science

IV. Conclusion

I. Introduction

The scientific study of politics bears a rather short history. It was not until the 1950s that political science reached its attic as a distinct academic discipline. The less-than-a-century time frame, however, has seen significant developments in terms of theoretical and methodological divides. From positivism and interpretivism before the 1980s to a synergy of both thereafter, each of these prominent paradigms not only advocates different approaches to political analysis but also shares varying assumptions about the science of social inquiry. This research paper offers a general overview of the evolution of science and scientific methods. The central questions addressed include the following: (a)What is science and how can the study of politics be scientific? and (b) How did the contemporary debates in the philosophy of (social) science shape the methodological development in political science?

II. Conceptualizing Political Science: Truth, Knowledge, and Scientific Method

In its simplest sense, political science is a subbranch of social science, which means the scientific study of the political in human society, such as political actions, systems or institutions, and outcomes. This is often conducted through constructing concepts, models, and theories in order to describe and explain what the properties of the political and the underlying causal mechanisms are. Such inquiry of politics is in sharp distinction from the philosophical tradition of the discipline, which instead seeks to evaluate the political on the basis of normative values and principles. Although the latter tradition, which originated in ancient times, shares a much longer history, the former has expeditiously occupied a dominant standing since the mid- 20th century. How did the distinctive tradition evolve from there to here over the last several decades? One must begin with what political science is all about.

Literally, political science is composed of two essential components. The concept of the political is essentially contestable, but roughly it refers to any matters that involve or affect two or more individuals in which disagreements may arise. Under this definition, the political takes place in any collective human entity as a process of conflict resolution, which is composed of interactions among the agents within (action), arrangements of the entity per se (system), and decisions that form the resolution (outcome). An example is the application of an electoral college (system) in choosing a candidate to be the leader of a country (outcome) based on preferences of the voters within. These are the basic dimensions that the study of the political seeks to examine. Then what does it mean to approach these dimensions with a science? Likewise, the concept is in no way self-explanatory, and it is open to various interpretations and controversies (e.g., see Popper’s distinction between science and pseudoscience in a following section), yet it is essential to offer a minimal working definition.According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term science can be defined broadly as “knowledge or cognizance of something specified or implied” or narrowly as “a branch of study which is concerned . . . with a connected body of demonstrated truths . . . and which includes trustworthy methods for the discovery of new truth within its own domain.” In this way, science is both the content and the method—it is a representation of truth in the form of knowledge plus the way that such knowledge is acquired. For example, chemistry aims at understanding (knowledge) the properties, structure, and composition of matter in nature (truth) through experimentation, observation, and theory construction (method). Political science, similarly, is the use of the scientific method in obtaining knowledge of truth in politics.

An immediate question would be in what ways scientific inquiry in politics is comparable to that in natural sciences such as chemistry and physics. This concerns whether there is any truth in human society as there is in the natural world, and if so whether it is possible and what method can be used to acquire the knowledge of it scientifically To start, what are truth, knowledge, and scientific method? Take, as an example, the celebrated Duverger’s law in political science, a principle that holds that proportional representation and a majority vote on two ballots tend toward a multiparty system (Duverger, 1972). One would, without hesitation, regard Duverger’s law as providing a kind of knowledge of the political in terms of the relationship between electoral systems and outcomes. Such knowledge is represented in the form of a principle, or in more formal language a proposition, where proportional representation, majority vote on two ballots, and multiparty system are concepts, or components of the proposition. These concepts per se, however, are seldom considered knowledge unless they are being used in a proposition. For example, the term proportional representation itself carries no substantial meaning unless it is placed in a proposition, such as the following: Proportional representation means that the percentage of votes obtained by a group of candidates approximates that of the seats allocated to the corresponding group in an election. The above conceptualization of proportional representation, nevertheless, may still not be knowledge, but it is a necessary condition for that concept to be situated in a proposition to qualify as knowledge. But what determines whether a proposition is knowledge? This concerns the nature of knowledge.

When a person, i, says he or she knows the meaning of proportional representation as in the above proposition, for instance, he or she must at least believe that the proposition is true. However, a true belief does not exhaust the criteria of knowledge. Suppose i (mistakenly) believes that proportional representation and a majority vote on one ballot are two identical types of election systems; i can still assert that the proposition is true, although that proposition cannot be considered knowledge at all. This is because i fails to justify why the proposition is true, and at most he or she is said to believe, rather than know, it to be true. In other words, knowledge, as widely agreed in epistemology, is justified true belief. One interpretation of justification is the use of reasons in substantiating a belief to be true. For example, one can analyze the meaning of proportional representation by arguments to demonstrate why the proposition in the previous paragraph, instead of the one believed by i, is true. Meanwhile, one can also test and prove Duverger’s law by collecting empirical evidence from the real world (e.g., Riker, 1986). In both cases, the true propositions as confirmed are knowledge, and hence science, whereas the reasoning applied in arriving at such confirmation is also science, or more precisely, scientific method.

However, why does scientific method lead to (scientific) knowledge? Even though one may take a scientific approach (e.g., experiments and evidence collecting), the proposition under investigation cannot be concluded true right away without establishing a relation between the truth and the results drawn from the scientific method. There are two rival accounts of truth—namely, the correspondence theory and the coherence theory. In a nutshell, the correspondence theory of truth posits that a proposition is true if and only if it corresponds to a relevant (set of) fact(s) (e.g., David, 2008), whereas the coherence theory of truth alleges that a proposition is true if and only if it coheres with a relevant reference set of propositions (Young, 2008). For instance, according to the former theory, Duverger’s law can be true if and only if it represents the corresponding fact of the casual correlations between the proportional representation or majority vote on two ballots and a multiparty system. On the other hand, according to the latter theory, Duverger’s law can still be true even if it does not represent such a fact but instead is consistent with, or at least implied by, a certain specified set of propositions. The specified reference set is assumed to be true, which can be defined by the set of propositions currently believed by actual people (Young, 1995) or which will be believed when people have reached a certain level of inquiry (Putnam, 1981). For example, suppose in a particular space and time, people insist that there is a negative correlation between proportional representation and a multiparty system; Duverger’s law, according to the coherence theory, will be judged false irrespective of whether it may be otherwise in concordance with other criteria of truth. The divergence between the two views on truth is not at all subtle, nor does it belong to a purely epistemological issue in philosophy. It is, instead, fundamental to the methodological debate in both contemporary natural and social and political sciences.

What is the origin of the methodological disagreement? Why is there such a disagreement? Why do the two contending positions of truth affect the evolution of science (or more precisely scientific method) in social and political science? This traces to the very basic assumptions of the two theories of truth, to wit, (scientific) realism and antirealism. According to realism, the entities depicted by any true (social) scientific propositions do, by definition, objectively exist, albeit they may not be directly observable, and such propositions are the best (approximate) descriptions of these entities. For example, for realists, the positive causal correlations between proportional representation and a multiparty system in Duverger’s law is a piece of social fact, given that the law (or proposition) itself is scientifically proven true. The realist position is generally grounded on the no miracles argument where the success of a (social) scientific theory, say the explanatory and predictive power of Duverger’s law as applied in many real cases of election, would be simply a mystery if there were no objectively true entities and regularities in the world (Putnam, 1975). On the other hand, antirealists deny the objective existence of such entities as (social) facts, and one eminent argument is that these entities only exist to the extent to which they are shaped by human knowledge and minds (e.g., Kuhn, 1962). Antirealists would judge Duverger’s law to be true, in accordance with, for instance, the coherence theory of truth, only when it is coherent with what is believed to be true through human understanding. Given the divergent positions of the existence of (social) facts of realists and antirealists, the next question is whether they also differ in terms of the scientific methods used in arriving at those true scientific propositions. The following section illustrates how the realism–antirealism debate molds the evolution of science in terms of scientific methods in social and political science.

III. Evolution of Political Science: Debating the Scientific Methodologies

A. Beginning: Positivism and Inductive Political Science

Positivism presupposes a realist standpoint that posits that (social) facts objectively exist, and are external from humans and independent of human knowledge and understanding. For positivists, a proposition is true, and hence constitutes knowledge, if and only if it is in a correspondence relation with the objective fact(s). Since the facts are out there in the world, it is necessary that the reasoning that reveals such correspondence relation (if any) must go beyond pure formality and extend to reality. Among the Vienna Circle in the 1920s, a group of logical positivists attributed the distinctiveness of scientific knowledge to its possible derivation from the facts of experience in the real world. They distinguished between two kinds of propositions—namely, analytic and synthetic. The former are deductively provable through logical reasoning alone, while the latter are empirically verifiable through logical reasoning by reference to empirical facts obtained through the use of the senses and capture what the positivists regard as knowledge. But how is it possible to reason with empirical facts? This is done by inductive logic. In principle, the positivists see scientific knowledge as a form of universal generalization from empirically observable facts. In the natural sciences, for instance, Newton’s first law of motion, which states that any physical object remains static or in uniform motion unless being acted on by an external force (or inertia), represents a body of scientific knowledge that generalizes the motional properties of physical objects. This knowledge can be obtained by observations, such as through experiments, on a large number of instances in which all entities being observed possess a certain property (inertia) under some conditions (the absence of external force), and an inference can be drawn that all entities (physical objects), even those which have not been observed, exhibit inertia when subject to no external force. Such an inference is a universal generalization arrived at by inductive logic in this form: The property of many (or even some) implies the property of all. It is not difficult to spot that such reasoning is not necessarily valid at all times—it can be true that many entities possess a certain property while there is an unobserved entity that behaves the other way around and thus renders the conclusion false. This concerns the idea of falsification and will be addressed in further detail in the next section.

Positivists in the social sciences (including political science) believe that scientific knowledge is also obtainable in the form of universal generalizations through inductive inference similar to that used in the natural sciences. Assuming the existence of objective social facts, through observations and inductive reasoning, these bodies of social facts can be identified and generalized in terms of both taxonomy and relations. The following two statements are propositions of taxonomy identification, and Duverger’s law generalizes the relations between both taxonomies mentioned: (1) A significant number of countries (n) operate proportional representation in their parliamentary elections and (2) the parliaments of almost all of the above countries (e.g., n − 1) are composed of multiple parties. It is imperative that, to positivists, the social facts be objective and observable in order to be represented as knowledge, and hence, normative questions, such as whether proportional representation should be adopted, are excluded from what can be counted as knowledge that cannot be detected through observations or determined without subjectivity.

Behavioralism has much appeal to positivism and inductive reasoning. In (scientific) methodology, it took a leading position in the 1950s and 1960s when the discipline of political science started to become popular. As implied by its name, behavioralism develops scientific knowledge of the political by focusing on phenomena involving either individual human behaviors (the microlevel) or their social aggregate (the macrolevel) in the political process. First, it presupposes the realist standpoint that there exist bodies of objective and quantifiable social facts in the political arena that represent the truth—that is, political phenomena (and their mutual relations) do exist and exhibit certain regularity over time. Second, similar to positivism, the truth is observable so that empirical evidence can be collected to identify (the relations of) these political phenomena. These (causal) relations of phenomena can be further generalized, usually through vigorous statistical analysis, comparative case studies to formulate scientific propositions or theories through inductive reasoning, or both. For behavioralists, these propositions and theories correspond to the truth that is there in the observable political realm, and they are constructed objectively, based purely on empirical evidence without any a priori assumptions or subjective human interpretation. Behavioralists believe that their approach to political science is genuinely scientific, and the propositions and theories so formulated offer a systematic explanation of past and present political phenomena as well as a well-grounded prediction of those in the future. Examples of seminal works include Truman (1951), Lipset (1959), Dahl (1961), Duverger (1964), Parsons (1966), and Lijphart (1971).

Is the picture described a complete one? Does positivism provide a satisfactory account of truth? Does induction constitute the best scientific method in revealing the truth as knowledge? Can behavioralism be the only scientific approach in political science? The historical development of (political) science shows that answers to these questions are not necessarily positive, as a result of the received critiques of positivism, inductivism, and behavioralism by their counterparts.

B. Adjustment: Falsificationism and Deductive Political Science

Consider again that inductive reasoning does not guarantee true conclusions (generalizations) from true premises (observations). Pinpointed by the 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711–1776), the problem of induction lies in the fact that it fails to construct any generalization of empirical observations that can be proven to be true. This matters particularly when the generalization is supposed to make more or less accurate predictions about the future. The sunrise example can illustrate this point: Even if the sun rises every single day as observed in the past, this does not mean that the same will happen every single day in the future. The common sense that the sun rises every day assumes what Hume called the “uniformity of nature.” This assumption contends that the objective truth exhibits absolute regularity, and the possibility of variation is ruled out. Therefore, even if the sunrise tomorrow is not yet observed (and unobservable here and now), inference can still be drawn to predict that the sun will rise tomorrow based on empirical evidence that the sun did rise every day in history. However, there is no reason that the uniformity of nature assumption must be true in the first place, since subsequent discontinuation of regularity (i.e., change) is at least theoretically possible as long as it is not (yet) proven to be otherwise—that is, there is no way that a proposition or theory is verifiable by inductive reasoning.

Given the possible loopholes of inference by inductive logic, the determination of whether a proposition corresponds to the truth (assuming the existence of such) and hence the representation of a body of scientific knowledge cannot rely on verification as the criterion. This is because the correspondence relation between the proposition and the truth may cease to hold should any change occur about the truth in the future. A proposition that captures the relevant social facts is even more vulnerable to such query because social and political changes are by no means rare. Therefore, an alternative standard is necessary for identifying propositions that constitute (scientific) knowledge or another conception of the correspondence relation between the truth and the proposition. Consider Duverger’s law again. Suppose the correlation between proportional representation and a multiparty system exists as social fact and all empirical evidence confirms the law at present, and there would be a political regime R after n years where its adoption of proportional representation leads to a two-party, instead of a multiparty, system. Such a single instance (Rn) would be sufficient for arguing that Duverger’s law does not always hold. To use a more technical term, Rn would falsify Duverger’s law, provided that Rn exists.

Karl Popper (1902–1994), a renowned philosopher of science, suggested that only propositions or theories that can in principle be falsified, or are falsifiable, but have not actually been falsified are scientific. In other words, a necessary condition for scientific knowledge lies in the possible existence of any instances in which a corresponding proposition or theory would contradict the relevant empirical evidence and render its relation with the truth no longer valid. Duverger’s law is one of those that can potentially be falsified (e.g., Rn). On the other hand, unfalsifiable propositions and theories are not scientific but pseudoscientific, such as propaganda, fairy tales, ideology, religion, and witchcraft, which are generally imprecise and could never be proven to be false. For example, the normative proposition that proportional representation should be adopted does not represent a body of scientific knowledge since there is no way that the proposition can be falsified by denying its possible correspondence relation with the truth (if any). On Popper’s account, it makes no sense to examine whether a particular proposition or theory is true because its correspondence relation with the truth can never be verified through observational testing—that is, the generalizations obtained by inductive reasoning can at most be provisionally true until the moment when further unobserved but contradictory evidence arises in the future. Therefore, the aim of inductivism in attempting to prove any scientific proposition or theory to be true, and hence scientific knowledge, is simply misguided. Instead, according to falsificationism, the logic should be reversed such that as long as a proposition or theory is proven to be false it is not scientific (knowledge).

Popper’s distinction between science and pseudoscience is influential not only in the natural but also in the social and political sciences. The question for political scientists is this: To what extent can a proposition or theory of the political be regarded as scientific (knowledge) in accordance with falsificationism? While inductivists (and behavioralists) insist that a scientific proposition or theory must correspond to the objective social facts (the truth), falsificationists do not reject the realist standpoint concerning the truth but rather the existence of its correspondence relation with the corresponding proposition or theory being provable through observational testing. Therefore, contrary to inductivism, falsificationism does not demand that a proposition or theory be true, but only that it not be false (and can in principle be false) in order to be scientific. Falsificationists disagree with inductivists about the role of truth in science, and Popper (1969) further posits that science progresses by conjectures and refutations instead of inductive inference from empirical evidence. In other words, a scientific proposition or theory is first constructed (conjectured) by discovering new ideas through “creative intuition,” and it is then subject to genuine tests that constitute as many difficult experiments with as much difficult evidence as possible. Such experiments and evidence are regarded as difficult if they can, at least in principle, falsify (refute) the proposed proposition or theory. If after numerous attempts at such genuine testing, the difficult evidence and experiments still do not falsify the proposed proposition or theory, then the latter is said to be corroborated, instead of proven to be true, by the former.

Falsificationism is in line with deductive reasoning. The proposed proposition or theory forms a hypothesis through conjectures for the genuine test. Suppose it is suggested that all countries adopting proportional representation exhibit multiparty systems, and such a hypothesis acts as the first premise. After running several genuine tests, it is then found that proportional representation and a two-party system are present in country A, where such evidence counts as the second premise. Therefore, the hypothesis (first premise) is said to be falsified by the evidence (second premise), and such a conclusion is reached by deduction. The influence of this Popperian view of science can be seen in the emergence of the rational choice theoretic approach in political science in the 1960s and 1970s. Unlike behavioralism, rational choice theory is based on several a priori assumptions as well as deductive logic in constructing propositions or theories that explain and predict the behavior of social aggregates. Similar to falsificationists, rational choice theorists do not inductively infer a scientific proposition or theory merely from empirical evidence but rather conjecture one on the foundation of some theoretical assumptions in the first instance, before the proposition or theory is subject to empirical testing. One key a priori assumption is that each individual is rational and behaves in a way that maximizes his or her expected utility. This represents the creative insights in constructing a scientific proposition or theory, where empirical evidence only takes up the role of genuine testing. In general, many rational choice theoretic models successfully explain some essential political phenomenon, such as the paradox of rational individual behavior but irrational collective outcomes as well as the failing of collective welfare delivery by self-interested public officials. Major seminal works include Downs (1957), Buchanen and Tullock (1962), Riker (1962), and Olson (1965).

One can immediately think of a list of criticisms of the rational choice theoretic approach to political science. In particular, the a priori assumptions on which any proposition and theory is based are not empirically supported, and the general account of rationality is restrictive in the sense that it fails to capture the complexity of human behavior, which is more than atomistic and mechanistic—it is instead situated and significantly shaped by contexts, ranging from the political and social institutions to human psychology and history. That means that even if the proposition or theory is consistent with some relevant empirical evidence, it offers only an overly simplistic account of the political while other perspectives ruled out by the assumptions are left untouched. On the other hand, the lack of fit between the proposed proposition or theory and the empirical evidence does not necessarily mean that all bodies of knowledge it represents are false (which renders a complete dismissal). The mismatch may be, for example, simply due to the problems of certain a priori assumptions that fail to apply in every circumstance, while the proposed proposition or theory still has value for being retained. It is apparent that such a rational choice theoretic (or falsificationist) view of science in social and political inquiries may still leave something to be desired.

C. Departure: Scientific Paradigms and Interpretive Political Science

Inductivism and falsificationism are two scientific paradigms, which give rise to the schools of behavioralism and rational choice theory in political science respectively. They presuppose different fundamental views on whether scientific proposition or theory about (or knowledge of) the political can be obtained by confirming the correspondence relation between the truth and the empirical evidence. On the other hand, they can both be grouped under a common heading in terms of methodology. Similar to the natural sciences, both the behavioralist and the rational choice theoretic approaches aim at explaining empirical (social and political) phenomena through the construction of hypotheses and generalizations that are applicable to more than a single set of empirical observations and making falsifiable predictions about other possible observations. Given that both approaches are founded on positivism in which science and its method of acquirement are considered objective and rational, what accounts for the emergence of two paradigms that differ only along the dimension of logical reasoning (i.e., induction and deduction)? Their fundamental disagreement concerns the possibility of confirming whether a proposition or theory corresponds to the truth and whether such confirmation is necessary for the proposition or theory to be scientific. Which of these two views of science is (more) accurate, if either is at all?

Thomas Kuhn (1922–1996), a historian and philosopher of science, would focus on the “if either” part of the question above. According to Kuhn, the inductivist and the falsificationist accounts of science are misguided since neither of them adequately matches the historical evidence concerning the development of science. Science is not about the logic of justification based on observable evidence but is composed of the unobservable, which gives rise to a particular paradigm. In other words, neither confirmation nor unfalsification of the truth suffices to determine a proposition or theory to be scientific or not. Many of the leading (natural) scientific theories were faced with certain empirical anomalies from the beginning, such as Newton’s gravitational theory, but these theories were preserved and developed despite the fact that they could have been falsified at birth if the falsification demand had been strictly followed. It is also apparent that there were always adherents of established propositions and theories even if the latter were challenged by recalcitrant evidence. Kuhn reminded us that the history of science was in fact characterized by extended periods of normal science where a scientific community conducts research on a subject within an established paradigm. Such a paradigm comprises a set of theoretical assumptions that reflect the fundamental agreement among all members of the community and those members solving problems within a specific set of subjects on the basis of those theoretical assumptions. In Kuhn’s view, normal science is a problem- or puzzle-solving activity, and hence, scientists dedicate their minds and time to research concerning details within an established paradigm without questioning the corresponding fundamental assumptions. For any proposition or theory that contradicts the observable evidence (anomalies), instead of being falsified right away, it is treated as simply one of the unsolved puzzles. When these anomalies are minor and limited in number, they tend to be ignored; only when they accumulate to an extent that most scientists within the paradigm begin to cast doubt on the fundamental assumptions will there be a shift of allegiance from the original paradigm to a new one, or a scientific revolution. In sum, Kuhn sees science as not only logic and rationality but also a carrier of sociological and historical implications in the form of paradigms and their progress and transitions. What makes a subject and a method to the subject scientific depends much on the consensus of the scientific community at a particular place and time. Therefore, inductivism and falsificationism are not the science as a whole but only its constituents, while these constituents (or paradigms) are mutually incommensurable.

Kuhn’s sociological insights on the progress of science offer an angle of reflecting on what counts as science (knowledge) and scientific methods in social and political science. Since scientific knowledge is constructed within a paradigm by its own methods, tools, and criteria of assessment, these unquestioned rules of the game not only affect the selection of research topics but also emphasize how the findings are interpreted. This gives rise to the interpretivist tradition in social and political science. In contrast to behavioralism and rational choice theory, interpretivists insist that the goal of social and political science is to understand, rather than to generalize, empirical phenomena by conducting a rich textual, contextual, or historical (or any combination of the three) study into these phenomena. Interpretivists accept the starting point of antirealists that posits there exist no objective (social) facts, and all social and political phenomena, whether observable or not, are structured and shaped by human thought and discourses. For instance, instead of acknowledging that it is a matter of fact that there is a positive correlation between proportional representation and a multiparty system as in Duverger’s law, interpretivists are skeptical about such a robust generalization and perceive it as presenting an oversimplified, if not incorrect, version of the political. Instead, the interpretivist tradition holds that the truth is not absolute but relative, varying across space and time. This is closer to the coherence theory of truth, where something counts as true if and only if it coheres with a relevant reference set of some accepted knowledge. Here, the reference set is what interpretivists stress about the context that is shaped by a variety of factors including those that are historical and sociological. This resonates with Kuhn’s view on science as paradigms. Hence, for interpretivists, it is not possible to pursue (scientific) knowledge of the political without considering the meanings behind various political phenomena existing in a particular context. For example, interpretivists seek to understand individual voting behavior by revealing the formation and justification of individuals’ voting preferences. Research as such often adopts qualitative methods such as interviews and focus groups. The scope of inquiry tends to be intensive and constricted, and it is hard to avoid subjectivity in interpretations. Nevertheless, interpretivists do not intend to generalize their findings, which are instead context dependent, and subjectivity itself does not threaten the value of interpretations as (scientific) knowledge. After all, truth is relative and depends on whether (and which) reference set(s) is (are) accepted in the first place, and the latter, of course, includes the way in which the findings are interpreted. Examples of interpretivist works include Oakeshott (1962), Anderson (1991), Collingwood (1993), and Risse (1999).

D. Synergy: A Mixed Approach to Political Science

As discussed so far, the two major approaches—the positivist and the interpretivist—seem to be incompatible with each other because of their divergence on the fundamental views about the nature of science. A worthwhile follow-up question would be whether the two contending approaches can be reconciled to make further progress of political science research by combining both of their strengths. This concerns whether science can be both rationalistic and contextual.

Imre Lakatos (1922–1974) suggested that the ideas of Popper and Kuhn can be fused in such a way that science can be understood as not only about empirical observation and logical induction or deduction but also about taking into account the social and historical context of research. On one hand, contrary to Popper, scientific propositions or theories are not to be abandoned right away by falsification when anomalies are identified in contradiction to any empirical evidence. Instead, these propositions or theories usually coexist with the anomalies for some time, during which scientists attempt to rescue the propositions or theories from collapsing by offering further explanation or shifting their attention to other problems. Scientific progress, according to Lakatos, is made by these rescue actions instead of by falsification, and science can be regarded as a kind of human activity, as progressive research programs. On the other hand, Lakatos disagrees with Kuhn that these programs are not mutually incommensurable paradigms resulting in relativism but are open for cross-comparisons and evaluations. Each of these programs is characterized by its own heuristic, which means a certain set of tools, methods, and techniques of problem solving, where the heuristic’s strength determines also the strength of the corresponding research program. A heuristic is strong if propositions or theories are produced so that the corresponding research program can enable individuals to infer novel predictions that lead to the discovery of new empirical facts and explain empirical phenomena at least as well as their rival or previous propositions or theories. In other words, whether a proposition or theory is scientific depends on both the contextual factor of its belonging to a particular research program and the rational factor of the explanatory and predictive power of the corresponding research program. Science, according to Lakatos, can share a double character that covers both Popper’s rationalist and Kuhn’s sociological and historical aspects.

If, in principle, science is composed of both rational and contextual elements as mentioned, how may the methods of inquiry into science be reconceptualized to determine what counts as science (or knowledge) in the study of politics? King, Keohane, and Verba (1994) asserted that social and political science can be approached in both the positivist and the interpretivist manners, with the use of quantitative and qualitative research methods respectively. This is due to their shared underlying logic of interference. Propositions or theories generated from research through either method are considered scientific as long as they satisfy a set of criteria. First, these propositions or theories are meant to draw, based on empirical observations, either descriptive inferences that concern further observations or explanatory inferences that portray (causal) correlations between empirical phenomena. Here, the interpretivists would focus more on the former where the understanding of the subject matter (political phenomena) goes beyond what is observed, while the positivists would stress the latter where the (causal) correlations as such are seen as existing facts and can be revealed. Second, no matter which methods are adopted, the set of procedures for arriving at the propositions or theories should be publicly transparent and thus able to be comprehended and tested by the scholarly community. This to some extent echoes Lakatos’s view that scientific research programs are mutually commensurable and open for scrutiny. Third, since there is no single perfect and absolute way of drawing inferences, any propositions or theories so generated could in principle be wrong, and hence, good scientific research should identify its degree of uncertainty. This makes the inductivist and the interpretivist methods remain scientific even in the face of the falsificationist challenge by pardoning the demand of verification. Last, scientific research should stress both the method and the content, and the propositions or theories should be drawn by following a set of rules of inference. This is, again, compatible with both the positivist and the interpretivist positions.

A crucial implication of the previous assertions is that science is about rationality and context (Lakatos), and the positivist and the interpretivist approaches can both be applied as methods in revealing the rational and the contextual elements of science once they fulfill certain criteria (King, Keohane, & Verba). This inspires the development of political science research in the sense that methodology is no longer confined to only one approach. Instead, it is a noticeable trend that a mixed approach has become more popular since the 1980s, when the school of new institutionalism arose. The new institutionalism, which recognizes the importance of political institutions in shaping political phenomena, corresponds to Lakatos’s view in the way that scientific study of the political is about not only the political phenomena per se (positivist tradition) but also the social and historical context under which they are positioned (interpretivist tradition). Meanwhile, in acquiring the science as such, the scientific method used is a combination of both quantitative (positivist tradition) and qualitative (interpretivist tradition). Examples include historical institutionalism (e.g., Pierson, 1996; Pierson & Skocpol, 2002) and rational choice institutionalism (e.g., Laver, 1997; Shepsle, 1989). Although on the operational level a synergy of the two prima facie contending methodologies in political science research has been brought about by the new institutionalist turn, it is not clear on the metaphysical level whether there can truly be a reconciliation between the positivists and the interpretivists concerning their fundamental disagreement about the relationship between (political) science and the truth.

IV. Conclusion

This research paper reviews the development of the idea of science in political science. Since the 1950s, when political science arose as a separate academic discipline, there have been plenty of debates about the nature of political science as well as the corresponding method of inquiries. Although within the positivist tradition the behavioralists and the rational choice theorists disagree on the logical reasoning in arriving at propositions or theories that explain and generalize objectively existing political phenomena, the interpretivists insist on the importance of understanding the contextual factors that shape the political phenomena. Such disputes can be mapped into the disputes in the philosophy of natural and social sciences among the inductivists, the falsificationists, and the interpretivists. Although the tension can be reconciled by reconceptualizing science as comprising both rational and contextual elements and applying a mixed approach consisting of quantitative and qualitative methods, such methodological middle ground is far from settling the conflict between the positivists and the interpretivists on the fundamental nature of political science.


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