Political Science Major, B.A.

Department of Political Science

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361 Hamilton Hall, CB# 3265

(919) 962-3041

Mark Crescenzi, Chair

Matthew Weidenfeld, Undergraduate Advisor


Stephen Gent, Director of Undergraduate Studies


Genevieve Cecil, Undergraduate Studies Coordinator


Political science is concerned with the description and explanation of political ideas, institutions, processes, policies, and behavior, both in the United States and in other countries. The undergraduate program provides students with a basic knowledge of the political and economic relationships that exist among nations, international agencies, and governmental and nongovernmental organizations. It also introduces students to the role that traditions of thought and political ideologies have played in shaping our understanding of politics in the past and today.

The undergraduate major is designed to provide

  1. a broad understanding of political ideas, institutions, and issues as a central element of a general education;
  2. a basic knowledge of the governmental process as preparation for those considering a career in public service as well as for active and informed citizenship;
  3. preprofessional training for students planning to enter law school; and
  4. a foundation in political science for those contemplating specialization at the graduate level.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the political science program, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a command of at least one of the following areas of substantive knowledge:
    • Themes and concepts that have shaped the Western political tradition, as well as core contemporary political theoretical issues
    • Principles and processes of American political institutions, political behavior, and civic culture
    • Principles and processes of political institutions, political behavior, and civic culture in societies other than the United States
    • Fundamental structures and forces that shape relations between states
  • Demonstrate competence in the identification, use, and development of theoretical explanations appropriate for the study of their respective areas of substantive focus. These skills may include:
    • Evaluating competing theories of political explanation
    • Reconstructing the logic of political theories
    • Constructing theoretical models intended to address specific questions in political analysis
  • Demonstrate a working understanding of the methods appropriate for developing rigorous description and explanation of political phenomena. These may include one or more of the following, depending on the student’s area of substantive interest:
    • Principles of textual interpretation and critical evaluation
    • Identification, collection, and organization of empirical data
    • Use of qualitative, quantitative, and other analytical techniques for analyzing data


In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • attain a final cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum of 18 hours of C or better in the major core requirements (some majors require 21 hours).

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Core Requirements
Nine courses, including the following courses and including at least one 400-level political science (POLI) course:
POLI 100Introduction to Government in the United States H3
POLI 150International Relations and World Politics H3
One course in comparative politics chosen from:3
Introduction to Comparative Politics H
Political Change and Modernization
Politics of the United Kingdom H
The Politics of Russia and Eurasia H
Politics of East-Central Europe H
The Politics of China
Contemporary Latin American Politics H
Introduction to European Government H
One course in political theory chosen from:3
Feminism and Political Theory
Classical Political Thought H
Modern Political Thought H
The Ethics of Peace, War, and Defense
African American Political Thought
Major Issues in Political Theory H
American Political Thought H
Social and Political Philosophy H
Contemporary Political Thought H
Problems of Modern Democratic Theory H
One course in research methods chosen from: 13
Analyzing Public Opinion H
Quantitative Research in Political Science
Research Methods and Experiments
Strategy and International Relations
Strategy and Politics
Advanced Political Psychology H
Game Theory
Honors Seminar in Research Design
Introduction to Statistics and Econometrics H
Quantitative Methods in Geography
Research Methods in Geography
Knowledge and Society H
Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Theory of Knowledge
Induction, Probability, and Confirmation
Quantitative Analysis for Public Policy H
Laboratory Research in Psychology
Research Methods
Data Analysis
Four political science (POLI) electives at the 100 level or above 2, 312
Additional Requirements
ECON 101Introduction to Economics H3
Total Hours30

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans can be used as a guide to identify the courses required to complete the major and other requirements needed for degree completion within the expected eight semesters. The actual degree plan may differ depending on the course of study selected (second major, minor, etc.). Students should meet with their academic advisor to create a degree plan that is specific and unique to their interests. The sample plans represented in this catalog are intended for first-year students entering UNC–Chapel Hill in the fall term. Some courses may not be offered every term.

Plan of Study Grid
First YearHours
POLI 100 Introduction to Government in the United States H 3
POLI 150 International Relations and World Politics H 3
ENGL 105 English Composition and Rhetoric 3
Foreign language levels 2 and 3 (FL) 6
Quantitative reasoning (QR) 3
Additional General Education and elective courses 12
Hours 30
Sophomore Year
POLI ---Comparative politics course 3
POLI ---Political theory course 3
ECON 101 Introduction to Economics 1, H 3
Research methods course 3
Additional General Education and elective courses 18
Hours 30
Junior Year
Two POLI elective courses 2 6
Additional General Education and elective courses 24
Hours 30
Senior Year
Two POLI elective courses 2 6
Additional General Education and elective courses 24
Hours 30
Total Hours 120

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Special Opportunities in Political Science

Political Science Major, NUS Joint Degree

Political science majors may wish to consider applying for the Joint Degree Program, an innovative joint undergraduate degree program joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the National University of Singapore. UNC–Chapel Hill undergraduates spend anywhere from two to four semesters at the National University of Singapore and receive a joint bachelor of arts degree from both institutions. For further information, contact the Study Abroad Office.

Honors in Political Science

The honors program provides political science majors the opportunity to pursue an independent research project over a two-semester period. Students begin the program by taking POLI 691H in the spring semester of their junior year. During this course they complete a thesis proposal.

If the proposal is acceptable, students continue their thesis research in the senior year under the supervision of the honors director and a faculty advisor in POLI 692H and POLI 693H. A maximum of two honors thesis courses can count as elective credit in the major. Upon successful completion of the program, which includes an oral defense of the thesis, students are awarded a degree with honors or with highest honors in political science.

To be admitted to the honors program, students must have at least a 3.3 overall grade point average and a 3.5 in political science courses. They should have completed at least four courses in the major. Students interested in participating in the honors program should apply by October 15 of their junior year. For further information on the honors program, please consult the department's Web site.

Experiential Education

Internship courses provide students with the opportunity to earn academic credit while obtaining practical work experience in agencies and organizations clearly related to the study of political science. Political science majors who would like to obtain credit for internship work in government or public service must enroll in POLI 193. While this course satisfies the experiential education General Education requirement, POLI 193 is offered on a Pass/Fail basis only and does not count towards the nine courses required for the major. For specific information about the procedures and requirements for POLI 193, please consult the department’s Web site.

Study Abroad

Because we live in an increasingly globalized society, students are encouraged to study abroad as they are able. Students interested in the fields of comparative politics and international relations are strongly urged to participate in a study abroad program; indeed, all students may find the experience to be transformational and helpful in choosing a career path. Students are advised to work with the Study Abroad Office and to contact the undergraduate advisor when planning their study abroad experience. For information about applying study abroad credit toward the political science major, please consult the department’s Web site.

Undergraduate Research

Courses in political science often include a research component, and students may engage in directed research under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The honors program provides political science majors the opportunity to pursue an independent research project over a two-semester period, culminating in a senior thesis. See the section above for more information on the honors program.

POLI 395 Mentored Research in Political Science provides an opportunity for students to pursue a special research interest under the direction of a faculty member of the Department of Political Science. The research and writing entailed in a mentored research course must be equivalent to the workload of a regular course. For specific information about the procedures and requirements for POLI 395, please consult the department’s Web site.

Undergraduate Awards

Pi Sigma Alpha is the national political science honorary society. Membership is restricted to those political science majors who have completed 15 hours of political science with an overall grade average of 3.3 or better and a political science grade average of 3.5 or better.

The Thad L. Beyle Research Award is given to undergraduate political science majors, with priority given to students writing a senior honors thesis.

The William Scott Bryant Award funds research and travel for undergraduate majors in the Department of Political Science, with priority given to seniors.

The D’Amico Endowment Fund for Honors Students funds academic research and activities for honors students in the Department of Political Science.

The Shepard Jones Undergraduate Award in International Relations is given to an undergraduate student for the best essay in international relations (any field and broadly defined).

The L. Richardson Preyer Award for Excellence in Political Science is given to a senior judged by a committee of the faculty to have the most distinguished record of scholarship in political science and service to the community.

The Terry Sanford Award for Excellence is given to the undergraduate student judged to have written the best political science honors thesis.