POLS 636

Seminar in Comparative Politics




Preparation for Discussions:

Students will be asked to summarize one or two chapters during each class period. (I expect everyone to talk about a chapter for 5 to 10 minutes.) We will then discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Please think about how you will criticize the author's arguments.


Grading Rubrics for Weekly Discussion:

Attendance  10 points

Active Participation +30 points

Good comprehension +30 points (I am also checking how much you are reading.)

Discussion of strengths  +20 points

Criticizing the arguments of the articles effectively +10 points


***Pay particular attention to the following:

Purpose of the study


Qualitative or quantitative?

Deductive or inductive?

Is the study more descriptive or analytical?

How many cases are analyzed?

Is the study conducted systematically?

What are the units?

What is the dependent variable?

What are the causal factors?

Any empirical puzzle

What kinds of data are used? How are they measured?

How is the literature review done?

What is the main argument?

How is the theory developed?

Any interesting theory/idea

Organization (e.g. Do they use more space for the theory section?)

How are sources used in the text?

How many sources are used?

How are direct quotes used?

Are you convinced?

Policy implications


Your grade will be reported to Grade Center each week.


Assignment 1 (Week 1): Writing a research proposal

One page




Week 13

We will be studying about Mount Everest and Nepal. If you like, you can follow the outline below to prepare for the discussion.
Suppose you want to apply for a grant to clean up Mount Everest, what will be your strategy?
Examples of information that may be helpful:

  1. Nepal (History, Economy, Politics, Culture etc.)
  2. Local politics, economy, etc
  3. Why is it difficult to clean up Mount Everest? (Use the theory of collective action problems)
  4. Actors (Can the national government solve the problem? Local offices? Local communities? Scholars? Tourists?)
  5. Budget
  6. Which organization will you apply?
  7. ???

* You can discuss some or all of the above using theory, data, anecdotal evidence, pictures and/or short videos.



Grading Rubrics for Final Paper and Paper Assignments

*Submit a power point file or word file to the content area of Blackboard. (All group members should submit the same file. I will write my comments to the first submitted file. Also submit your files to the discussion area.

*Make sure that each student in your group is involved in every phase of the research. Reading the webpages for POLS625 may also help you write your research paper.



The purpose of your study is clearly stated.

Research question (or empirical puzzle) is clearly stated.

Your argument is clearly stated.

Is your study significant? 

Literature review (Do not just report previous studies. Try to show that your study is different from the previous studies.)

e.g. Your study is quantitative (qualitative), while the previous studies are qualitative (quantitative).

Your study focuses on Africa, while the previous studies focus on Latin America

Your study introduces a new indicator/measurement.

Your study introduces a new method.

Your interpretation of an event is different from others.

No body studied the topic.

The previous studies treat cultural or historical factors as causal factors, but your study looks at political or economic factors.

No previous studies used rational choice theories to explain the political/economic/social outcomes.

No previous studies examined the effects of a particular leader (or institutions) on the political/economic/social outcomes.


(Use of sources)



Deductive argument

e.g. Rational choice, cost benefit analysis, collective action problems, strategy, public and private goods, balance of power, tit for tat, etc.

Is your argument based on political, economic, historical, or cultural factors?

Pay attention to the units you are studying. (You do not have to state this in your presentation file, especially if you are conducting a qualitative study, but you should pay attentiont. If you are conducting a quantitative study, make sure to state this in the methods section.)

(Use of sources)

Methods (Week 9)

How the cases are chosen

Whether or not the procedure of case selection is defended effectively

Are you following a particular research design.

Qualitative study: The most similar systems design or most different systems design (Przeworski and Teune 1970)

                        Example: Skocpol

            *For the final paper, you can discuss your methods in the introduction, if you like.          

            Quantitative study: See the web pages for POLS210 or POLS625.

(Use of sources)

Results/Case studies

Do the results support your theory and hypotheses?

For a quantitative study: See the web pages for POLS210

                        Example: Regression results

Use of sources

Quality of writing


Any interesting policy implications?

Future studies?

Make sure to attach your bibliography.


Final Research Paper

See the rubrics above.

Students often do not have enough academic references. Try to do the best you can to strengthen your statements using academic sources.

Students often present too much background. Be careful with inserting too many direct quotes. The use of direct quotes is usually effective in the case study section of a qualitative paper. (I often see students using them to just make their paper longer.)

Quality of writing

Is the paper interesting and convincing?

*Submit a hard copy of the final paper to the Department. Also submit it to the content area of Blackboard.



Citing References (Week4)

Please follow the APSR format by referring to the most recent issue of the APSR. You may also consult the Chicago Manual of Style.

            Click the following to find The American Political Science Review or visit JSTOR



How to Avoid Plagialism


            *Any papers or assignments containg plagiarism will receive a score of 0.


Required Readings

Most of the required readings will be selected from the following:

*Robert A. Dahl. 1971. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven, Yale University Press.

* Barrington Moor. 1966. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press

*Elinor Ostrom. 1990. Governing the Commons. Cambridge University Press

*Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel. 2005. Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence. Cambridge University Press.

* Arend Lijphart. 1999. Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. New Haven: Yale University Press

-Theda Skocpol 1979. States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China. Cambridge University Press

-Ronald Rogowski. 1989. Commerce and Coalitions: How Trade Affects Domestic Political Alignments. Princeton University Press.

-Mancur Olson. 2000. Power and Prosperity. New York: Basic Books

*Jennifer Gandhi. 2008. Political Institutions under Dictatorships. Cambridge University Press.

*Carles Tripp. 2013. The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East. Cambridge University Press.

*Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way. 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism. Cambridge University Press.

*Daniel N. Posner. 2005. Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa. Cambridge University Press.

-Jan Teorell. 2010. Determinants of Democratization: Explaining regime change in the world, 1972-2006. New York: Cambridge University Press

- Kenneth Greene F. 2007. Why Dominant Parties Lose. Cambridge University Press

-Jeremy M. Weinstein 2007. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. Cambridge University Press

* George Ayittey. 2005. Africa Unchained. New York: Palgrave

-Jose Antonio Cheibub 2006. Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and Democracy. Cambridge University Press

-J. Mark Ramseyer and Frances M. Rosenbluth 1998. The Politics of Oligarchy: Institutional Choice of Imperial Japan. Cambridge University Press

*Carles Boix. 2006. Democracy and Redistribution. 

-Adam Przeworski et al. 2000. Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

*Chen, Jie. 2013. A Middle Class Without Democracy : Economic Growth and the Prospects for Democratization in China. New York : Oxford University Press