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Departmental seminars are intended to provide students with the opportunity to work in greater depth in a subfield of political science than is possible in lower level course work. The seminar allows students to turn their skills and insights into a final research project that they have, in large part, chosen and designed. In turn, professors in the department are given the opportunity to work closely with students and to make a final assessment of their development. Even if a student has taken a seminar before the senior year, she is expected to take the senior integrative seminar offered in her senior year. A seminar taken earlier may be counted as an elective.
If a student wishes to be exempted from this requirement of taking a seminar in the senior year, she must receive written permission from the department. Under no circumstances, however, will a student be allowed to fulfill her seminar requirement at another institution.
Political Science normally offers one seminar a year, in the fall semester. It is listed in the catalogue as POLS 390: Senior Integrative Seminar. This senior seminar is required of all seniors majoring in political science.
The seminar normally meets once a week for in-depth discussion of assigned readings. There are few or no lectures. Students carry much of the responsibility of a seminar. They must come to class prepared to participate and to raise relevant questions and issues. Reading for a seminar is likely to be heavier than for a 200 level course.
Other than class discussion, the main requirement of a seminar is the production of an independent, in-depth research paper on a topic of the student's choice within the context of the seminar. Seminar papers are to be 20-30 pages in length and should make use not only of assigned readings for the course, but other relevant material. Students must submit a proposal for the paper. The proposal must include an explanation of the topic, a description and justification of how the student intends to frame the question and pursue the research, and a short bibliography. The professor will return the proposals with comments, changes, and recommendations. Papers are submitted on an assigned date during the final examination period on the Simmons calendar.
The purpose of the writing assignment is two-fold: first, to allow students to satisfy their curiosity about a topic that may not be addressed or fully resolved in class, and, second, to learn how to conduct social science research. With respect to this dual purpose, the papers should be both substantively solid and well argued.
The seminar in international relations is designed to fulfill the same function as the seminar in political science with the notable exception that the seminar in international relations is conducted by the holder of the Warburg Chair. Thus, students are guaranteed the opportunity of taking the course with a former senior level policymaker in international relations. The seminar in international relations is also normally offered in the fall semester.