Welcome to POLSC101: Introduction to Political Science
Specific information about this course and its requirements can be found below. For more general information about taking Saylor Academy courses, including information about Community and Academic Codes of Conduct, please read the Student Handbook.
Survey the basic principles, terminology, and methods of political science in this course, which combines a historical study of the discipline's greatest thinkers with an analysis of contemporary issues.
This is a survey course, and it can be used if you are looking to take just one general overview course of political science or if you want to go on to more advanced study in any of the subfields of the discipline, such as American politics, comparative politics, international politics, or political theory. This course will survey the different ways in which political scientists study the phenomena of politics and will deepen your understanding of political life as both a thinker and a citizen. The goal of this course is to introduce you to the discipline's concepts, terminology, and methods and to explore instances of applied political science through real-world examples.
As an introductory course, POLSC101 will focus on the basic principles of political science by combining a historical study of the discipline's greatest thinkers with an analysis of contemporary issues. We will also identify and discuss the questions that drive the field of political science, including: How do we define the changing nature of power? How do we differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate governance? What are the differences between political institutions and political behavior? How do leaders define who gets to be heard and counted in a political community? By the end of this course, you will be familiar with these issues and capable of discussing them in the context of contemporary politics.
This course includes the following units:
- Unit 1: Foundational Concepts of Politics
- Unit 2: Participation and Public Opinion
- Unit 3: Ideologies
- Unit 4: The State
- Unit 5: Political Institutions
- Unit 6: International Politics
Course Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
- explain the concepts of power, legitimacy, and authority;
- discuss the origins and developments of the nation-state;
- discuss general approaches to the study of politics, such as political ideologies and political economy;
- discuss the political socialization process;
- examine the nature of political participation from a comparative perspective;
- discuss the influence of public opinion on the political decision-making process;
- identify the different types of electoral systems and assess the implications of those systems;
- identify the role and functions of political parties;
- identify the different types of party systems from a comparative perspective;
- describe and evaluate the general principles of presidential and parliamentary political systems;
- identify and evaluate the principles of authoritarian and totalitarian governments;
- discuss and explain the origins and principles of democratic capitalism, democratic socialism, communism, and fascism;
- describe the origins and principles of international law;
- identify and assess the influence of major international organizations; and
- describe and analyze the causes of international conflict.
Throughout this course, you will also see learning outcomes in each unit. You can use those learning outcomes to help organize your studies and gauge your progress.
The primary learning materials for this course are articles, lectures, and videos.
All course materials are free to access and can be found in each unit of the course. Pay close attention to the notes that accompany these course materials, as they will tell you what to focus on in each resource, and will help you to understand how the learning materials fit into the course as a whole. You can also see a list of all the learning materials in this course by clicking on Resources in the navigation bar.
Evaluation and Minimum Passing Score
Only the final exam is considered when awarding you a grade for this course. In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you may take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you have successfully passed the final exam you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.
There are also end-of-unit assessments in this course. These are designed to help you study, and do not factor into your final course grade. You can take these as many times as you want until you understand the concepts and material covered. You can see all of these assessments by clicking on Quizzes in the course's navigation bar.
Earning College Credit
This course is eligible for college credit via Saylor Academy's Direct Credit Program. If you want to earn college credit, you must take and pass the Direct Credit final exam. That exam will be password protected and requires a proctor. If you pass the Direct Credit exam, you will receive a Proctor Verified Course Certificate and be eligible to earn an official transcript. For more information about applying for college credit, review the guide to college credit opportunities. Be sure to check the section on proctoring for details like fees and technical requirements.
There is a 14-day waiting period between attempts of the Direct Credit final exam. There is no waiting period between attempts for the not-for-credit exam and the Direct Credit exam. You may only attempt each Direct Credit final exam a maximum of 3 times. Be sure to study in between each attempt!
Tips for Success
POLSC101: Introduction to Political Science is a self-paced course, which means that you can decide when you will start and when you will complete the course. There is no instructor or an assigned schedule to follow. We estimate that the "average" student will take 111 hours to complete this course. We recommend that you work through the course at a pace that is comfortable for you and allows you to make regular progress. It's a good idea to also schedule your study time in advance and try as best as you can to stick to that schedule.
Learning new material can be challenging, so we've compiled a few study strategies to help you succeed:
- Take notes on the various terms, practices, and theories that you come across. This can help you put each concept into context, and will create a refresher that you can use as you study later on.
- As you work through the materials, take some time to test yourself on what you remember and how well you understand the concepts. Reflecting on what you've learned is important for your long-term memory, and will make you more likely to retain information over time.
- Although you may work through this course completely independently, you may find it helpful to connect with other Saylor students through the discussion forums. You may access the discussion forums at https://discourse.saylor.org.
This course is delivered entirely online. You will be required to have access to a computer or web-capable mobile device and have consistent access to the internet to either view or download the necessary course resources and to attempt any auto-graded course assessments and the final exam.
- To access the full course including assessments and the final exam, you will need to be logged into your Saylor Academy account and enrolled in the course. If you do not already have an account, you may create one for free here. Although you can access some of the course without logging in to your account, you should log in to maximize your course experience. For example, you cannot take assessments or track your progress unless you are logged in.
For additional guidance, check out Saylor Academy's FAQ.
This course is entirely free to enroll in and to access. Everything linked in the course, including textbooks, videos, webpages, and activities, is available for no charge. This course also contains a free final exam and course completion certificate.
This course also has an optional final exam that can give you an opportunity to earn college credit. This exam requires the use of a proctoring service for identity verification purposes. The cost for proctoring for this optional exam is $5 per session.