Comparative Politics covers the study of political experience within more than one nation-state for the purpose of making systematic comparisons. Within comparative politics, there are two main approaches, the cross-national approach and the area studies approach. The cross-national approach involves the simultaneous study of a large number of nation-states to address particular theoretical questions of broad applicability, and the tools normally involve quantitative analysis of empirical data. The area studies approach emphasizes in-depth analysis within a particular country or region of the world, and the necessary tools normally involve immersion in the language and culture of the geographical region being studied. Although the comparative politics faculty of the department includes experts on the politics of several specific countries and geographical regions of the world, the approach emphasized in this program is cross-national study, usually involving quantitative analysis. Hence, although some courses deal with the particular features of political experience in a given country or region, the greater emphasis in the graduate curriculum is upon topically-oriented courses and research projects, and all students are prepared in quantitative methods.
Students choosing comparative politics as a major or supporting field will become familiar with the broad-ranging literature of the field, with its methods and tools of research, and with available data sources covering a broad range of countries and topics. A student in this program is likely to concentrate his or her studies in a topical area such as comparative governmental institutions, comparative political organizations, comparative political economies, or comparative political behavior. Within those broader areas, students may focus upon such topics as executive cabinets, legislatures, decentralization/federalism, democratization, political parties, politics of national/ethnic identity, and voting behavior. Students may, within these contexts, also develop area expertise in European or Latin American Politics.
Work and visibility of faculty and graduate students in comparative politics are enhanced by projects of the Program in the Cross-National Study of Politics, including annual workshops on topics of special interest.