Recently in 02. Three R's and an Overview Category

In-Class Slides - January 29


You will find the slides that I presented today in class here: January 29

Discussion Questions - Adolino and Blake


For several political dynamics (e.g. party systems, electoral systems, executive-legislative relations, intergovernmental relations), Adolino and Blake write about the different systems that have developed in industrialized countries.

  • Two-party vs. Multiparty
  • Single Member District Plurality (SMDP) vs. Proportional Representation
  • Presidential vs. Parliamentary
  • Unitary vs. Federal

Choosing one or more of the pairings above, what are some of the pros and cons of each system? Which do you think is better (based on whatever criteria you choose)? If it's not already present in the U.S., is reform possible? Why or why not?

Discussion Questions - Three R's


How has social media transformed political writing or public policy? Has the importance of writing changed? How has Twitter, specifically, bettered or worsened writing? What role do you believe social media plays in political careers today?

Defining Basic Concepts



Government refers to the institutions and political processes through which public policy choices are made. These institutions and processes represent the legal authority to govern or rule a group of people.

In the United States, the federal Constitution describes the government's institutions, which include Congress, the president, the various agencies of the executive branch, and the federal court system. Each is granted specific but overlapping legal authority to act under a system of separation of powers.

At state and local levels, parallel government institutions develop policy for citizens within their jurisdictions, guided by authority granted in state constitutions and in state and local statues and ordinances. The American system of governance adheres to the principle of federalism; in a federal system the national government shares authority with state and local governments.

Quite often national policies, such as those dealing with environmental protection, are implemented chiefly by the states through an elaborate system of intergovernmental relations in which the federal government grants legal authority to the states to carry out national policies. In other policy areas, such as education, crime control, and land-use regulation, state and local governments play the dominant role.

REFER: Our Government | The White House

REFER: Introduction to the U.S. System


Politics concerns the exercise of power in society or in specific decisions over public policy.

Politics can refer to the processes through which public policies are formulated and adopted, especially to the roles played by elected officials, organized interest groups, and political parties. This is the politics of policymaking.

Politics can also be thought of as how conflicts in society (such as those over rights to abortion services or immigration restrictions) are expressed and resolved in favor of one set of interests or social values or another. Politics in this way refers to the issue positions that different groups of people adopt and the actions they take to promote their values. Harold Lasswell (1958) put it this way: Politics is about "who gets what, when, and how."

In the United States and most other democracies, politics is also related to the electoral processes by which citizens select the policymakers who represent them. In this sense, politics concerns political parties and their issue agendas and the political ideologies, philosophies, and beliefs held by candidates for office, their supporters, and their campaign contributors.

How to Make a Bill a Law (2:27)

Public Policy

Public policy is what public officials within government, and by extension the citizens they represent, choose to do or not to do about public problems.

Public problems refer to conditions the public widely perceives to be unacceptable and therefore requiring intervention. Problems such as environmental degradation, threats to workplace safety, or insufficient access to health care services can be addressed through government action, private action, or a combination of the two. In any given case, the choice depends on how the public defines the problem and on prevailing societal attitudes about private action in relation to government's role.

The term policy refers in general to a purposive course of action that an individual or group consistently follows in dealing with a problem (Anderson 2006). In a more formal definition, a policy is a "standing decision characterized by behavioral consistency and repetitiveness on the part of both those who make it and those who abide by it" (Eulau and Prewitt 1973, 465). Whether in the public or private sector, policies also can be thought of as the instruments through which societies regulate themselves and attempt to channel human behavior in acceptable directions (Schneider and Ingram 1997).

REFER: Legislation | The White House



  • Berman and Murphy, Approaching Democracy, 3rd edition (2001)
  • Kraft and Furlong, Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives (2010)

Reading, Writing, and Research


Reading Comprehension

Each week will bring with it around 75 pages of reading. These will vary from dense, theoretical works to more empirical studies. Starting early, taking your time, and reading difficult pieces a second time will increase reading comprehension.

Reading Comprehension Strategies: Tips on Reading (2:20)

Student Writing Support

Student Writing Support (SWS) offers free writing instruction for all University of Minnesota students at all stages of the writing process. In face-to-face and online collaborative consultations, SWS consultants help students develop productive writing habits and revision strategies.

READ: Getting the most from Student Writing Support

WATCH: Student Writing Support. Everybody writes. We'll help you get better at it. (2:31)

Commenting on the Blog

READ: How to Write a Great Blog Comment

Evaluating Research

Key Questions to Ask When Reading a Social Science Article:

  • What makes the study important?
  • Do the findings make sense?
  • Who conducted the research and wrote the report?
  • Who published the report?
  • Did the researcher select an appropriate group for study?
  • If comparison groups are used, how similar are they?
  • What has changed since the information was collected?
  • Are the methods appropriate to the research purpose?
  • Does the study establish causation?
  • Is the time frame long enough to identify an impact?
  • Could the data be biased as a result of poor research design?
  • Are the results statistically significant?