Political Methodology Specialization

The Department of Political Science at Notre Dame offers students the possibility of specializing in political methodology as part of their major.


Source: Coppedge, Denison, Friesen, Tiscornia and Xu. “International Influence: The Hidden Dimension” in Coppedge, Edgell, Knutsen, and Lindberg, eds. “Why Democracies Develop and Decline.” Book under contract with Cambridge University Press. Check out this over-time animation.

What is political methodology?

Political methodology is the component of political science that develops and applies empirical techniques to analyze social and political phenomena. If you are majoring in political science at Notre Dame, you are likely learning political methodology as part of your regular coursework. These tools include quantitative methods – such as regression analysis, machine learning, and sample surveys – as well as qualitative methods – such as case studies, historical comparisons, and process tracing.

Why specialize in political methodology?

The political methodology specialization offers a consistent and rigorous methodological training that will allow students to credibly signal data analytical tools for graduate education and on the job market. Methodological skills are a key element of graduate training in political science and other disciplines, and are appreciated by business and law schools. Evidence-based analysis is highly valued by employers across industries. The “big data” revolution has increased the demand for rigorous empirical analysts who can take advantage of massive information and computational techniques to inform decisions in finance, consulting, and journalism, and policy. Qualitative analysis based on in-depth case studies and archival research remains a central component of decision making in business, law, and the policy world. Rigorous training in political methodology also improves the quality of senior theses, another valuable signal when applying for graduate school and top jobs.

How to specialize in political methodology?

Specializing in political methodology requires taking a total of four courses in the methodology curriculum: the two “core” classes in methodology—Qualitative Political Analysis and Quantitative Political Analysis—and two electives. The political science major currently requires a total of ten courses:  at least one course in each of the four main fields of political science, four intermediate-level courses, and two writing seminars.  Students seeking a specialization in methodology can count their two core methods toward the major’s requirement of four intermediate-level courses.  The other two methodology courses required for the specialization would be taken in addition to the ten courses required for the political science major.  A student specializing in political methodology and taking all methods courses within the Department of Political Science would take a total of 12 courses in political science.


The department regularly offers a variety of courses in political methodology. Recent offerings include:

  • POLS 30815: Designing and Analyzing Public Opinion Surveys
  • POLS 30504: Human Rights Reparations: Design and Compliance
  • POLS 40810/11: Quantitative Political Analysis
  • POLS 40812: Qualitative Political Analysis
  • POLS 30812: Research Ethics and Experiments
  • POLS 40805: Thesis Research Design and Methods
  • POLS 40815: Visualizing Politics

This variety of courses gives students the opportunity to structure their methodology electives around their substantive interests in politics. For example, someone interested in elections and public opinion might take “Designing and Analyzing Public Opinion Surveys.” Students interested in democratization and human development might take “Field Research Methods.” Students focused on national security and foreign policy analysis might take “Simulating Politics in Global Affairs.”

Upon approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies and the field chair in Political Methodology, students may have methodology courses from other departments count towards the methodology specialization. For guidance, students are encouraged to reach out to political science faculty in political methodology. The faculty listing can be found under the methodology tab here.