All the social sciences aim at understanding the connections among various human actions and institutions. Political scientists are primarily concerned with explaining those events and interactions in which power or authority is at stake, such as revolutions or elections or laws. Explaining these things well also requires an understanding of other sorts of transactions, such as those involving wealth or status, with which political life is continually intertwined. Thus, the political science courses at Bryn Mawr are designed to reach out to the rest of the curriculum as much as to one another. As one student puts it, "The department's requirements for the major allow one to cross the artificial boundaries between the different social science disciplines - one can infuse a healthy dose of economics, sociology, psychology, or history into one's political studies."
The focus of the department is on analytical sophistication rather than on knowledge of a body of facts. Graduates learn to think critically about political life in a variety of settings. Consequently there are no required courses, and each student's major program is developed in an individual way through close consultation with her major advisor. A major's particular interests may involve acquisition of a variety of skills - statistical, linguistic, or literary. But the common technique to be mastered is that of making arguments well, and so serious attention to the development of effective writing is a part of almost every course in the department.
The major in political science aims at developing the reading, writing and thinking skills needed for a critical understanding of the political world. Coursework includes a variety of approaches to the study of politics: historical/interpretive, quantitative/deductive and philosophical. Using these approaches, students examine political life in a variety of contexts from the small-scale neighborhood to the international system, asking questions about the different ways in which humans have addressed the organization of society, the management of conflicts or the organization of power and authority.