CP Field Exams | Department of Political Science

CP Field Exams

Sample Comparative Politics Field Exams

  1. Identify one testable hypothesis in your area of research that you believe the existing literature has not adequately addressed. Then: a) clearly state and discuss the hypothesis itself. b) design a "comparative" research project to test your hypothesis using one of the following approaches: *most similar systems design *most different systems design *"mixed" comparative design *statistical approach Include specifics such as the particular cases you would use, why you would use them, etc. c) explain why you chose the one approach rather than each of the other three. In the process of doing this, fully discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of each approach, both (i) in general and (ii) as applied to testing your specific hypothesis.
  2. What are the central substantive and theoretical concerns of Comparative Politics? What major approaches have characterized the field in the last forty years? Is there a consensus these days on what should be studied and how that should be done? Given what you have read can you tell us what the current condition of the field is and in what direction(s) it may be going? Give examples of current trends where you can. Do these give you an idea of what the direction of future research will be?
  3. Explain and compare three major theoretical approaches to or explanations for democratization -- process, structural, and cultural, mentioning the major scholars associated with each. In which camp or camps would you locate elite democratization theorists (such as Burton et al.) and civil society/social capital theorists (such as Putnam), and why?
  4. Some scholars have argued that the existing theoretical models of party organizations do not adequately explain how parties are organize and how they behave today. Do you agree? In answering this question, be sure to discuss the evolution of the models of party organization. Be sure to cite the works of Duverger, Kirchheimer, and Katz and Mair.
  5. Institutional or structural analysis have become an important research topic in political science in the past decade or so. Arguably, "institutions" can appear on both sides of the equation as an independent variable or as a dependent variable. Why are institutions or structures important in the study of politics? How are they important to politics? What, if you will, is the underlying logic or theoretical framework behind the study of institutions and structures in comparative politics? Be sure to define what institutions are all about.
  6. Referenda are probably the most understudied (or at least overstudied) of elections. What do we know, in general, about referenda? That is, what theoretical expectations about referenda dominate the literature? Use a specific referendum to examine the factors which appear to determine turnout and issue choice in national elections. Does your case follow the expectation you find in the literature? Why or why not. What does your case tell you about the condition of referendum studies? What need to done to improve our understanding of referendum results?
  7. Define and explain the term "consolidation of democracy." What are the major factors that contribute to the consolidation of democratic regimes? Discuss with reference to scholars who have addressed these concerns, including Sorensen, Huntington, and Diamond.
  8. Discuss the cultural-historical legacies that some argue influence contemporary Latin American politics and institutions, particularly with respect to their influence upon the prospects for democracy and political stability. Present and evaluate evidence that this view of Latin American politics may be overstated, especially with respect to the same issues of democracy and stability.
  9. The phenomenal rise of East Asian industrial countries in the post-second World War years has captivated the attention of scholars in the social sciences. Within political science, several major theories have been offered as explanations of how East Asia was able to rapidly industrialize. Compare and contrast at least two of these theoretical approaches. Which of them do you think best explains East Asian economic growth and development, and why?
  10. What lessons for the study of democratization can be drawn from the Russian experience of the last twelve years? Among other aspects, do examine the role of elections and of the nascent party system. Which other dimensions do you deem significant for an understanding of the process of democratization?
  11. "Transition" studies have been popular in the study of post-communist systems. Is such an emphasis warranted, of should the transformation be viewed in the larger context of the study of change? In approaching this issue, please refer to the experiences of Russia, China, and if you choose, Vietnam.
  12. Giving credit to the sources of your major ideas, synthesize from such theorists as Walton, Skocpol, Aya, Goldstone, Goodwin, and the Tillys the outline of a modern, integrated theory of revolution that combines class analysis, a role for the state, and political and resource mobilization factors. Discuss the advantages of your own theory over Marxian, systems theory, psychological, and psychosocial explanations for revolution.