Department of Political Science


 POLS 260 (4)                                                                     T-Th 12.30 – 1.45

 Fall 2006                                                                            DuSable 246

Instructor: Srie Ramli                                                          E-mail:



“Without comparisons to make, the mind does not know how to proceed.”
Alexis de Tocqueville, 1830



            This course is an introduction to the comparative study of governments and politics.  The goal is to understand how political authority is organized and how it operates in a variety of nations. In this course, students will learn both historical processes of political change and development and contemporary political institutions, practices and policies. 

            Students will study and compare seven important contemporary states: United Kingdom, France, The People’s Republic of China, Japan, Iran, India and Nigeria.  The course includes explanation on similarities and differences in these governments’ political institutions.  Students are expected to identify and analyze the common problems these governments face, compares the alternative institutions and methods these seven states have adopted.  Because of the large amount of new material to be covered, this course will include lecture, students’ presentation and discussions and film documentaries.




Various chapters in the e-reserve; the URL will be announced in class



Order! Order! (GB)

Democratic Governments: France (France)

China after Mao (China)

The Meiji Revolution (Japan)

Islam Rising: Which Way Next for Iran? (Iran)

Hope in the Horizon (Nigeria)


Course Requirements and Grading:

Students are expected to keep up with the readings, which mean that you should complete each reading assignment by the time we begin the corresponding section of the course.  The lectures will parallel and complement the readings, but students cannot count on the lectures repeating the reading.  The exams will be based in equal parts on the readings, lectures, films, group presentation and discussions.  


The Learning Environment

            Respect for the learning community and the learning process will include coming to class on time, remaining in ones seat, and requesting permission to speak, etc.  Attitudes such as persistent lateness, studying for another class, playing with or talking on cell phone, talking with other students, reading newspapers and other disruptive behaviors are extremely not acceptable and I may have to ask you to leave the classroom.  I will count any “walkouts” as absences unless the student has permission or there is an emergency. The instructor should be notified beforehand of a special circumstance (e.g., sick family member, pregnant wife, special children situation, etc.). Comments that are not relevant to the ongoing discussion, off the point, disruptive to discussion, insensitive to others, or attempt to dominate the discussion will not be rewarded. Overall, classroom dialogue and behavior should always be courteous, respectful of others, and consistent with the expectations set forth by the university.



 Attendance, class participation and class reports

Attendance at all class sessions is expected and I will check attendance at the beginning or ending of every session.  One or two times of missing classes and quizzes may not affect your final grade; however, repeated absences will start to limit your maximum achievable grade.  After the first week of class, I request that you try to sit in approximately the same place to facilitate our learning and to associate names with real live people for quickly monitoring attendance.

The participation portion of your final grade is designed to reward those students who came to class prepared.  Satisfactory class participation requires that students are present and attentive as well as contributing to class discussions in a manner that reflects they have read the required materials. 

At the end of each class you will hand in a “class report” containing two sentences: (1) what is the most important/interesting thing you learned in class that day; and (2) what is your most important/puzzling remaining question.  Put your name and date on this essay and hand it in before leaving the room.  These will count towards the 10% of your grades that rides on small quizzes and class participation. 

The instructor has the discretion to alter the syllabus and has the right to adjust grade (up and down) based on participation.



Group Presentation

            At the beginning of semester I will assign students into groups to present individual country.  The presentation will take about 20-25 minutes and students are expected to give a brief explanation on the roles and powers of governmental institutions including issues of current affairs of the country assigned; power point presentation is strongly favored.  To facilitate discussion, I will provide list of questions to be addressed by members of the group in the presentation. The other groups must provide at least TWO questions to ask to the group presenting.  I will distribute an evaluation sheet where groups assess the presentation on the clarity of answers, group coordination, understanding of materials, preparation, etc. The presentation will be graded based on the scores on these evaluation sheets. 

After presentation, each student in the group must submit a short paper consisting of answers to the assigned questions. The length of this paper is 2-3 pages (fonts 12 and double space) explaining the answers and comments about the specified question. Paper must also include reference list or bibliography. Please make sure that you refer to the university’s policy on plagiarism.  I will be looking for your own thought and understanding of the question(s) and the grade will be based on the clarity of your own arguments and opinions.  The group presentation and paper will count for 30% of the overall grade.

There will be NO presentation make up, so make sure that you will not miss the presentation. The paper cannot replace the presentation and late paper will result in reduction of the overall presentation grade (one point each day).  Questions and comments from students will be graded as part of the participation grade.



Quizzes, Midterms and final exam

            There will be two midterms. The first midterm (October 3) will cover the conceptual approach and the first two countries (Great Britain and France).  The second midterm (November 14) will cover China, Japan and India.  These exams count for 30% of your course grade.  

             There will also be several unannounced small quizzes.  The quizzes will be easy and short covering topics in the assigned readings, movies or current events of each country.  Therefore, you are expected to keep up with the readings and current issues or development occurring in the country being discussed (reading the international sections of newspaper or academic journal -- the New York Times, BBC, or the Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Affairs, etc., will be helpful).  I will not allow for a quiz make up.  These quizzes will be included in the 10% of your participation grade.  (Hints: some extra points may be earned from these quizzes, so make sure you will not miss them!)

The final exam is comprehensive, but there will be more questions on materials covered after the second midterm.  The final exam is 30% of your course grade and take place during the regularly scheduled final exam period (Tuesday, December 12, 2006: 12.00 – 1.50 pm).  The format of the exams will be a combination of essay, short answers, and multiple choices.

NO MAKE-UP EXAMS WILL BE GIVEN, except at the discretion of the instructor well in advance of the exam. Please refer to the NIU final exam policy below.



NIU Final examinations Policy:

              Except with the written approval of the dean of the college, all undergraduate classes are to meet for examination or other instructional purposes at the time assigned in the final examination schedule. Class meetings scheduled during the final examination period are considered part of the regular semester. Evening classes scheduled for a final meeting during the final examination period also fall under this policy.


Policy governing students scheduled for three finals in the same day:

Students whose class schedule commits them to take three final examinations in one day may elect to have the examination in the highest numbered course of the three rescheduled. If the occurrence of three finals in one day, however, is the result of the examination in a particular class having been rescheduled (with appropriate approval), the examination that does not conform to the announced schedule is the one the student may elect to have rescheduled.

In order to reschedule an examination, the student should contact the course instructor one week prior to the first day of final examination week.

Blackboards and On-line Reserve

            I will be using blackboard as the means of communication with students.  I am sure that all of you are familiar with the blackboard system.  I will post handouts, additional readings, announcements, etc in the blackboard (I will try to post them one or two day before class) please check the blackboard frequently. I will also post materials for class in the E-reserve (I will announce the URL in class). You will be able to access the E-reserve materials directly from your computer.


Academic Integrity
             Students are expected to know and comply with NIU policies on academic integrity (See undergraduate catalog). Any student found guilty of cheating or plagiarizing will receive an “F” for the examination and the course. 

Components of Final Grade

A.  Midterms 1 and 2 (each 15%)                                               30%

B.  Small quizzes and participation                                             10%

C.  Group Presentation (20%) + papers (10%)                            30 %

D  Final Exam                                                                              30 %





Undergraduate Writing Awards

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28. All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name. Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.

CAAR’s website:



Department of Political Science Web Site

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to



Course Schedule


August 29                                        Introduction: go over the syllabus and class requirements

August 31                                        Introduction to CP: What is Comparative Politics

September 5                                     Legislatures and Legislative Structures; the executive

September 7                                     Institutional arrangements



September 12                                   Case Study: The United Kingdom

                                                              History and Critical junctures

September 14                                      Film: Order! Order! …

September 19                                      Presentation: Political Institutions



September 21                                    Case Study: France

                                                               History and current issues

September 26                                     Film: Democratic Governments: France

September 28                                     Student presentation


October 3                                  Midterm 1


October 5                                           Case Study: China

October 10                                         Film: China After Mao

October 12                                         China’s current issues and problems

October 17                                         Student presentation


October 19                                          Case Study: Japan

October 24                                          Film: The Meiji Revolution

October 26                                          Student presentation

October 31                                          Current issues and problems


November 2                                       Case Study: India

November 7                                        Film???

November 9                                        Student Presentation


November 14                            Midterm 2


November 16                                     Case Study: Iran

November 21                                     Film: Islam Rising: Which Way Next for Iran?


November 22—26                              Thanksgiving break – have a nice holiday


November 28                                     Student Presentation                                            



November 30                                     Case Study: Nigeria

December 5                                        More Nigeria

December 7                                        Student presentation and study review


December 12 (12.00 – 1.50)                  FINAL EXAM