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Before we get started

Ultimately, making effective use of the internet requires good research skills, especially in searching thoroughly and interpreting wisely. This guide offers a few pointers to help you get started. One point concerns the internet itself. In the poorest parts of the world, effective use is constrained by illiteracy, and even access to electricity. The difficulty of censoring the flow of electronic information means that the internet, and especially social media, can be politically important even in countries where internet penetration is low. Even so, our understanding of politics would be distorted if we imagined a world where web use is universal.

Just as the highest proportions of internet users are in the developed world, so too are most websites.

University of Glasgow - Undergraduate study - Degree programmes A‑Z - Politics

This gives rise to the selection bias discussed in Chapter 3 of Comparative Government and Politics , 11 th edn. It is easier for us all — professors as well as students — to write about internet-rich topics such as the American presidency or the British Parliament than about internet-poor areas such as the politics of remote regions in low-income countries. As a result of selection bias, the known becomes ever clearer but the unknown remains opaque, thus contradicting the underlying spirit of academic enquiry.

A case can even be made that a greater total contribution to knowledge would emerge if, for a period, we all agreed to research website-free topics! At the end of your internet research on a given topic, ask yourself what else you might have been able to discover had you conducted research in the field rather than just from the screen. The internet gives access to various sources of information relevant to comparative politics, including with examples :. The data population, GDP, etc. For more information about the GDP, population, and various other stats relating to countries across the globe, see the interactive Spotlight Map on this companion website.

About the course

Making sense of internet sources requires the same skills as interpreting non-internet sources, plus additional ruthlessness in disposing of irrelevant, low-grade and out-of-date material. How can we judge the accuracy, objectivity and comprehensiveness of internet material? Sources do not need to be perfect to be useful. Sometimes, we are just interested in finding a particular fact or statistic, a task for which a simple query through a search engine is ideal.

Encyclopaedias such as Wikipedia are helpful here, but Wikipedia entries are based on contributions from users, and should be checked for accuracy. If you use user-generated resources like Wikipedia, you should play fair by improving existing entries or adding new ones. Confirmation through multiple sources does not ensure accuracy since information, whether accurate or inaccurate, is often simply copied. For this reason, slight differences in facts and statistics can add to rather than detract from confidence in the underlying point.

Often, we are interested in what a government, interest group or political party has to say in and of itself. What an organization says — on its website or elsewhere — is significant, whether or not it accurately reflects the views of individuals within the organization.

In general, information supplied by an organization about itself is a form of marketing; it is unlikely to be false but will certainly be selective. Provided you always ask what is left unsaid, a trawl through relevant sites is likely to be helpful. There is no magic formula for judging validity but here are some guidelines most of which also apply to hard-copy documents :. Search engines such as Google , Yahoo , Bing and the Chinese-language Baidu provide a convenient way of trawling the web for a particular topic; bear in mind, however, that some engines permit organizations to pay to appear near the top of a results page.

Results vary from one engine to another so it is worth trying at least two for any topic. Also vary the phrase for which you search. Such trawls will deliver a variable catch and some of the results will lack the authority and depth needed for academic purposes. Still, we have to start somewhere. An intelligent search aims to produce a manageable set of results so explore the advanced search facilities of your preferred engines. These enable you, for example, to limit your results to those:.

You can search for a specific file type in Google by including the following your search bar: filetype:pdf. Or, if you wanted to search for PowerPoint slides: filetype:ppt. Or just use Google Advanced Search. To search within a particular domain in Google, including the following at the end of your search: site:[domain]. To search for an exact phrase in the Google search bar, put your search term in double quotation marks, e. Your reading list will probably include key articles from academic journals which you can access in physical or electronic form through your university library.

Indeed, this will be essential for projects and dissertations. How do you go about searching for academic articles? A starting point is to find articles that are referenced in the books or papers you are assigned to read. As you become more familiar with a topic, you will find the same references appearing over and over again — a good indication that these are sources you should read.

Alongside such frequently-cited papers, it is often helpful to read some more recent articles. This method is in effect a form of quality control which eliminates the large amount of minor material thrown up by an electronic search.

Political Science, B.S.

But beware the bandwagon effect: the most-used sources often become that way because scholars feel the need to follow their peers, raising the danger of overlooking sources that are just as valuable perhaps even more valuable simply because they have not been cited as much. Libraries subscribe to these databases, often at considerable expense, but their use is usually free to current students. They enable you to search through academic journals seeking all articles on a particular topic catalogued by title or topic.

Google Scholar is a free to use database performing a similar function but its coverage is more uneven, and its cataloguing less advanced, than most subscription databases. The main drawback of a database search is too many results, with many of marginal relevance and quality.

You will need to be able to search precisely and scan lists of results quickly, relying in part on the quality of the journal and the reputation of the author.

Entry requirements

Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Politics and International Relations. Graduate work in political theory will prepare you for an academic career in the field, either in Oxford or elsewhere, but also the DPIR celebrates the substantial number of its graduates working in government, in diplomatic services, and in senior positions in the private sector. The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page.

Vocabulary: Political Words

However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study. Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.


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For further information, please see our page on changes to courses. If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty. As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:. Nonetheless, each application will be assessed upon its own merits, and so candidates with a degree in an unrelated discipline should demonstrate the relevance of their academic background to their proposed subject or topic of study.

Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or its equivalent. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide. You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course.

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Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.


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All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee or equivalent within the department. Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements:. If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission. The DPIR provides a stimulating research environment in which you can pursue your interests beyond the formal demands of the syllabus.

Many of the academic staff who teach and supervise on the programme also organise extracurricular research seminars for graduate students, such as the Comparative Political Economy seminar, the Constitutional Studies Programme and the Politics Research Colloquium which takes place throughout term. The DPIR also hosts a wide range of research centres and programmes which actively seek to develop collaborative research activity via conferences, workshops and other academic events, and which include graduate students in their activities.