Proficiency, Inquiry, and Textbooks in Comparative Politics

Proficiency, Inquiry, and Textbooks in Comparative Politics

By Patrick H. O’Neil, University of Puget Sound

When I was asked for this contribution, I initially found it difficult to reflect on the larger implications behind my work. It is one thing to write about the subfield, distilling and teaching concepts and ideas that others have developed over time; it is another thing to make observations about that process. Although I admonish students in comparative politics to ensure that their work is not simply a glorified book report, listing one event after another, I now run the risk of making that same mistake. To provide some context, I come to textbook writing from a small liberal arts college where teaching trumps research. I have taught an introduction to comparative politics course almost every semester for more than 20 years. As a result, whether or not consciously, the textbook reflects many years of teaching small courses in which lectures are few and student engagement is expected.

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