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Assessment (HC)

Political Science Department


                                                   Political Science Department Four-Year Library Skills Rubric                                     


Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4


Defining Research Questions

Students develop a research question that is of interest to them and meet with the subject librarian to work out terminology, search strategies, and database choices.

Students use class discussion, readings, personal knowledge, and targeted searching to create compelling research questions that engage with significant issues.

While incorporating analysis and methodologies learned in Political Science courses, students also consider what other disciplines and approaches may bring to the questions they are seeking to answer.

Students think through complex sets of primary materials and secondary sources to pose a research question for their theses.  As they gather more evidence and analysis, they rethink their question and the connections they have drawn, making changes that strengthen their argument.

Situating Research Questions within the Literature of Political Science and Related Scholarship

Students understand the difference between scholarly publications and those intended for a general audience.  They recognize the importance of finding and using relevant and up-to-date scholarly work.

Students use both general and subject-specific databases to find recent research.  They choose journal articles based on topic and approach.  They understand what the concepts and methodologies of Political Science add to scholarly inquiries. 

Students recognize that the field of Political Science involves individuals, groups, and institutions exchanging ideas in person, online and in print.  They understand that research involves tracing these lines of dialog and determining what new ideas to explore.  They also understand the scholarly publication timeline and know what kinds of sources  are likely to provide useful information on recent events.

Students are skilled in searching and identifying relevant scholarship, including books, journal articles, papers, and reports, using databases, bibliographic notes, and citation searches.  They evaluate material critically, distinguishing those works that are likely to have greater credibility.

Conducting Research with Primary Source Materials

Students understand the difference between primary and secondary materials and realize the value of using different kinds of pertinent primary materials to support their arguments.

Students read articles and books critically, and understand Political Science as a study of governance and political behavior. They can navigate databases, library catalogs, and websites that give access to primary materials.   They use recent scholarship to better understand the issues involved in particular source materials.

Students are adept at using both analog and digital sources which give greater range and depth to the research done in primary materials.  They bring an informed understanding of source materials both to their reading of scholarly studies and to their own papers and course projects.

Students identify and find relevant primary source materials (data, documents ranging from the local level to international organizations, news, opinion polls, etc.) for their seminar papers and theses.  They contextualize their understanding of a source by bringing in Political Science methodologies and scholarship, theoretical and critical ideas, and other primary source materials.

Understanding and Applying Theory

Students understand that political practices and social categories are subject to different interpretations and methodologies.  They see the importance of thinking critically and self-reflectively in order to develop a sound argument free from bias.

 Students develop a familiarity with a range of Political Science analyses, disciplinary approaches, and subfield topics.  They recognize major concepts and key theorists in the field and can locate more information in reference works and secondary literature. 

Students systematize their knowledge of Political Science by strategic use of such disciplinary sources as literature reviews, book reviews, and studies of Political and social science theory.

Students bring a Political Science approach to seminar papers and theses, presenting their argument within a larger context of the related scholarship.  They give a cogent account of the issues involved and explain why their new interpretation is significant.

 Political Science Reference Literature

Students realize the difference between authoritative reference works produced under editorial review and those done for a general audience by authors without extensive subject expertise.

Students use subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other summary accounts to find background, identify interpretive themes, connect to theorists’ ideas, and see recommended sources for further reading.

Students deepen their knowledge through topic-specific reference guides including handbooks and companions that emphasize critical evaluations of major issues in the field.

Students bring the full range of reference works to bear on projects, making connections and sharpening their arguments.  When they do research in a new subject area, they are able to identify relevant resources for reference.

Using Libraries Effectively

Students know that they can get the assistance they need either by first contacting either their personal librarian or by going to the Research Help Desk.  They have experience using the Library’s catalog and website and can request materials both from the bicolleges and from outside the local system.

Students can identify the appropriate subject librarians for courses they are taking and seek their assistance with research projects.  Students understand that they have a great variety of library resources and services in the tricolleges.

Students consult with the subject librarian for Political Science and can use the library research guides prepared for classes to identify and access materials needed for coursework and personal interests.  They also make use of the Library’s Senior Thesis Archive to see good examples of student work.

Students work with the Political Science subject librarian year-long as they develop their thesis, defining subject areas, search strategies and topical connections.  As students learn more about their area of thesis research, they consult the librarian when they rethink their arguments, seek further evidence, or look for likely case studies.

Responsible Use of Sources

Students understand that they must cite others’ work whether quoting directly or acknowledging an author’s ideas within their own statements.  Awareness about plagiarism and copyright is connected to an understanding of how citations function in scholarship.

 Students take on more involved research projects and learn to use citation-management programs, so that they can save, organize, and put to use the research they have gathered.


Students do research that connects them to scholars and casts them in a practitioner’s role.  The attention which the campus gives to issues involving ethical practices in research and writing helps convey to students the importance involved.  

Students have developed a critical awareness of the ways in which Political Science scholarship is created, distributed, and used.  This knowledge informs the production of their own work in terms of handling sources, considering confidentiality, understanding fair use, and providing access to their finished projects.