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Methods of Studying Political Science


  • There is no unanimity about the way politics should be studied.
  • Over the years opinions on this have varied.
  • For a long time politics was considered as coming within the scope of Philosophy, History or Law.
  • However, in the late 19th century, there took place a shift in this view.
  • An attempt was initiated to make the study of politics scientific.
  • The philosophical tradition of politics gradually yielded to the scientific tradition of politics.
  • Emphasis was shifted from political norms and values to political behaviour.
  • Since late 19th century, behaviouralism has dominated the study of politics.

    However, of late, emphasis on values in the study of politics has been revived. 
    • It is now realized that while scientific method is useful for studying politics, the study of politics would be directionless and meaningless if it does not aim at realizing some values.
    • This renewed emphasis on norms and values in studying politics has given birth to 'post-behaviouralism'.


    There are a number of methods for studying politics.
    • Historical Method 
    • Observational Method 
    • Experimental Method 
    • Behavioural Method 
    • Philosophical Method 
    • Sociological Method

    Historical Method 

    • Exponents include; Freeman, Aristotle, Leacock, Seely etc 
    • Seely: “History without Political Science has no fruit and Political Science without History has no root” 
    • They are 02 legs of the same body. 
    • Therefore, History forms the very foundation for the study of Political Science.

    Observational Method 

    • First adopted by Plato and Aristotle. 
    • Plato visited large number of countries, studied their social, economic and political conditions and then propounded certain principles of political science. 
    • It gives most realistic conclusions.

    Experimental Method 

    • Gilchrist: “Every change in the government, every change in law, every change in policies, every war etc are experiments in political science” 
    • The world itself is the laboratory. 
    • Example: US Post-independence 13 colonies confederation (loose association) failed but next experiment with 50 states federation (tight association) still continues as world Super Power.

    Behavioural Method 

    • In 1950s and 1960s the study of politics assumed a new form called "behaviouralism" or "behavioural persuasion in politics". 
    • This doctrine, made the theoretical development of the scientific tradition of the study of politics. 
    • It is a protest movement against the traditional methods. 
    • It studies behaviour of political stakeholders via observation, data collection, interview, research etc.
    • It made Political Science more scientific.


    • In 1970 a group of scholars argued that "behaviouralism narrowed down the scope of Political Science and undermined its quality by ignoring the value or values and norms in the study of politics.
    • They stood for going back to political values and norms without discarding the scientific method of collecting and processing data. 
    • This new phase in the study of politics has been known as post-behaviouralism. 
    • The writings of John Rawls and Robert Nozick reflect this trend.
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    Fathimath Sama
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