Senior Project Advisor

Michael Wolff

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2022


Politics, Science, Political Science, Archipelago, Discipline, Paradigm


“‘Political Science’ is greatly in need of definition” (Smith, 1886, quoted in Sigelman, 2006). This statement is as true today as it was a century and a half ago when it was written in Political Science’s first independent journal’s first article. Throughout its history, the discipline’s purpose and objectives have been contested. A conflict between subdisciplines regarding approaches and desired research outcomes hinders the creation of a comprehensive disciplinary framework. Yet, division is inevitable given the objects of Political Science’s study – people and power. The discipline is having an identity crisis. To illustrate this, Political Science is compared to an archipelago, a system of separate and distinct islands. Unity is not possible in Political Science, and, perhaps, not even desirable given the variety of topics that it encompasses. By dissecting the etymology of the term “political science,” as well as studying the discipline’s past and present epistemologies, ontologies, and methodologies, I establish an understanding of Political Science’s relationship vis-à-vis the natural sciences, the social sciences, academia, policymakers, and society as a whole. This project does not aim to assemble Political Science under a universal purpose, but instead it serves as a self-reflection of Political Science’s scholarly contributions and to provide a holistic image of the discipline’s impact.


Political Science

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Political science--History






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