Getting Started: Annual Review of Political Science

One of my biggest challenges when getting started with graduate studies was I had no clue what I was reading.

Academia can be thought of as a grand gathering of people who are having conversations with each other, with each journal article a point that a scholar wants to add to the conversation. The thing is, the conversations have been going on for years. Possibly decades. The topics themselves have developed their own style of conversations, combined with different use of language and unexpected jargon. 

Fortunately, there are also conversations in Academia that can be considered “meta-conversations.” Enter: The Annual Reviews. 

The Annual Reviews, including the Annual Review of Political Science (ARPS), are collections of conversations about the conversations.  In each of these articles, a scholar presents where the conversation about a topic currently is and what the main lines of the discussion include. In other words, they provide context and overviews of the conversation, for many different topics. They’re quite helpful.

Here’s some advice, then, that I frequently give in-person: if you’re a graduate student in a seminar and there’s an ARPS article on your reading list, read that one first. If you’re about to start graduate studies and have access to the Annual Reviews, I suggest you look through some of the articles that sound interesting. They help provide context, and sometimes might highlight interesting areas of research you might not have thought about previously.

Happy reading!

What is publication quality, anyway?

One of the most annoying common components of graduate methodology seminars is the ambiguous requirement for “publication quality” figures and tables. Lamentably, that term is amorphous. As with certain other things (such as “democracy”), you may know it when you see it, but that is not always great for nice check-listable things for homework assignments.

Fortunately, however, it turns out that journals actually provide that information. Go figure. (You just need to know where to look. That only took me a couple years to figure out…) 

Personally, I found the APSA style manual to be the most informative. (Look for the section on Tables and Figures; page 59 of the 2020 version’s pdf.) 

The Journal of Politics guidelines also have some helpful information, under “Presenting Statistical or Technical Information.” 

Good luck!