Political science is a diverse discipline. It comprises multiple substantive focus areas and methodological approaches. As elsewhere in North America, the Michigan Department of Political Science is divided into several subfields:
- American politics (the study of political institutions, practices, behaviors and their development in the United States)
- Comparative politics (comparative study of political institutions, practices, behaviors and their development across national boundaries)
- Methods (the study and development of the methods used in the discipline)
- Political theory (the study of political concepts, ideals and values)
- Law and politics (the study of laws, legal institutions and practices as political phenomena)
- World politics (the study of international institutions, conflicts and other relations between states and non-state actors)
The cores of the subfields are clearly defined, and the undergraduate and graduate curricula reflect them. At the level of cutting-edge research, however, there are significant overlaps and productive synergies between the subfields. Many research questions do not neatly fit in any single subfield, and scholars in each subfield use diverse methods. Most faculty in the department have interests and competencies that span several subfields.