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Department of Political Science

Matthew Wilson examines country foci in 27,000 political science articles

In “Geographical Coverage in Political Science Research,” forthcoming in Perspectives on Politics (, we describe different patterns and trends over time concerning country references in eight major political science journals. The data that we draw on include the titles and abstracts from 27,690 publications in eight major political science journals from their inception to 2019.  We provide a broad summary of the areas of the world and particular countries that have received more and less attention and how that has changed over time.  Analyzing country references in the abstracts and titles shows that political science was historically concentrated on a limited number of countries in North America and Western Europe and that it has become increasingly global in scope over the last few decades. The top subfield journals in comparative politics show more equitable country coverage but still focus on more developed and Western nations.  We discuss reasons that may drive such differences in coverage, including that rich and democratic countries may benefit from more political scientists located within their borders and studying their home countries. Using regression models, we examine potential correlates of country coverage and show that income, population size, and democracy level are significantly related to country references among citations in the major journals. The patterns that we describe do not upend conventional beliefs about the discipline but offer a fuller view of the extent to which potential “geographical biases” exist and indications of what the potential drivers may be.  This is important for understanding the “scope conditions” of accumulated knowledge in political science and the more or less accepted (purportedly general) conclusions about characteristics of different political processes.  Although political science research is currently becoming more diverse in terms of its empirical focus, the continued geographical skew can affect the applicability of descriptive and causal claims and the development of theories in political science. 

Summary adapted from an MPSA blog post published on 07 October (


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