QUESTION: Political Science Text Recommendations

question / pregunta: 

What essential reading material (text books) are recommended for political science, history, chicano studies, and economics for college undergrads??

ADDITIONAL INFO: major texts are fine, as well as nonfiction, and I'd love to hear from radical perspectives (preferrably from the most respected and lucid radical authorities of said subjects). By History, I mean the history of the U.S.. I'd say Political science, history, and Chicano studies are my top priorities.



Answer posted by:
jim miller

I think we all choked a bit on this one because it is by its nature a very challenging project. There are various sources that rank schools, and by using citation indexes it is possible to rank specific professors to some extent. But respected research surely does not guarantee great teaching, or the ability to pick out good textbooks. Looking for textbook reviews in commercial academic library databases seems to yield limited success.

Academic Search Premier gets 10 hits for: textbooks and tx chicano (looking for textbooks in title, subjects and abstracts; and chicano mentioned anywhere in the article full text). The broader search: reviews and textbooks and political science gets 23 hits; reviews and textbooks and tx political science gets 34 hits.

In Hispanic American Periodicals Index, the search for SUBJECT: textbooks gets 136 hits, mainly reviews of textbooks. 73 are ones reviewed since 1990; only 8 since 2000.

Historical Abstracts gets 45 hits for: textbook review*. America: History & Life gets 22 for that search, 3 for: textbook and chicano and the same 3 even for: tx textbook and tx chicano.

Librarians Index to Internet gets 3 hits for textbook reviews, but even this little bit looks much more geared to public school texts.

In Google, "textbook reviews" chicano gets a pretty mixed bag, and only 46 unique hits. Commercial sites such as DO have "customer reviews", but not for very many books, and there seems to be no easy way to search JUST for books that have reviews. Also, the reviews that are there are by no means vetted by "experts" in their fields.

Powells Books gets only 1 hit for chicano and text*, and no reviews. It gets 48 hits for: political science and text*, but again, few reviews; economics and textbooks gets 138 hits.

Bookfinder4U gets 25 hits for Keywords: textbooks chicano, but many do NOT have reviews.

Another possible approach would be to look in
U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of schools. You could then go into particular schools, to see what courses they teach in political science, economics, Hispanic/Chicano studies, etc., – and see what textbooks they use. The search "chicano studies" gets 20 hits in that U.S. News rankings site, so you could start with those 20 pages. For example america’s best colleges, listed by major gets you to various broad majors. You could then start looking in those particular colleges' web sites, to see what textbooks they assign to students in those subjects.

Once you have a number of possible universities or colleges to try, bear in mind that each one will have its own ways of searching for textbooks, and some may well ask for student ID. Here at U of Maryland,
Testudo lists our textbooks in Latin American Studies. Similarly, at San Diego State U, you can click "accept" button at the bottom of their Bookstore's ordering page, arrow down to "Chicana and Chicano Studies" , and then click on each course number and each professor, to see the title of the book(s) required for that course.

But there is no escaping the "numbers game" that exists in so much of academia (as most everywhere else). Many texts are selected simply because a particular professor at that school wrote the text - and has a vested interest in its use. Even if it is by another scholar, simple high numbers of citations may well have determined who is the most respected scholar. There is nothing that can replace wise personal judgment - personal experience with a teacher who helped you (or someone you respect), and can in turn suggest other great teachers. It would be an especially formidable job to go through many university web sites, to see what teachers had won awards for teaching, and then go to those schools' textbook sites to see what texts they used. Certainly it can't hurt to comb through databases and journals to look for textbook reviews, but it's best to do so with a very critical eye.