Lawrence C. Dodd
Manning J. Dauer Eminent Scholar in Political Science
University of Florida, Political Science Department

LAWRENCE C. DODD holds the Manning J. Dauer Eminent Scholar Chair in Political Science at the University of Florida. Dodd received his BA from Midwestern State University (Wichita Falls, Texas) in 1968 and his doctorate in political science from the University of Minnesota in 1972. In the subsequent three-plus decades he has held tenured positions at the University of Texas-Austin (1972-1980), Indiana University- Bloomington (1980-86) and the University of Colorado-Boulder (1986-95). He joined the UF faculty in 1995. Dodd also has served as a Ford Fellow (1971-72), Congressional Fellow (1974-75), Hoover National Fellow (1984-85), University Fellow (Colorado, 1993-94), and Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2003-04). 

Dodd’s major fields of research interest are legislative politics; legislative-executive relations; parties, public opinion and elections; and contemporary processes of institutional change and democratization. His most recent book, entitled Learning Democracy: Citizen Engagement and Electoral Choice in Nicaragua, 1990-2001, was co-authored with Leslie Anderson and published by the University of Chicago Press in 2005. The ninth edition of Congress Reconsidered, co-edited with Bruce Oppenheimer, will be published in January of 2009. Additionally, a collection of his essays on Congress, entitled Thinking about Congress: Essays on Congressional Change, is forthcoming from Routledge in 2009. Dodd’s nine books or edited volumes also include Coalitions in Parliamentary Government (1976), Congress and the Administrative State (with Richard Schott, 1979), Congress and Policy Change (edited with Gerald Wright and Leroy Rieselbach, 1986), and The Dynamics of American Politics (edited with Cal Jillson, 1994).

Honored five times for ‘Teaching Excellence’ at his three previous universities, Dodd concentrates at Florida on graduate instruction and the direction of doctoral research. His course on "The Scope and Epistemologies of Political Science" is required of all entering doctoral students in political science. He also teaches advanced seminars on "Congressional Politics," "Empirical Theories of Politics," and “American Legislative Development.”

Dodd was the campus-wide recipient of the UF’s 1997-98 Superior Accomplishment Award for Faculty Service, presented by the University in recognition of his efforts, together with those of his department colleagues, towards building a first-tier doctoral program and vibrant scholarly community in political science at Florida. More recently he was one of five recipients of the University-wide 2006-2007 Doctoral Mentoring Award. Additionally, Dodd was selected as UF’s 2007 Teacher-Scholar of the Year, the University’s highest faculty honor.

Currently Dodd is serving a two-year term (2007-09) as the elected Head of the 600-member Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association. Previously he has served as President of the Southwestern Political Science Association, as an elected member of the Executive Councils of the American Political Science Association and the Southern Political Science Association, and as an appointed member of the APSA’s Trust and Development Fund Committee. Dodd’s current research includes a study with Scot Schraufnagel of the University of Central Florida of the role that party polarization and member incivility play in fostering or inhibiting the productivity of landmark legislation in Congress; and an NSF-funded study with Leslie Anderson of the University of Florida focused on the continuing evolution of electoral politics and democratic institutions in Nicaragua. Anderson, a University Research Foundation Professor at Florida, is Larry’s wife as well as his co-author and a member of the Comparative Politics faculty in the Political Science department.


Welcome to my home page. Here you will find specialized sections that provide information about my personal background, scholarly interests, and teaching activities, as well as some thoughts about future directions . Please feel free to browse. As you do, perhaps a few introductory words from me would simplify your search and help you make sense out of the information provided here.

I. Personal Background.

As you know from the heading above, I teach political science at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Previously I taught at the University of Texas (1972-80), Indiana-Bloomington (1980-1986), and Colorado-Boulder (1986-1995). Being a professor and student of politics certainly occupies much of my time and energy. But I am also a husband, father, son, photographer, animal lover, dancer, horseman, guitarist, fisherman, traveler, Rocky Mountain devotee and native of Texas. To learn more about me, go to the Biographical Sketch link provided to the left.

One of the most remarkable things in my life has been the good fortune of finding early-on a career studying and sharing with others what I most love: understanding how it is that we humans have managed to govern ourselves so that we collectively survive, adapt to new social conditions, flourish and exercise some degree of constructive stewardship in the world. My desire to understand politics and governance in the modern world led me to concentrate on how it is that legislatures, parties and governing regimes respond to public needs while adapting effectively to societal changes, and the role that citizens, elections and democratic procedures play in this process.

My excitement with this career direction is captured in the picture to the left, taken in the summer of 1971 in Minneapolis, immediately following my completion of doctoral coursework at the University of Minnesota. Over the next eighteen months I would pass prelims, accept a job at UT-Austin, and finish my dissertation. 

To get a sense of my subsequent career development, see the link at left for my curriculum vita.

II. Scholarly Interests:

In terms of my scholarly work, most of my attention has focused on the United States, particularly on the study of the U. S. Congress and how it changes across time. My fascination with the Congress and congressional change emerged full-force when I was working on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Fellow during the reforms and upheavals of the mid-1970s. The reforms and changes I was observing on Capitol Hill seemed impossible in terms of research and scholarly interpretations that dominated congressional studies at the time. This experience drove home to me how elusive the Congress can be, and the challenging task that confronted me as a student of Congress. To learn more about my subsequent efforts to understand Congress, and also state legislatures, see the link at left, "Scholarship: U. S. Congress."

While I love the study of Congress, I have also found intriguing and instructive the operation of parliamentary politics in Europe and the British Commonwealth and the emergence of democratic governance in Latin America, particularly Nicaragua. My dissertation at the University of Minnesota focused on the study of cabinet durability and coalition politics in the former countries. More recently, I have spent much of the past decade studying elections and democratization in Nicaragua, with my wife, Leslie Anderson. This work was stimulated by the surprising overthrow of the ruling Sandinistas in the 1990 elections in Nicaragua, and the issues this raised about electoral choice, citizen learning, democratization and regime change. My scholarly work on these and other comparative topics is discussed in “Scholarship: Comparative Politics.”

III. Teaching Activities:

While engaged over the past three decades in the scholarly enterprise, I also have greatly loved the role of teacher and mentor. During my early career I taught loads of undergraduate classes, and undergraduate students, averaging probably as many as  1100 to 1200 such students a year when enrollment in my large lower division classes are combined with the upper division classes during those early years. More recently I have concentrated on graduate teaching, from an introductory course required of all doctoral students in the Florida department to the direction of doctoral dissertations. For an overview of my Teaching Experience, see the link on Teaching Experience.

As you would imagine from my research interests, the central advanced graduate seminar I teach today is concerned with the U. S. Congress. I take a broad and eclectic view to studying Congress, introducing students to the various topics, approaches and methods used by the different ‘schools of thought’ in congressional studies. I also give students a strong dose of my own ideas about understanding Congress. I then encourage those wanting to specialize in congressional studies to spend at least a summer working on Capitol Hill during their graduate career in order to hone their own independent perspectives on congressional politics, particularly if they lack previous experience in Washington. To see how I approach teaching congressional politics, access the link at left for my “Congressional Politics” Syllabus

“Teaching Congress” is, however, only part of my teaching role at Florida. As I have pursued my various research interests, and taught my courses on the Congress, I also have become convinced that scholars and students need to grapple not only with substantive knowledge, or with methods and data, but with two additional issues: How do we ‘know’ that we know what we think we know, a topic called “Epistemology.” And what are the different ways of thinking about or ‘seeing’ politics that might best help us to understand and explain how it really operates, a topic called “Empirical Theory.”

My grappling with epistemological issues is reflected most clearly in the syllabus for “The Scope and Epistemologies of Political Science,” a graduate seminar that I teach to all entering doctoral students in political science at the University of Florida. This course seeks to help students be aware of multiple ways of knowing – from the search for universal empirical regularities to the construction of logical arguments to the appreciation of sociocultural differences to the deciphering of dialectical tensions. It also provides a broad-gauged introduction to the development and scope of political science as a discipline. The syllabus can be accessed through the link to the left.
My concerns with “Empirical Theory” are most evident in my syllabus for the advanced graduate seminar on “Empirical Theories of Politics,” also available at the left. This course introduces students to a broad range of theoretical perspectives on politics – from rational choice models to social structure analysis to social learning theory to sociocultural evolution. It illustrates these perspectives by looking across research on American politics, comparative politics, and international relations, as well as through examining work from cognate disciplines such as sociology, economics, anthropology, and social psychology.. The breadth of the course makes it useful not only to students of the U. S. Congress or American politics but to those who want to draw on contemporary  empirical theory in other fields of political and social scientific analysis.
IV. Future Directions:

The Empirical Theory course is the most intellectually exciting and stimulating course I have ever taught, at least for me. After thinking about politics through different theoretical lenses, and experiencing the depth of understanding that comes from multiple perspectives on the world, it is difficult for me to imagine being a ‘true believer’ in just one theoretical approach. Rather, I believe that the challenge to political scientists today is to craft and interconnect multiple theoretical lenses on politics – capturing not just the foreground of individual and group behavior but the background of political context, the integrative power of political ideas, and the dynamic influence of evolutionary process. As we do so, we move closer to the sort of comprehensive and yet comprehensible understanding of politics that will truly make a science of politics possible over the next century.

If you find this challenge an intriguing one, and are looking for a doctoral program in political science which could help you prepare to become part of this exciting future, you might consider joining us here at the University of Florida. For information on the program, click on Department of Political Science.  And if you are just an interested browser who finds the idea of learning about politics and empirical theory to be intriguing, but graduate school is not in your future -- or if you want to get a ‘head start’ on graduate studies – the suggested readings link can help you get on with your self-education.

Finally, to see my effort to understand the Republican takeover of Congress during the 1990s through the use of multiple lenses, and perhaps thereby to understand why I find empirical theory and the study of Congress both so exciting, click the link to the left for my essay, “Re-Envisioning Congress.”  The essay also should help you understand my concern with political epistemology, making a bit clearer why it is important to be attentive to multiple ways of knowing, from empirical observation to logical argument to historical interpretation to integrative synthesis. And it will give you an idea of how I see at least part of my scholarly work moving over the next decade.

I hope that this simple introduction gives you some idea of who I am, the areas of political inquiry that fascinate me,  and how to make sense out of the information contained in my website. If you still don’t know where to begin, just start surfing. As you do so, feel free to email me any questions, comments or suggestions, and send me your own webpage connections so that I can get to know you as well. Best wishes.

design by B. Roth, 2001