In an academic setting, the process often starts with curiosity about some observed fact. The political scientist asks intelligent and answerable questions, and then the process of gathering data or doing research begins. If the questions are more philosophical or historical, research might involve reading texts, either classic works by thinkers like Plato or more contemporary historical works. On the other hand, if the questions concern more practical matters like government economic policy, the researcher might spend time looking at statistics on recent budget deficits or the rate of inflation. The results of research are often published in academic journals or in book form.
Besides pursuing academic knowledge for its own sake, political scientists also engage in four other broad areas of activity: advice, commentary, government employment and direct political action. Political advice involves providing policy analysis and consultation to governments and corporations. Political commentary involves expressing opinions on the important issues of the day through various media, such as newspapers, television, radio, and blogs. Government employment means working for some public entity or agency, whether at the national, state or local level. Finally, direct action could mean being an actor in the political process itself, either through holding an elected office or engaging in lobbying activity on behalf of a company or a cause.