FALL 2008
Monday 7:00PM-10:00 PM; Humanities 114

Jose Marichal,  Ph.D.


Phone: 493-3328

Office Hours: MWF 12:30-1:30  

Office: Bldg. E -- Room 7




This course is designed to provide an introduction to several types of social science research methods, their applications, and limitations. In the process, we will examine how theory informs the creation of social science knowledge. The course will explore the different stages of the research process.  We will begin by discussing the nature of knowledge and how it is created.  We will then move to an examination of what accounts for a good "problem" in social science.  From there, we will discuss the stages of a scientific investigation: literature review, research design, operationalization, data collection, preparation and analysis, and data presentation.  The course will build towards a final collaborative project in which you will be required to carry out your own investigation and present it to a group.  


University Educational Objectives:

·         Field Specific Knowledge and Experience

·         Written Communication Skills

·         Information Literacy

·         Critical Thinking

MPPA Educational Objectives:

·         Field Specific Knowledge

·         Critical Thinking


1.       Show up for class on time

2.       Readings for the day need to be completed prior to class times: class  activities, discussions, and quizzes will primarily draw upon assigned readings.

3.       Talking, working, and thinking with others are large parts of this class. I encourage expressions of opinions (myself included), but there are classroom boundaries. Our class will be a safe place. That is to say, we will all treat each other in a respectful manner. Rude interruptions, hurtful insults (including racial, gender, sexuality, etc. slurs), and personal attacks will not be tolerated. 

4.       Academic Dishonesty: plagiarism and other forms of “cheating” violate California Lutheran University’s code of student conduct; violations will be treated according to university policy.

5.       All assignments and activities must be turned in on time. Extensions will not be granted on the day the assignment is due. If you are unable to attend class when an assignment is due, you should hand it in early (to the administrative office in G-Bldg. – make sure to sign-in on their paper log and let them know that it is for my mailbox), or send it with a friend to class. Late take-home or in-class assignments will not be graded unless you have documentation of an emergency: this includes deaths in the family.

6.       If an assignment is of the take-home variety, it must follow the following guidelines: be typed, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins all around, spell-checked, grammar-checked, pages numbered, and demonstrate correct citation and bibliographic format.

7.       California Lutheran University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to students with various documented disabilities (physical, learning, or psychological).  If you are a student requesting accommodations for this course, please let me know during the first two weeks of the semester and register with the Coordinator for Students with Disabilities (Pearson Library, Center for Academic Resources, Ext. 3260) for the facilitation and verification of need. I will work closely together with you and your coordinator to provide necessary accommodations.

8.       Investigating Community Social Capital Project: To increase your understanding of social science methods, I will ask you to complete the exercises found in Lori Weber's "Investigating Community Social Capital" website.  These assignments will correspond to the methodological approaches and theories we discussed in class.  These exercises will be graded on a 3-point scale: 2 = complete/correct, 1 = some portions complete/correct and other portions incomplete/incorrect, 0 = totally incorrect/incomplete or not turned in on time. All assignments must be turned in on time.

Each mini assignment is worth up to 3 points…………10 x 3 = 30 points 

9.  Online Wiki Assignment: During the semester, I will ask you to respond to a questions based on your research to a project wiki that I will create.  These entries will usually ask you conduct a web-based exercise that will help guide you in producing a final product.   I will ask you to submit these entries 10 times a semester.  Usually you will provide a 1-2 paragraph response to these questions.  The blog posts will be graded based on their thoughtfulness, clarity, and relationship to readings and class discussion.  I will drop your two lowest scores.

Each blog entry is worth up to 2 points…………3 x 10 = 30 points

10.   Collaborative Research Project: for this final 15-20 page paper, you will collaborate in groups of three on a pre-selected research project.  The project will require that you present a fully formulated research question, select an appropriate design, produce a fully developed literature review, collect data and present findings that situate the work in the literature.  A handout will describe this assignment in greater detail.

Research  Brief………….25 points  

11. Oral Presentations: you are responsible for creating a concise presentation (20 minutes) that describes in detail the results of your research projects.  You will be graded primarily on your ability to communicate your findings in an engaging manner and your ability to explain how the project is of benefit to a larger scientific, professional, or popular community. A handout will describe this assignment in greater detail.

Oral  Presentation…………15 points



Your final grade for the semester will be based on total accumulated points as follows:

92 – 100            A                      72 – 77             C

90 – 91             A-                     70 – 71             C-

88 – 89             B+                    68 – 69             D+

82 – 87             B                      62 – 67             D


All Readings are On-line

Date and Topic

Readings for the Day

Materials used in Class

Sept 8: Introduction to Course and Problem Formulation

Trochim, B. (2006) "Positivsm and Post-Positivism", "Five Big Words" and "Systems of Logic

Flyvbjerg, B. (2005) Social Science that Matters. Foresight Europe. And Stewart, S. (2003) Revolution from Within. University of Chicago Magazine

Trochim, B. (2006) "The Structure of Research", "Hypothesis" and "Establishing Cause and Effect", "Conceptualizing",  "Problem Formulation" and "Types of Questions"

Leavitt, (2007) Did banning Lead Lower Crime? Freakonomics Blog. and  Name Your Kid Fido if You Want." Freak-TV. and A Victory for Two Buck Chuck. Freakonomics Blog.

10 X 10 and NewsMap and Twitsccoop

Develop Hypotheses for these findings.

VizWhiz in Slate

Sept 15 Problem Formulation

Trochim, B. (2006) "Ethics in Research" Types of Relationships, Variables, Unit of Analysis, Two Types of Fallacies.

Jaschick, S. (2008) Who's Afraid of Gay Monkey Sex. Issues in Higher Education.

Tilly, C. (2008) How to Choose a Dissertation Topic

Weber, L. (2007) Investigating Community Social Capital. Introduction,

What Makes these Good Problems

Online Mind Mapping

Stanford Prison Experiment pt. 1, pt.2, pt. 3 

Sept 22: Connecting Theory to Method and Doing Library Research

Types of Articles and Their Characteristics: St. Anslem College. and Types of Information Sources

Bailey, S. (2008) Zotero Tutorial

Literature Reviews. UNC Library and The Literature Review. A Few Tips on Conducting it. University of Toronto.

Anderson, C. (2008) The End of Theory. Wired Magazine. and commentary on Anderson article at

Shreeve, C. (2004) Craig Venter's Epic Voyage to Redefine the Origin of the Species. Wired Magazine.

Wolfe, A. (2008) the hedonic man. The New Republic

Weber, L. (2007) Investigating Community Social Capital: Social Capital

Gapminder Assignment

Politics Professor Assignment

Political Research Online: PROL

Jensen, R. (2008) Guide to Political Research Online

sept 29: Steps in the Social Scientific Process

Shirky, C. (2008) Ontology is Overrated.

Trochim, B. (2006) Introduction to Research Design, Types of Designs, relationships among designs,  Types of Data, experimental and quasi-experimental

Neill, J. (2007) Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Welch (2008) R/Evolution. Video.

Oct 6: Measurement

Trochim, B. (2006) Levels of Measurement, Validity, Internal Validity, Establishing Cause & Effect, Single Group Threats, Multiple Group Threats, Social Interaction Threats 

Kingwell, M. (2007) Can Happiness be Quantified. Globe and Mail

and Vedantam, S. (2008). Financial Hardship and the Happiness Paradox. Washington Post.

Weber, L. (2007) Investigating Community and Social Capital:  Data Sets

importgenius assignnment

Take a Web Survey Assignment

Survey Monkey Assignment

Oct 13: Validity and Reliability

Trochim, B. (2006) external validity, idea of construct validity, construct validity threatsmeasurement validity types, Convergent & Discriminant Validity, The Nomological Network, Reliability, true score theory of measurement, types of measurement error theory of reliability, types of reliability, the relationships between reliability and validity in measurement.

Weber, L. (2007) Investigating Community Social Capital. Getting Started. and Putnam (2000) Bowling Alone (Chapter 1-3).

National Election Study Exercise

Poll Everywhere Exercise

Face Stat Validity Assignment

Oct 20: Data Collection

Trochim, B. (2006) types of surveys, select the survey method, construct the survey, types of questions; decisions about question content; decisions about question wording; decisions about response format; and, question placement and sequence advantages and disadvantages of survey methods,Survey research, and Scaling

Weber, L. (2007) Investigating Community Social Capital. Social Change and  Putnam Bowling Alone, Chapters 1-3 (re-read) and reviews of Bowling Alone in The New York Times and The American Prospect.

Google Trends Assignment

Google Docs Forms Assignment

Engauge Assignment

Oct 27:Data Preparation and Exploration

Texas A&M Statistics Department (2008) SPSS Tutorial Videos: Output and Word, Edit Graphs, Sorting Cases, Standardizing Data, Transformation of Data, Variable and Value Labels

Statsoft.  Elementary Concepts in Statistics.

Trochim, B. (2006) Descriptive Statistics, Data Preparation.

Weber, L. (2007) Investigating Community Social Capital. Why? and and Putnam (2000) Bowling Alone (Chapters 10-15).

Nov 3: Data Analysis

Trochim, B. (2008) Inferential Statistics, the t-test for differences between groups, General Linear Model, dummy variables, Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) Model, Analysis of Covariance statistical model, General Linear Model.

Statsoft. Basic Statistics. Up to – Breakdown: Descriptive Statistics by Group.

Weber, L.(2007)  Investigating Community Social Capital. So What? and DeFilippis, J.  "The Myth of Social Capital in Community Development "


Nov 10: Data Presentation

Key Elements in Presenting Data 

Trochim, B. (2008) Write-Up,  Key Elements, Formatting, Sample Paper.

Pink, D. *(2007) "Pecha Kucha: Get to the Point, then Sit Down." Wired Magazine. and Presentation

Presentation Zen. (2007) Power Point Tips that Are Clear and to the Point.

Bales, N. (2007) Framing Issues for Public Consideration. Frameworks Institute.

Writing up Findings

Vizualization AssignmentWorldMapper Assignment

Breathing Earth
Oil: A History Blogs and Polarization
Political Book Buying Habits

Nov 17: Class Presentations
In Class 20 minutes for each group