POLS 320: SCOPE AND METHODS OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
Office Hours: MWF 1:30-2:30
Office: E Building Room 7
Room: Nygreen 6
This course is designed to provide an introduction to several types of political science research methods, their applications, and limitations. In the process, we will examine how theory informs the creation of political science knowledge. The course will be broken into four main sections. The first will provide an overview of the different methodological approaches in political and social science. Next we will look at the theory and design of quantitative studies. We will then examine comparative case study methods and conclude by looking at qualitative interview methodologies. My goal is to introduce you to these methods and to give you a foundation for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each perspective. Your assignments will emphasize reflection upon and application of the methods discussed to questions in political science. In this final research project, you will conduct a small-scale pilot project of a question of your choosing. You will present your findings and discuss how they benefit the populations of interest.
University Educational Objectives:
Field Specific Knowledge and Experience
Written Communication Skills
Department of Political Science Educational Objectives:
Political science Knowledge
Show up for class on time.
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.
Academic Dishonesty: plagiarism and other
forms of “cheating” violate
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.
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.
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.
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.
Online Wiki Assignments: 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. The wiki entries and due dates are as follow:
Unit 1: What is Data and how do we Use it? Jonathan Harris' We Feel Fine Assignment. What is the collective feeling of the world at this moment. How do you know? Due Sept 8
Unit 2: Doing Research and Problem Formulation: provide a one paragraph research proposal that describes what type of research question you seek to answer. Why is this something we should study? Of what benefit would it be to do this research? Due Sept 17.
Unit 3: Connecting Theory to Method. Develop a theory that articulates your expected relationship between independent and dependent variables. Due Sept 26
Unit 4: Creating a Bibilography. Zotero Assignment. Your team must create a Zotero account and add 10 annotated references you found on your subject and a paragraph that ties the literature together. Due Sept 29.
Unit 5: Designing Research. Your team must develop a three paragraph quantitative research design. How will you operationalize the independent and dependent variables you are studying. How will you ensure that the data is valid and reliable. Due Oct 10.
Unit 6: Data Collection. Your team must develop a three paragraph research statement on where and how you will collect the data? Will it be survey data? Will you draw from a sample? How will you ensure that your data is valid and reliable? Due October 29.
Unit 7: Data Analysis: Your team will conduct descriptive analysis on your collected data using SPSS. Due November 7.
Unit 8: Data Analysis Assignment Your team will conduct a correlation analysis using SPSS and report on the findings. Due November 14.
Unit 9: Synthesizing Findings: Your group will provide a 2-3 paragraph discussion of what the findings mean for your hypothesis, theory and general understanding of the question of interest. Due Nov 21
Unit 9: Data presentation: Your group will create a draft Google Presentation and embed it in your wiki. Due Nov 28.
Unit 10: Final Draft: Your group will provide a final draft for review by December 5 (final paper due december 12).
Qualitative Research Design: Your team will develop a three
paragraph qualitative research design by selecting a qualitative methodology
and discussing how it will add to understanding your question. Due
November 12 Unit
10: Qualitative Data Collection: Your team will collect
qualitative data. You will discuss how this data will augment your
study. Due November 19 Unit
11: Qualitative Data Analysis: Your team will analyze
qualitative data. You will select a qualitative analysis tool. Due
Each wiki entry is worth up to 3 points…………3 x 10 = 30 points
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.
GRADES: 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
Reading and/or Assignment (to be completed prior to class)
Sept 3: Course Introduction
Sept 5:What is Truth
Harris, J. (2008) We Feel Fine And Jonathan Harris TED Talk
Sept 8: The Evolution of Truth
Sept 10: Does Truth Evolve?
What is Knowledge: How do we Gather it?
Sept 12: Doing Research
Sept 15: Problem Formulation
Sept 17: Ethics in Research
Trochim, B. (2006) "Ethics in Research"
Sept 19: Problem Formulation
spend today selecting the problems we'll be examining during the rest of the
Sept 22: Connecting Theory to Method