FALL 2008

 Jose Marichal, Ph.D.

E-mail: marichal@clunet.edu

Phone: 493-3328

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.

Educational Objectives:

University Educational Objectives:

Field Specific Knowledge and Experience

Written Communication Skills

Information Literacy

Critical Thinking

Department of Political Science Educational Objectives:

Political science Knowledge

Critical Thinking


Show up for class on time.

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

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 California Lutheran University’s code of student conduct; violations will be treated according to university policy.

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.

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.

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.

  • Exercise 1: Getting Started due October 1
  • Exercise 2: Social Change due October 27
  • Exercise 3: Why? due November 3
  • Exercise 4: So What? due November 10

Each mini assignment is worth up to 3 points…………5x 3 = 15points 

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………….35 points  

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 BibilographyZotero 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). 

Unit 9: 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  December 1

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.

Oral  Presentation…………20 points

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)

Course Materials

Sept 3: Course Introduction

No Readings

Sept 5:What is Truth

Holcome, R. (2007) Truth in Science. Textetc.

Goodstien, D. (1997) How Science Works. Excerpt.

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

Harris, J. (2008) We Feel Fine And Jonathan Harris TED Talk

10 X 10 and VizWhiz NewsMapTwitsccoop

Sept 8: The Evolution of Truth

Pajares, F. Synopsis of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.  The Philosophers Magazine.

Popper, K. (1963) Science as Falsification. Excerpt.

Lakatos, I. (2008). Science and Psuedoscience. London School of Economics Podcast.

Sept 10: Does Truth Evolve?

Summary of Feyerabend's Against Method. www.marxists.org

Sokal, A.  and Bricmonts, J. (1998) Fashionable Nonsense. Chapter 1.

What is Knowledge: How do we Gather it?

Sept 12: Doing Research

Trochim, B. (2006)"The Structure of Research", "Hypothesis" and "Establishing Cause and Effect"

Leavitt, S. (2007) What's the Best way to Reduce Gun Violence, Freakonomics Blog.

Develop Hypotheses for these findings.

Social Explorer Hypothesis Generating Assignment

Sept 15: Problem Formulation

Trochim, B (2006). Conceptualizing",  "Problem Formulation" and "Types of Questions"

McClelland, E. (2008) Does Air Conditioning Make People Vote Republican?  Salon.

What Makes these Good Problems

Online Mind Mapping

Sept 17: Ethics in Research

Trochim, B. (2006) "Ethics in Research"

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

Stanford Prison Experiment pt. 1, pt.2, pt. 3 and Milgram Shock Experiments

Sept 19: Problem Formulation

We'll spend today selecting the problems we'll be examining during the rest of the semester

Sept 22: Connecting Theory to Method

Trochim, B. (2006) Types of Relationships, Variables, Unit of Analysis, Two Types of Fallacies

Wolfe, A. (2008) the hedonic man. The New Republic and Lydon, C. (2008) Audio Interview with Cass Sunstien on Open Source Radio Show.

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