POS 6208
Empirical Political Research
Fall, 2000
Dr. Kenneth Wald
Tuesday, 3-5th periods
9:30-12:30
Walker 101-103 
Office: 104 Walker Hall
Hours: Tuesday, 2-5
Phone: 392-9247

* Course Description and Purpose *
* Requirements and Grades *
* Books *
* Detailed Schedule with Assignments *
* Useful Links *
* Contact the Instructor *


Description & Purpose: This seminar is intended to equip students with the skills to conduct empirical research projects on social and political subjects. The skills emphasized include criticism/evaluation of research, problem and hypothesis formulation, concept development, measurement, data analysis and computer-based statistical analysis. The culmination of the course will be an original empirical research paper on some aspect of  social or political  behavior that interests you. About two-thirds of the semester will consist of collective meetings devoted to honing your knowledge of research concepts and methods. Along the way, you will prepare a number of assignments and short papers. Following the completion of that portion of the course, we will cease meeting as a group and you will devote your energies to the individual research effort. At the end of the term, we will reconvene for oral presentation of your research papers in a convention panel format.

 
Return to top
Requirements & Grades: As in any graduate seminar, you are expected to attend each weekly meeting, read the assigned material thoroughly, participate actively in the discussions, and complete all assignments on time. Accordingly, two unexcused absences from the seminar will constitute grounds for dismissal and students will be penalized for handing in late assignments without advance authorization.

Grading Criteria: Your final grade will be calculated in the following way:
 
class participation 15%
written assignments 15%
midterm examination 20%
final paper 50%

The standards for evaluating the final paper, the single largest component of the seminar grade, will vary from student to student in response to methodological background. I assume that all seminar participants have mastered the basics of research design (as conveyed in our "Conduct of Inquiry"), elementary statistics (STA 6126, POS 6737 or the equivalent), and some core questions in political behavior (as explored in POS 6207). Those with skills and background beyond this level will be expected to produce more sophisticated research projects.

The midterm examination will be a take-home exercise in which you are allowed access to your books and notes. The goal of the examination is to determine your mastery of the key concepts and skills covered in the seminar to date.

Return to top


Books: Readings will be taken from the following four paperback books and several articles that will be available on library reserve. John W. Creswell. Research Design: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1994). Marcus E. Ethridge, editor. The Political Research Experience: Readings & Analysis. Second edition. (Guildford, CT: Dushkin, 1995). Note: This book is only available at the Hub.

Earl Babbie, Fred Halley and Jeanne Zaino, Adventures in Social Research: Data Analysis Using SPSS for Windows 95 /98 (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 2000).*

Kenneth R. Hoover and Todd Donovan, The Elements of Social Scientific Thinking. Sixth edition. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995).

        *Each student will be required to use SPSS for Windows. Access to SPSS for Windows is available without charge in the Political Science data lab and in CIRCA data labs. Babbie, Halley and Zaino includes a Student version of SPSS for Windows (with limits on the number of variables and cases that you can use, as well as a 13 month time limit on use.)  You may wish to purchase the SPSS Graduate Pack at the HUB (for about $140). This entitles you to a permanent license for the program, which you can use in your later research here at the University and in your subsequent career. Employees of the university (including graduate assistants) may acquire a limited license for SPSS for $45; this license will expire in December, but can be renewed in subsequent years.
Return to top

Schedule:

1. Overview (August 29)

Topic: Review of POS 6207 (or equivalent source of ) research topics - be prepared to present your idea for a research topic to the seminar. Together, we will review the kinds of research topics proposed by the seminar, and discuss the designs' basic strengths, weaknesses, and possible pitfalls to avoid.

Assignment: Put a copy of your literature review paper, including instructor's comments, in my mailbox (either Walker Hall or Turlington) by Friday, August 25.


2. Doing Political Science Research (September 5)

Topic: Getting Started in Political Science Research

Assignment due in class: Write a three page essay (using an appropriate professional style) describing the process by which you arrived at your research agenda, and defending your research against at least two of the criticisms enumerated in Ethridge, Chapter 14.

Read:
Hoover and Donovan, chaps. 1-4, 6
Ethridge, chap. 1, 14
Creswell, chap. 1-3
Leege and Francis, Political Research, chap. 1
Most, Benjamin A. 1990. Getting started on political research. PS: Political Science & Politics 23 (4, December), 592-6.


3. Beginning Analysis (September 12)

Topic: Evaluating Research

Assignments due in class:
(1) Read David C. Nice, "Abortion Clinic Bombing as Political Violence," AJPS 32 (February 1988), 178-195. Then turn in a short written profile that describes the data and methodology used (theoretical framework, research design, sample, hypotheses, identification of independent and dependent variables, measures and conclusions). Indicate whether or not you would have recommended publication of this article and why or why not. (A full review normally evaluates the coverage of the literature, adequacy of the independent and dependent variables, the quality of the data, and, most importantly, whether the conclusions were justified by the analysis.)

(2) Turn in a brief summary of your research plans for the major paper. This should indicate the problem you wish to explore, the major theoretical traditions likely to be consulted, and the major data set(s) you will use for the empirical analysis. For the last task, you may use the materials available in the Data Lab.

Read:
Babbie, Halley and Zaino, Parts I and II
Leege and Francis, Political Research, chap. 2
Hoover and Donovan, chap. 5


4. Advanced Analysis (September 19)

Topic: Using Computers for Quantitative Analysis

Assignment due in class:

(1) Using the GSS data, tell me
 

(a) Are more Americans Democrats, Republicans, or Independents?
(b) Which value do Americans think is most important for children to learn? (Obedience, popularity, independent thinking, hard work, or helping others)
(c) Under which condition are Americans the most supportive of a woman's right to a legal abortion?
(d) Under which condition are Americans the least supportive of a woman's right to a legal abortion?

(2) Using the dataset that you expect to use in your analysis, present the appropriate univariate statistics (frequencies or
descriptives) for your principal independent and dependent variables.

You will be required to turn in SPSS printouts showing your work, as well as text that explains your interpretations.

Read:
Babbie and Halley, Adventures in Social Research, (Part III)
Hoover and Donovan, chap. 5
Ethridge, Chapter 12


5. Finding Findings (September 26)

Topic: Making Sense of Empirical Data

Assignment due in class:

(1) Using variables in the GSS, formulate two hypotheses which might account for variations in Americans' attitudes on
abortion. Present tables showing the association between the independent and dependent variables in your hypotheses. Write a short paragraph explaining whether the results tend to support your hypotheses.

(2) What statistic did Tufte use in calculating the "swing ratio"?   He finds that the swing ratio for Great Britain's House of
Commons is higher than it is for the U.S. House of Representatives, and that the swing ratio for New Jersey is higher than that for New York.  What does that mean politically?  (Tufte's article is excerpted in Ethridge, Chapter 12.  The original article is Edward R. Tufte. 1973.  The Relationship between Seats and Votes in Two-Party Systems.  American Political Science Review  67:  540-554.)


6. Conceptualization and Measurement (October 3)

Topic: Converting an Interest into a Researchable Topic - be prepared to discuss the articles in Ethridge from the perspective of conceptualization, measurement, operationalization and the other stages of the research process.

Assignment due in class: Using  the dataset that you expect to use in your own analysis, present one or two simple bivariate hypotheses and the appropriate bivariate data analysis.

Read:
Ethridge, select one study each from chaps. 2-5, 7-9.( Read the article and commentary.)
Creswell, chaps. 4, 7 and either 8 or 9 depending on your research topic and style


7. Hypothesis Testing (October 10)

Topic: Developing Testable Hypotheses

Assignments due in class:

(1) Using the GSS data, construct indexes for religiosity, attitudes toward abortion, and sexual tolerance. Which, if any, of
these indexes are valid? (Again, show your SPSS printouts and text that explains your interpretations.)

(2) Present a written list of the major hypotheses that you intend to test in your research paper.   You should present an
argument for the face validity of your measurements, and tell me how you will determine one other form of validity or reliability for each of your measurements.

Read:
Creswell, chaps. 5-6
Coogan and Woshinsky, Science of Politics, chap. 3
Leege and Francis, Political Research, chap. 5


8. Data Analysis and Report Writing (October 17)

Topic: Presenting Findings

Assignment due in class:

Using data from the GSS, formulate three or more hypotheses explaining variations in Americans' attitudes toward abortion. Test these hypotheses in an appropriate multivariate analysis. Evaluate your hypotheses. (As usual, show me the printouts and write a short interpretation.)

Read:
Babbie and Halley, Part IV
Ethridge, chaps. 11-13
Creswell, chap. 11
Coogan and Woshinsky, Science of Politics, chap. 4
Leege and Francis, Political Research, chap. 10 - as needed


9. Last Things (October 24)

We will not meet as a class on this date. You will have two assignments due to me.

(1) Present a written preview of your intended analysis for the research paper. You will need to indicate which tests you plan to run and why. Also indicate what evidence will be necessary for you to confirm your hypotheses. Due in class on October 24th.

(2) The midterm exam will be handed out on Tuesday, October 24th and is due back to me by 4:00 on Friday, October 27th. I expect a hard copy delivered to me at either office. Do not slide this under my door! If I'm not in, make sure you hand deliver it to one of the people in Turlington 3324--call ahead if you're running late.


10. No Class: Independent Work on Research Papers (October 31-November 28) Each student should meet with me at least once during this period to evaluate progress.

11. Research Panel (December 5)

Note: Students who observe the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur holidays or other religious holidays may need extra time to complete some of these assignments. I will be happy to provide it.
Return to top


Useful Links
Return to top