POLS 502 Prof. James Schubert

Fall 2004 Office ZU 306: Hours T,Th 2-3

Phone: 753-9675 w/ voice mail



This seminar is concerned with the conduct of political science research. The concerns with method will be addressed by considering how political scientists conduct research. The focus will be on the design of research projects and we will examine alternative approaches to research design, including survey research, observational studies, experimental and quasi-experimental designs, content analysis and studies based on aggregate data. Although the emphasis will be placed on behavioral science research, attention will also be given to qualitative research including case study methods, interviewing, etc.

Our concerns with scope will be addressed by considering what kinds of topics or questions are explored in political science research in major fields of the discipline: American politics, international relations, comparative politics and public policy. We will examine the application of different research designs in the different fields of political science and students will receive a hands-on introduction to some of the large scale data sets developed and used in these fields, for example, the American National Election Studies, the NSF Supreme Court Judicial Data Base, Singersí Wages of War, etc.

In this seminar, students will have the opportunity to apply what they learn about scope and method in political science to the conduct of their own research. An important component of student participation will involve preparation of a fully developed research design. In the process, students will acquire a skill that they may subsequently apply in papers for other seminars, M.A. starred papers, doctoral thesis proposals and grant applications.

This is not a seminar in statistics and they will not be taught, per se. However good research design depends on an understanding of the nature of data -- what it used for, how it is used, how it gets communicated to others. Attention will be given to how data may be used to address the primary theoretical functions of description and explanation in political research.


Three texts have been ordered through the bookstore:

  1. Mannheimís (1995) Empirical Political Analysis
  2. King, et. Al. Designing Social Inquiry
  3. Kuhnís, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Other readings involve about 16 articles, either on reserve at the library or downloadable via JSTORE


Course requirements include two exams, a term paper, participation, and timely completion of exercises and assignments. Grades will be based on a 20% weighting of exams and 40% for the paper. Participation and other assignments, including presentations on the readings, will account for the remaining 20%. Attendance is mandatory. On time, scheduled preparation of readings, assignments and exercises is a requirement of the course and a factor of participation.


Date Chapters Topic

M= Mannheim, K=King

8/25 M1 Introduction

9/1 M2,K1 Theory, hypotheses & research design

9/8 M3-4 Operationalization & measurement

9/15 M5-6 Designs, sampling & power analysis

9/22 M7-8 Survey research

9/29 M9 Content analysis

10/6 Experimental designs

10/13 Graber Address, Exam

10/20 M18-19 Direct and participant observation

10/27 M10,K2 Aggregate data analysis

11/3 M11,K3-4 Case Studies

11/10 M12-14 Analysis and presentation of data I

11/17 M15-16 Analysis and presentation of data II

11/24 Kuhn, Thanksgiving break

12/2 Paradigms: Kuhn discussion; final exam


  1. get article from journal, define theory, hypotheses, method, etc.
  2. find downloadable ICPSR data set, report on study summary
  3. data analysis/ presentation assignments from ANES