POLS 502: Research Design

Fall 2005

Professor Mikel Wyckoff

Office: Zulauf 403

Hours: MW 11-12 & By Appointment

753-7056 mwyckoff@niu.edu



This first semester of the scope and method sequence focuses on a variety of issues that must be considered when planning and executing a research project. The goals of the course are to introduce major research strategies and data collection methods extant in the political science literature and to lay out some of the philosophical underpinnings of the social science research process. While POLS 502 is definitely not a course in statistics, it will provide a very brief introduction to data analysis that will help you better understand certain research design issues and provide a useful bridge to POLS 541.





Class Participation. Although I will be lecturing more than would be the case if the class had a traditional, seminar format, I expect everyone to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings.

Exams. A midterm and a final exam will be given.

Computer Exercises. Assuming that the College restores our Computer Lab in a timely manner, four or five computer exercises will be assigned during the semester. Each will receive a grade of "high pass," "pass," or "fail." Inadequate exercises can be redone and resubmitted. Failure to achieve a grade of at least "pass" on all assignments will result in a one-letter reduction in your course grade. On the other hand, those with a majority of "high pass" exercises will receive a one-third of a letter increase in their final grades. No one should be frightened by these assignments. No previous experience with statistics is required and all work can be completed in the POLS Computer Lab on the first floor of Zulauf Hall. The extra fee charged for taking POLS 502 helps fund this departmental facility. Note, however, that if the Lab is not restored to us soon it may become necessary to cancel this aspect of the course.

Original Data Analysis. In addition to the computer exercises, each student will locate some data of interest to him/her (I will show you how), test a hypothesis using variables contained in the data set, and write up the results (approximately 3-5 pages). Your analysis should examine, first, a bivariate relationship. Subsequently you should introduce at least two control variables to see what happens to the original relationship under those circumstances. Additional guidelines for this assignment will be provided in the second half of the course.

Research Design. Each student will prepare an original research proposal based on a topic of his or her choice. Additional guidelines for the proposal will be distributed in coming weeks. All proposals must include procedures for testing a causal hypothesis, and the procedures chosen should maximize (within reason) your ability to conduct a rigorous test of the hypothesis. Two preliminary elements of the design are required before the end of the semester:

Grading System. Final grades will be computed as follows:

Exam I 30%

Exam II 30%

Research Design 20%

Original Data Analysis 10%

Class Participation 10%

Computer Exercises P/F

Total 100%



You are responsible for all of the readings listed on the following pages as "required." Journal articles can be found online at www.jstor.org. Readings marked as "suggested" are just that—suggested in case you want to read more about the topics covered that week.

The following journal abbreviations are used in the outline:


Week 1 – Overview of course and a preliminary look at the nature of scientific inquiry


Week 2 – Epistemological Issues: science as a philosophy of knowledge or method of

8/29 knowing; the nature of concepts and theories


Singleton and Straits, Ch. 1-2.

Gould, "The Freezing of Noah" (handout).


Nash, The Nature of the Natural Sciences.

Hayek, "The Theory of Complex Reality," in Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation (especially good on the origins of concepts and theories).

Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

Kaplan, The Conduct of Inquiry.

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Lakatos and Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge.

Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.


Week 3 – Labor Day; No Class



Week 4 – Elements of Research Design; Intro To Data Processing



Singleton and Straits, Ch. 3; Ch. 17, pp. 540-548; Ch. 14, pp. 447-456.

Shively, "A Machiavellian’s Guide to Developing Research Topics," in The Craft of Political Research (handout).


Kerlinger, Foundations of Behavioral Research (a classic text on research design written by a prominent psychologist; see initial chapters).

Babbie, The Practice of Social Research (a very good, upper level undergraduate text on research design).

Manheim and Rich, "Techniques of Systematic Bibliographic Research," in Empirical Political Analysis (this is the text Professor Schubert often uses in Pols 502; this chapter may be useful to some).

Week 5 – Measurement Issues and Elementary Data Analysis



Singleton and Straits, Ch. 4 and 14, pp. 456-463, 467-479.

Diamond, "Soft Sciences Are Often Harder Than Hard Sciences," (handout).

Nash, The Nature of the Natural Sciences, pp. 46-62 (handout).


Kerlinger, Foundations of Behavioral Research.

Zeller and Carmines, Measurement in the Social Sciences.


Week 6 – Strengthening Inferences: Random Sampling and Random Assignment


Annotated Bibliography Due Today


Singleton and Straits, Ch. 5, and Ch. 6, pp. 153-162.


Babbie, The Practice of Social Research (his chapter on sampling issues is a very good one). See also Survey Research Methods.

Fowler, Survey Research Methods (a Sage paperback).

Sudman, Applied Sampling (good book by one of the nation’s top sampling statisticians; lots of concrete examples).

Kish, Survey Sampling (rigorous, classic text on sample design and sampling issues by another superb sampling statistician).


Week 7 – General Strategies for Research Design I: Experiments



Singleton and Straits, Ch. 6 (remainder) and Ch. 7, pp. 187-206.

Lodge, et al., "The Responsive Voter: Campaign Information and the Dynamics of Candidate Evaluation," APSR, 1995, pp. 309-326.


Campbell and Stanley, Experimental and Quasi-experimentalDesigns for Research.

Aronson, Brewer and Carlsmith, "Experimentation in Social Psychology," in The Handbook of Social Psychology, 1985.

Kinder and Palfrey, "On Behalf of an Experimental Political Science," in their (eds.) Experimental Foundations of Political Science, 1993.


Week 8 – General Strategies for Research Design II: Cross-sectional and Quasi-

10/10 experimental Designs


Singleton and Straits, Ch. 7, p. 194 (review) and pp. 206-end; Ch. 15, pp. 483-487, 489-499.

Easton and Dennis, "The Child’s Acquisition of Regime Norms," APSR, 1967, pp. 25-38.

Jackman, "Political Institutions and Voter Turnout in the Industrial Democracies," APSR, 1987, pp. 405-420.

Jackman, "Cross-National Statistical Research and the Study of Comparative Politics," AJPS, 1985, pp. 161-182.


Cook and Campbell, Quasi-experimentation.

Burkhart and Lewis-Beck, "Comparative Democracy: The Economic Development Thesis," APSR, 1994, pp. 903-910 (good, relatively recent example of a time series study).

Stoker and Jennings, "Life-Cycle Transitions and Political Participation: The Case of Marriage," APSR, 1995, pp. 421-433 (good, relatively recent example of a panel study).





Week 10 – Data Collection Methods I: Survey Research



Singleton and Straits, Ch. 8-9.


Dillman, Mail and Telephone Surveys.

Babbie, Survey Research Methods.

Schuman and Kalton, "Survey Methods," in Handbook of Social Psychology.

Fowler and Mangione, Standardized Survey Interviewing.

Krueger, Focus Groups.

Week 11 – Data Collection Methods II: Archival and Other Kinds of Available Data


Draft research proposal due today.


Singleton and Straits, Ch. 11 and pp. 46-48 (review).

Tate, "A Personal Attribute Model of the Voting Behavior of Supreme Court Justices," APSR, 1981, pp. 355-367.

Carson, Jenkins, Rohde, and Souva, "The Impact of National Tides and District-Level Effects on Electoral Outcomes: The U.S. Congressional Elections of 1862-63." AJPS, 2001, pp. 887-898.

Maltzman and Wahlbeck, "The Politics of Speaker Cannon's Committee Assignments," AJPS, 2001, pp. 551-562.


Weber, Basic Content Analysis.

Yamaguchi, Event History Analysis


Week 12 – Data Collection Methods III: Field Research and Small-N Studies



Singleton and Straits, Ch. 10.

Fenno, Home Style, or Kingdon, Congressmen’s Voting Decisions.


King, Keohane and Verba, Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research (an important, relatively recent work that stirred considerable controversy when published).

Symposium on the King et al. book in APSR, 1995, pp. 454-481.

Collier, "The Comparative Method: Two Decades of Change," in Rustow and Erickson, Comparative Political Dynamics

Rubin and Rubin, Qualitative Interviewing.

Fetterman, Ethnography.


Week 13 – Evaluation Research



Singleton and Straits, Ch. 13.

Lewis-Beck and Alford, "Can Government Regulate Safety? The Coal Mine Example," APSR, 1980, pp. 745-756.

Mohr, Impact Analysis for Program Evaluation.


Week 14 – Research Ethics; Writing Research Reports



Singleton and Straits, Ch. 16; Ch. 17, pp. 548-end.


Week 15 – Catch Up Day


Final research proposals are due today.

Week 16 – FINAL EXAM: Monday December 5, 6:00 – 7:50