POLS 340: Undergraduate Research Methods
Tuesday and Thursday,
Dusable 170 and DuSable 406
Dr. Matt Streb
Office: Zulauf 412
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, ; Wednesday,
“Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary a qualification
for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write.”
Description: The world of politics
offers a nearly infinite array of interesting questions. Why did George W. Bush win the 2004
presidential election? Is
The first half of this course introduces students to social science research by discussing how one develops a research question and hypotheses. The second part of the course provides students with the tools necessary to test hypotheses systematically and quantitatively. This does mean that you will learn some basic statistics. Many students get ill when they find out that they are required to take a quantitative methods course to graduate (I was one of them!), but learning data analysis can be extremely beneficial to you in the future and even fun.
You probably won’t believe this now, but a course on quantitative methods can benefit every student in different ways. While still in school, the course will help you in other courses by making it easier to understand political science research and leading you to ask important questions about that research. In addition, a basic knowledge of statistics also makes students more attractive to potential employers in a wide-range of fields. This course will also help those of you who are headed to a graduate program in social science by providing you with a background in the tools necessary to excel in that program. We don’t require the course to punish you; we require it because it is important and useful. Who knows? You might shock yourself by deciding you want to take another statistics class! I certainly never imagined when I walked in to my first methods class that I would end up teaching it for a living!
Your grade will be based on the following components:
The reading load for this course is light. On the other hand, you will be expected to complete six take home assignments during the semester. These assignments will require a fair amount of work, so procrastination is not encouraged. Read the assignment when you receive it and be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to complete it. An assignment is considered to be late if it is not turned in at the beginning of class on the day it is due. I do not accept late assignments! If the assignment is not handed in on time, you will receive a 0 for that assignment.
Several of these assignments will require you to use the statistical program SPSS. We will work through several SPSS exercises in class together and then you will be required to do some assignments outside of class. When we use SPSS, we will meet in DuSable 170; otherwise we will meet in DuSable 406.
The two in-class examinations will be held on Tuesday, October 17th and Tuesday, December 12th ().
Finally, participation will constitute 10% of your final grade. I have no formal attendance policy, but I will take attendance in class and your participation grade will depend on how frequently you attend and how much you participate (constructively) in class discussion. Do not take your participation grade for granted!
93%-100% A 90%-92.9% A- 87.5%-89.9% B+
83%-87.4% B 80%-82.9% B- 77.5%-79.9% C+
73%-77.4% C 70%-72.9% C- 67.5%-69.9% D+
63%-67.4% D 60%-62.9% D- Less than 60% F
In rare instances, I will raise a final grade slightly if
the student regularly attends class, participates, and shows progress.
Required Course Materials:
Three books are required for this course:
Johnson, Janet Buttolph, and H.T. Reynolds. 2005. Political Science Research
Pollock III, Philip H. 2005. An SPSS Companion to Political Analysis, 2nd ed.
Rochefort, David A. 2006. Quantitative Methods in Practice:
These books are available at the NIU bookstore. Students are strongly encouraged to visit sites such as www.campusi.com to find cheaper, used versions of these books (although students should not buy earlier editions of the books as they have been updated substantially. Also, if you buy the Pollock book online you must be sure that the CD is included with it).
You may have also noticed that a fee was required to take this course. That fee allows you access to the SOCQRL Computer Lab in DuSable 222. You will be able to do your assignments in the SOCQRL Lab and have trained tutors available to help you. The lab is open Monday-Thursday from , Friday from , and Sunday from . You can visit the SOCQRL webpage (ww.socqrl.niu.edu) for more information. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
1. Attendance: Simply put, you are expected to be here. If you want to have any hope of passing the class or doing well, you will need to be in class. I have yet to meet a person who has regularly missed my class and has passed the course.
2. Be on time: Class begins promptly at . Please be in your seats and ready to go at . If you must be late, please enter the class quietly and quickly and sit in the back.
3. Turn the cell phones off!: My policy is that if your cell phone goes off in class, I’m the one who answers it. Unless you want me talking to your parents, siblings, or boyfriend/girlfriend, turn the cell phones off. If you have an extenuating circumstance (e.g., pregnant spouse, day care, etc., please let me know).
4. Makeup Exams: I will only give a makeup examination under extraordinary circumstances. If such circumstances arise, please contact me as soon as possible and before the scheduled exam. If you fail to contact me before the scheduled exam, you will receive a 0 for the exam. Students may be asked to support requests for makeup exams with documentation.
5. Late Assignments: I do not accept late assignments. If you fail to hand in one of your assignments on time, you will receive a 0 for the assignment. If an extraordinary situation arises that will keep you from handing in your assignment on time, please contact me as soon as possible and before the scheduled assignment is due. Being out of town does not constitute an “extraordinary situation.”
6. Academic Dishonesty: In preparing for your work and meeting
the requirements of this course, you are expected to adhere to all the rules,
regulations, and standards set forth by the Department of Political Science,
7. Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons
with documented disabilities. Those
students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and
for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for
Access-Ability Resources (CARR) on the fourth floor of the
How Can I Do Well in this Course?:
This class will be different from previous political science courses you have had. Because it is different, students sometimes struggle with the material. Therefore, it is imperative that you attend class and keep up with the readings. If you get behind, you will find that it is extremely difficult to catch up. Also, students are strongly encouraged to ask questions during lectures or visit me during my office hours. Don’t be shy. If you don’t understand something, I guarantee someone else in the class doesn’t understand it as well.
NOTE: I reserve the right to change the syllabus.
T August 29th Introduction to the Course
R August 31st NO CLASS. APSA Conference
T September 5th Studying Politics Scientifically (JR, chps 1-2)
R September 7th Creating a Research Question and Developing Your Hypotheses
(JR, chps 4-5; J-stor reading)
T September 12th Measuring Variables (JR, chp 6; R, chp 9)
R September 14th Measuring Variables, cont.
T September 19th Implementing the Research Design (JR, chp 3; R, chp 8)
R September 21st Implementing the Research Design, cont.
T September 26th Collecting Data: Making Empirical Observations and Elite
Interviewing (JR, chp 7 and pp. 270-275; R, chp 5)
ASSIGNMENT #1 DUE
R September 28th Collecting Data: Document Analysis (JR, chp 8)
T October 3rd Collecting Data: Survey Research (JR, pp. 275-304; R, chp 1)
R October 5th Collecting Data: Survey Research, cont.
T October 10th Sampling (JR, chp 9; R, chp 19)
R October 12th Midterm Review
T October 17th MIDTERM EXAM
R October 19th Introduction to SPSS/Making Comparisons (P, “Getting Started,”
chps 1, 3; R, 13; JR, pp. 305-321, 339-350)
T October 24th Transforming Variables in SPSS (P, chp 4)
R October 26th Making Controlled Comparisons (P, chp 5; R, chp 12)
ASSIGNMENT #2 DUE
T October 31st Univariate Statistics/Descriptive Statistics (P, chp 2; R, chp
18; JR, 321-371)
R November 2nd Making Inferences about Sample Means (P, chp 6)
ASSIGNMENT #3 DUE
T November 7th Chi-Square and Measures of Association (P, chp 7)
R November 9th Chi-Square and Measures of Association, cont.
T November 14th Bivariate Regression (P, chp 8; JR, pp 372-402)
ASSIGNMENT #4 DUE
R November 16th Bivariate Regression, cont.
T November 21st Multiple Regression (JR, pp. 403-428; R, chp 15)
ASSIGNMENT #5 DUE
R November 23rd NO CLASS. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
T November 28th Multiple Regression, cont.
R November 30th Dummy Variables and Interaction Effects (P, chp 9; R, chp 16)
T December 5th Practice Final Exam
ASSIGNMENT #6 DUE
R December 7th Review for Final Exam
T December 12th FINAL EXAM ()