POLS 502  Fall 2007

Research Design and Analysis

Professor Mikel Wyckoff

Office: Zulauf 403

Hours: MW 11-12:15 & by Appt.

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 other, more quantitative courses.





            Royce A. Singleton and Bruce C. Straits, Approaches to Social Research (4th ed.),

            Oxford University Press, 2004.


            Students also will read one of the following books for an assignment in the second half

            of the course: Richard Fenno, Home Style or John Kingdon, Congressmens Voting

            Decisions (1989).


            Other readings in the form of: handouts, distributed in class from time to time and articles

available online.





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. Four or five computer exercises will be assigned during the semester. Each will receive a grade of 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. 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.


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 discussed in coming weeks. All proposals must include procedures for testing a causal hypothesis, and the procedures chosen should maximize (within reason and within the bounds of practicality) your ability to conduct a rigorous test of the hypothesis. Two preliminary elements of the design are required before the end of the semester:


            Annotated Bibliography (3-5 pages, due by Week 6). To ensure that everyone gets started

on the research proposal in a timely fashion I will ask you to start digging into the political

                science literature right away and generate an annotated bibliography based on the studies

                you locate. This preliminary paper should: (1) provide a brief description of your research

problem; and (2) briefly summarize the salient features of at least eight books, book chapters,

or articles in scholarly journals that have relevance for your final research proposal. One good

paragraph for each work cited should be satisfactory. With additional work, this initial

bibliography should evolve into the literature review portion of your research proposal.


                Research Design Prospectus (maximum 3 pages, due by Week 11). This second preliminary

Paper will provide a brief summary and overview of your final research design as you envision

it at Week 11. It should include: (1) a brief description of your research problem; (2) one or

                more specific hypotheses to be tested; (3) an Os and Xs scheme that applies to your anti-

                cipated research design, along with supporting discussion (this will make more sense as

time goes on); (4) tentative plans for collecting and analyzing the data needed to test your



Final Research Design. Your final research proposal should be approximately 15-20 pages

in length (typed and double‑spaced). All proposals are due on December 3. Late papers

will be penalized at the rate of one-third of a letter grade per day.


Grading System. Final grades will be computed as follows:


Exam I                                  30%

Exam II                                 30

Annotated Bibliography    5

RD Prospectus                      5

Final Research Design        20

Class Participation              10







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 thatsuggested in case you want to read more about the topics covered that week.


The following journal abbreviations are used in the outline:


                APSR = American Political Science Review

                AJPS = American Journal of Political Science

                POQ = Public Opinion Quarterly



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




Week 2  Labor Day; No Class




Week 3  Epistemological Issues: science as a philosophy of knowledge or method of knowing; the

9/10        the nature of concepts and theories


                Required: Singleton and Straits, Ch. 1-2.

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

                                Krauthammer, "Let's Have No More Monkey Trials," locate online at:


                                Dawkins and Coin, In Science, Fact, Not Faith, Measures Ideas Validity, locate at:



                Suggested: Suggested readings are just that  suggested for those who want to do additional

                                reading for fun and/or for their own personal edification.

                                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 4  Basic Elements of Research Design


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

Shively, A Machiavellians Guide to Developing Research Topics, in

                                                The Craft of Political Research (e-reserves).


                Suggested: 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 under-

                                                graduate text on research design).

                                Manheim and Rich, Techniques of Systematic Bibliographic Research,

                                                in Empirical Political Analysis.      



Week 5  Measurement Issues and Elementary Data Analysis


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

                                Diamond, "Soft Sciences Are Often Harder Than Hard Sciences, at:


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

                                Sears, et al., Is It Really Racism? Public Opinion Quarterly 61 (1997). Find at

                                                www.jstor.org. Read esp. pp. 16-28. Focus on the twin problems of defining the

                                                concept of racism and how best to go about measuring racist values and beliefs.

                                                Try to make sense of Table 1.


Suggested: 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


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


                Suggested: Babbie, The Practice of Social Research (his chapter on sampling issues is a very

                                                igood one). See also Survey Research Methods.

Fowler, Survey Research Methods (a Sage paperback).

Sudman, Applied Sampling (good book by one of the nations 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


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

                                Nelson, et al., Media Framing of a Civil Liberties Conflict  APSR 91 (1997).

                                                Find at www.jstor.org. Read esp. pp. 567-572. This is an experimental study. What

                                                makes it so? What are its strengths and weaknesses?  Also, think consciously about

                                                the theory that is being tested in this study.

                                Streb and Burrell, Support for a Female President is Significantly Exaggerated,

                                                locate at: http://www.niu.edu/PubAffairs/RELEASES/2007/jan/research.shtml


                Suggested: Campbell and Stanley, Experimental and Quasi-experimental

Designs 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-experimental Designs


Required: Singleton and Straits, Ch. 7, p. 194 (review) and pp. 206-end; Ch. 15,

pp. 483-487, 489-499. Locate the following articles at www.jstor.org:

Easton and Dennis, The Childs Acquisition of Regime Norms, APSR, 1967,

                pp. 25-38. Skim some of the discussion of measurement issues. Think hard about

                the multivariate relationships observed in Tables 2-5.

                Jackman, Political Institutions and Voter Turnout in the Industrial Democracies,

                                APSR, 1987, pp. 405-420.


Suggested: 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 recent

example of a sophisticated time series study).

                Stoker and Jennings, Life-Cycle Transitions and Political Participation: The Case

                                of Marriage, APSR, 1995, pp. 421-433 (relatively recent example of a panel study).







Week 10  Data Collection Methods I: Survey Research


                Required: Singleton and Straits, Ch. 8-9.


                Suggested: 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


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

                                Excerpt from Streb, The New Electoral Politics of Race, (e-reserves)

                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.


                Suggested: Weber, Basic Content Analysis.

                                Yamaguchi, Event History Analysis.



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


                Required: Singleton and Straits, Ch. 10.

                                Fenno, Home Style, or Kingdon, Congressmens Voting Decisions.


                Suggested: 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.

                                Jackman, Cross-National Statistical Research and the Study of Comparative

                Politics, AJPS, 1985, pp. 161-182.

                                Rubin and Rubin, Qualitative Interviewing.

                                Fetterman, Ethnography.



Week 13  Evaluation Research


                Required: Singleton and Straits, Ch. 13.

Lewis-Beck and Alford, Can Government Regulate Safety? The

Coal Mine Example, APSR, 1980, pp. 745-756.


                Suggested: Mohr, Impact Analysis for Program Evaluation.



Week 14  Research Ethics; Writing Research Reports


                Required: 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 10, 6:00  7:50