Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science


POLS 545

Qualitative Research Methods


Fall 2007 TH 12:30-3:10 DU 464


Instructor: Artemus Ward

Office: 410 Zulauf Hall

Office Phone: 815-753-7041


Office Hours: T 12:30-2:00pm & by appointment.



This course is designed to introduce you to the principles and methods of qualitative research. At the beginning of this course, we will examine the place of qualitative research in the field of political science as well as the relationship between qualitative and quantitative methodology. Over the course of the semester, we will examine some of the main methods used by qualitative researchers in the social sciences such as participant observation, interviewing, archival research, and historical analysis. Our examination will consist of readings, both theoretical and applied, and hands-on assignments. This will allow us to not only analyze the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each method, but also gain experience using each approach. It is important to keep in mind, however, that research projects often draw on a number of different data sources, both qualitative and quantitative. Indeed, it is a general rule that research questions should drive the approach and data—not the other way around.


This course has several primary objectives. One goal is to familiarize you with the methodological and epistemological debates concerning qualitative research. The second is to give you a number of practical, applied tools during the course of the semester. The third objective is to allow you to practice and implement these tools. The fourth is to read and discuss work by qualitative researchers, especially focusing on the lessons they learned and the challenges they faced. The final goal is to help you understand how to move from project design, to project implementation, to data analysis and reporting.


As this is a graduate level Ph.D. course, attendance is assumed. You are required to do the assigned reading and come to class prepared to discuss the material. Because this course is a seminar, I will endeavor to speak as little as possible. You should be prepared to discuss the assigned works in depth, listen to, and respond to the remarks of your colleagues. Class participation is crucial in graduate courses and will account for a substantial part of your course grade. If you miss classes, generally do not come prepared and/or do not regularly participate, you will fail this part of the course.


A primary difference in this course versus similar courses in other fields is that you will be expected to begin using these methods during the semester. Your first experience using these methods should NOT be at the dissertation stage. Certainly no one would suggest that your first experience doing quantitative methods should be during your dissertation. Therefore, the best way to understand methods, both quantitative and qualitative, is to practice them, refine them, and discuss them.


Course Requirements & Grading


Your final course grade will be based on the following components:


Participation: 30%

Assignments: 30%

Research Paper: 40%


Seminar Participation: 30%


You are required to do the assigned reading and come to class prepared to actively discuss the material. Because this course is a seminar, I will endeavor to speak as little as possible. You should be prepared to discuss the assigned works in depth and respond to the remarks of your colleagues. I recommend coming to class with multiple questions and comments for each seminar. You should aim for 3-5 quality questions/comments each meeting. That said, there is such a thing as too much participation. Be respectful of the other seminar participants and give others a chance to join the conversation. Class participation is crucial in graduate courses and will account for a substantial part of your course grade. If you miss classes, generally do not come prepared and/or do not regularly participate, you will fail this part of the class and severely jeopardize your overall course grade.


Seminar Participation Grading Rubric



General Grading Definition



High participation: 3-5 quality questions and/or comments EVERY seminar. Note: regularly exceeding 5 may hurt your grade.



Good participation: 1-2 quality questions and/or comments EVERY seminar.



Average participation: 1-2 quality questions and/or comments every other seminar.



Below average participation: 1-2 quality questions and/or comments every three or four seminars.



Failing participation: Rarely if ever providing quality questions/comments.


Assignments: 30%


There will be a number of assignments throughout the semester that require you to implement and analyze various qualitative methods. Your analyses should be thoughtful, specific, and detailed. Always provide examples when making arguments and always be specific about the course readings and data that you are analyzing. Assignments will be graded and returned to you one to two weeks after they are due. Specific grading criteria are listed below for each assignment. I will average all of your individual assignment grades for your overall assignment score.


Research Paper: 40%


The course will culminate in a research paper. The paper could be an early version of a dissertation chapter or master’s thesis. It could be a “pilot” study for a larger research project. It could also be a single, stand-alone article. The paper should include a discussion of your research question, the motivation and background for that question, a brief literature review, your defense of the research methodology, a section discussing your data and results, and finally a conclusion. You will need to justify your methods using the readings from the course. Similarly, you should anticipate addressing some of the key debates and problems of qualitative research within the paper as well. We will begin this course discussing your ideas and shaping potential research questions. We will then regularly review your progress on the project throughout the semester and assist one another brainstorming on problems and challenges. Therefore, it is wise to make the assignments part of your final research paper. One week before we begin discussing the final papers, you must provide a copy of your paper to each student in the class by posting it on Blackboard. We will discuss each one in the seminar. Be prepared to give a brief presentation your paper (10-15 minutes) and also be prepared to offer feedback on the papers of your colleagues. The papers should be no less than fifteen and no more than twenty-five, double-spaced pages in length (not including your bibliography and any tables and charts you may include).




If you feel that you cannot complete the course requirements by the end of the semester, consider taking an incomplete. Here is the language form the graduate catalog concerning this process:


"Incompletes. When special circumstances prevent a student’s completing the requirements of a course, the instructor may, at her or his discretion, direct that the symbol I (indicating temporary incomplete) be entered in the student’s record. When the I is assigned, the instructor will file in the departmental office a statement of the work to be completed and will set a deadline for the student to fulfill this requirement. In no case may the deadline be later than the end of the next term, including the summer session as one term, after the term for which the incomplete had been assigned.


The incomplete must be removed within the following term (including summer session) whether or not the student is enrolled. If an extension in time is required to remove an I, an extension of up to one term may be granted on the recommendation of the instructor and with the approval of the office of the dean of the Graduate School. Only one such extension per course may be granted.


If the student does not submit all required work by the deadline established, the instructor may assign a grade that is consistent with the work completed and the grading standards of the course. If the instructor does not change the incomplete to a regular letter grade within the period allowed for resolution, the incomplete (I) will be converted to a permanent incomplete (IN). An IN is not counted in the computation of the grade point average. The IN symbol may not subsequently be changed to a regular letter grade on the basis of additional work submitted after the deadline for resolution of the temporary incomplete. A student wishing credit in a course for which IN has been recorded must enroll in the course again and receive a grade based upon performance in the course during this enrollment.


Incompletes in courses numbered 599 and 699 (thesis, dissertation, and analogous courses) are exempt from the above regulations. These incompletes must be removed by completing the specific work, and by receiving a grade reflecting this work, in accordance with the “Limitation of Time” indicated for each degree program. A student transferring out of a thesis or dissertation program (or other program requiring course 599 or 699) may, at the discretion of the major department, receive credit for some or all of the work already conducted under course number 599 or 699; otherwise, any transcript entry of I (incomplete) or NR in 599 and 699 will be changed to IN (permanent incomplete).


A student may not graduate with a transcript entry of I (temporary incomplete) on his or her record if the resolution of the incomplete could render the student ineligible for graduation, whether or not the course involved is part of the student’s official program of courses. "





Assignment #1: Analyzing Interviewers

To give you an idea of what you can find out in a single interview and what professional interviewing is like in political science, I would like you to listen to and read a sampling of interviews. Please keep in mind that in any research project, you would do a selection of interviews, not just one, and would supplement them with documents, field observation, and any other data you could acquire. Still, these examples will give you a sense of the sparkle and fun of political science interviews. The following are professional interviews, but with different styles, skill levels, and difficulty posed by the situation. Please read each of the interviews assigned on the internet, and answer the relevant questions about them. While you are at each of the websites, you might want to explore them. Certainly give some attention to the purpose of the website, and hence the purpose of the interview. Most of these are only a few pages long. The interviews were chosen to represent a range of topics in political science and variety of interview situations and purposes, as well as a range of styles.


A: Recent interview with former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:


B: June 27, 1995 interview with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice (then retired) Harry A. Blackmun. Read first 20 pages or so of transcript beginning on this day, page 243:

You can also watch the interview here:


C: November 15, 2001 interview with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar:


D: Interview with Eddie Thomas, Sr., Mississippi civil rights activist who walked picket line in 1972 boycott:



First read or listen to all of these interviews, and prepare a summary comparing the role of the interviewer in each one. Be sure to be specific and provide examples for each answer. Write at least one to two paragraph responses to each question:


1)      Aggressiveness: Which interviewer was most aggressive? Which one least aggressive? How were you able to determine aggressiveness? Give examples from the interviews supporting your choices.

2)      Difficulty: Which interview was the most difficult to do? What made it difficult? Be specific about how you determined this by giving examples.

3)      Accommodating: Which interview prompted the best answers? To answer this, you need to look at the questions and then summarize the content of the answers, and look for a match.

4)      Stonewalling: Which interviewer(s) did not get answers to the questions he or she posed? Why not? Be specific about specific interviews and provide specific evidence from the interviews you cite.

5)      Interviewer Skill: Which interviewer was the most skill? What makes you think so? How are you judging skilled? Provide specific examples.

6)      Follow-Up Questions: Please look for follow-up questions and mark them in your downloaded version of the interview if you can download and print them. How skillful are the follow-ups? What makes a good follow-up question? Provide specific examples.

7)      Purpose and Style: To what extent does the purpose of the interview influence the style? How did you determine what the purpose was? Again, provide specific examples.

8)      Prior Knowledge: How much knowledge do the interviewers demonstrate? Does knowledge make for better interviews? How can you tell?

9)      Obstacles: What obstacles did the interviewers encounter in these interviews and how did they surmount them, or did they fail to surmount them? Provide specific examples.


Assignment #2: Conducting Interviews

Now try your interviewing skills. For this assignment you need to do two interviews on the same subject, preferably with the same person or with two people on the same subject, so you can learn from one interview before doing the next one. The choice of topic and subjects is up to you. However, you may not interview any faculty member in the political science department or division of public administration. KEEP THE INTERVEIWS BRIEF! Formulate questions on the topic, be sure to listen to the answers, follow up with questions of more depth. Consider whether you want to or are able to record the interview. If so, should also take notes at the same time? Write up and analyze your notes/transcript from interview one before deciding what to ask on interview two. Code, analyze, and write up the results in a brief paper, say about 3 pages. While you may briefly comment on your experiences conducting the interviews and doing the analysis, focus on what you learned from the substance of the interviews. Look for themes, categories, and typologies through coding and simple counting techniques. What tables or charts can you construct? Coded interview transcripts/notes must be included with your mini report. I will be looking for greater depth and understanding from interview two, building from interview one.


Assignment #3: Observation

OK, you are ready to start doing some observations and note taking. Find a site where you can observe some activity or interaction, hopefully, but not necessarily related to political science (the skills are the same whether the subject is political or not). You can attend a council meeting or a planning session in DeKalb, a student government meeting on campus, a county board meeting, health board meeting, judicial proceeding, or even observe where you work, particularly if it has something to do with government and politics. Pick a place early, and if you are unsure whether it is appropriate, let me know what it is, so I can be sure that you will see enough to work with. Take notes on as much of what is going on as you can. You can also tape the meeting if that is allowed (usually it is but make sure you check with the appropriate authority in advance). Fill in your notes after the meeting as best you can. Then, analyze your notes through coding and simple counting schemes. Tell me what happened, and what it means, what concepts you can derive from your notes, what themes, what research questions you might want to pursue. Turn in your observation notes, your coding notes, and your analysis. Be sure to use examples from your notes or transcript to prove the points you make in your analysis. Be prepared to discuss your observation experiences in class.


Assignment #4: Reading Texts—Conducting Archival/Documentary Research

For this assignment you need to use an archive of unpublished material or published letters or speeches, and use them as raw data to analyze. How many documents you analyze is up to you. You should code them for concepts and themes, analyze the results, and write up your analysis using excerpts and tables to prove your points. When constructing tables, be sure they are complete with titles at the top and sources used to derive the data at the bottom. Readers should be able to understand your tables without having to read the paper. Turn in your 3-5-page analysis and coding sheets. The difficulties of this kind of work often lay in selectivity biases, so you have to choose your material and themes carefully to be sure you can answer the questions you pose with some rigor. I do a lot of this kind of analysis and am always running into reviewers who are concerned about replication and falsifiability. Could another researcher replicate your study? Is it possible that the same data could lead to the opposite result? Carefully formulate rival hypotheses and show how you can eliminate them or why your conclusions are stronger or more useful than potential rival hypotheses.


There are countless possible sources, of primary material including government websites. Here are a few examples:

·         The United Nations Document Center:

o       The United States National Archives:

·         The Manuscript Division of the United States Library of Congress, housed in the James Madison Building in Washington, D.C. has a wealth of collections. I have spent extended periods of time digging through the fragile papers of government officials in folder after folder and box after box. Yet through the miracle of technology, we can now access entire collections on-line! For example, the complete papers of James Madison—approximately 12,000 items captured in some 72,000 digital images—can be accessed at: Other digitized collections can be found here:

·         The National Archives of the United Kingdom:

·         American political party platforms (1840-2004):

·         The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) and Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906):


Assignment #5: Conducting Historical Institutional Analysis


In this assignment you are to identify a political institution or process and conduct a brief historical institutional analysis. Instead of simply recounting the history, or facts, of the institution or process over time, your assignment is to identify the major developments or changes that occurred over time. Try to choose a small, manageable institution or process. An analysis of French foreign policy since the revolution, the U.S. Agriculture Department, or the Cuban Judiciary are all far too broad to tackle for the purposes of this assignment (though they may very well be viable dissertation topics). Instead, think small: French foreign policy toward Germany under Mitterand, U.S. Agriculture Department policy toward small and independent farmers during the Reagan years, and the Cuban Judiciary’s stance toward free speech after the collapse of the Soviet Union. One trick to identifying institutional change is to examine external forces, such as legislative developments. Similarly, internal developments such as rule changes can give rise to larger institutional transformations. Be creative in identifying causal factors. Again, think in terms of representing your analysis in table-form. Length: 3-5pp. We will discuss your analysis in class.


Required Texts


Fenno, Richard F., Watching Politicians: Essays on Participant Observation (Berkeley, CA: Institute of Governmental Studies Press, 1990).


Pierson, Paul, Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).


Rubin, Irene, and Herbert J. Rubin, Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data (Sage, 1995).


Silverman, David, Interpreting Qualitative Data: Methods for Analyzing Talk, Text and Interaction, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001).


Note: All other required readings for this class can be accessed in one of three ways. Most of the articles are available through the online database JSTOR. Newly released articles can be accessed though Article First, another database to which the library subscribes. All other readings have been placed on library electronic reserve:


Suggested Texts


Berg, Bruce, Qualitative Research for the Social Sciences (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001).


Cook, Judith A. and Mary M. Fonow, Beyond Methodology: Feminist Scholarship As Lived Research (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1991).


Devault, Marjorie, L., Liberating Method: Feminism and Social Research (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999).


Emerson, Robert M., Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw, Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).


Gerring, John, Case Study Research: Principles and Practices (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007).


Gerring, John and David Collier, eds., Concepts and Method: Giovanni Sartori and His Legacy (Oxford, UK: Routledge, forthcoming).


King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba, Designing Social Inquiry (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).


Krueger, Richard A., Analyzing and Reporting Focus Group Results (Sage, 1997).


Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996).


Morgan, David L., Focus Groups as Qualitative Research, 2nd ed. (Sage, 1997).


Orren, Karen and Stephen Skowronek, The Search for American Political Development (Cambridge University Press, 2004).


Seidman, Irving, Interviewing As Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences, 2nd ed. (Teachers College Press, 1998).


Silverman, David, Doing Qualitative Research: A Practical Handbook (Sage, 1999).


Wolf, Diane L., Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork (Westview Press, 1996).


Note: You may also want to consult Qualitative Methods – the newsletter of the Qualitative Methods section of the American Political Science Association.


Course Calendar


Week 1. Aug. 30. No Class. Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.


Week 2. Sep. 6. Course Introduction.

Introductions, research agendas, and questions. Course Overview.


Week 3. Sep. 13. What is Qualitative Research?


·         Silverman, Interpreting Qualitative Data, Ch.1 Beginning Research, Ch.2 What is Qualitative Research, Ch.8 Credible Qualitative Research, Ch.9 Relevance and Ethics.

·         Beck, Nathaniel, “Causal Process ‘Observation’: Oxymoron or Old Wine,” Paper prepared for short-course “SC1: Multi-Method Research,” annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, August 29, 2007.

·         Collier, David, Henry E. Brady, and Jason Seawright, “Sources of Leverage in Causal Inference,” Paper prepared for short-course “SC1: Multi-Method Research,” annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, August 29, 2007.

·         Northern Illinois University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) webpage:



Ø       Dahl, Robert, “The Behavioral Approach to Political Science: An Epitaph for a Monument to a Successful Protest,” American Political Science Review 55 (1961): 763-72.

Ø       Glaser, Barney G. and Anselm L. Strauss, Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research (Aldine de Gruyter, 1967).

Ø       Almond, Gabriel A. and Stephen J. Genco, “Clouds, Clocks, and the Study of Politics,” World Politics 29 (1977): 489-522.

Ø       King, Gary, Robert Keohane, and Sidney Verba, Designing Social Inquiry (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).

Ø       Corbin, Juliet M. and Anselm Strauss, Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory, 2nd ed. (Sage, 1998).

Ø      Becker, Howard S., Tricks of the Trade: How to Think About Your Research While You Are Writing It (Chicago: University Press of Chicago, 1998).

Ø      Symposium: Teaching Qualitative Methods,” Qualitative Methods 1 (No.1, Spring 2003):

§         Keohane, Robert, “Disciplinary Schizophrenia: Implications for Graduate Education in Political Science,” 9-12;

§         Munck, Gerardo L., “Teaching Qualitative Methodology: Rationale, State of the Art, and an Agenda,” 12-5;

§         Mahoney, James, “What Courses on Qualitative Methods Should be Offered in Political Science Graduate Programs?” 15-8;

§         Feldman, Martha and Ann Chih Lin, “Teaching Qualitative Methods: The Importance of Understanding Interpretive and Positive Epistemologies,” 18-20;

§         Waldner, David, “Teaching the Metatheoretics of Qualitative Methodology,” 20-2;

§         Saxonhouse, Arlene, “The Liabilities of Amnesia: Why a Course in the ‘History of Political Science’?” 22-4;

§         Kier, Elizabeth, “Designing a Qualitative Methods Syllabus,” 24-6;

§         Barndt, William, “Qualitative Methods Textbooks,” 26-8;

§         Yang, David D., “Qualitative Methods Syllabi,” 28-30.

Ø       Collier, David and Henry E. Brady, eds., Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004).

Ø       “Special Issue on Causal Complexity and Qualitative Methods,” Political Analysis 14 (No.3, Summer 2006):

§         Goertz, Gary, “Introduction to the Special Issue,” 223-6;

§         Mahoney, James and Gary Goertz, “A Tale of Two Cultures: Contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative Research,” 227- 49;

§         Bennett, Andrew and Colin Elman, “Complex Causal Relations and Case Study Methods: The Example of Path Dependence,” 250-67;

§         Braumoeller, Bear F., “Explaining Variance; Or, Stuck in a Moment We Can’t Get Out Of,” 268-90;

§         Ragin, Chares C., “Set Relations in Social Research: Evaluating Their Consistency and Coverage,” 291-310;

§         Clark, William Roberts, Michael J. Gilligan, and Matt Golder, “A Simple Multivariate Test for Asymmetric Hypotheses,” 311-31.

-- “Symposium on Rethinking Social Inquiry:

§         Rihoux, Benoit, “Two Methodological Worlds Apart? Praises and Critiques from a European Comparativist,” 332-5;

§         Schrodt, Philip A., “Beyond the Linear Frequentist Orthodoxy,” 335-9;

§         Bennett, Andrew, “Stirring the Frequentist Pot with a Dash of Bayes,” 339-44;

§         Shively, W. Phillips, “Case Selection: Insights from Rethinking Social Inquiry,” 344-7;

§         Beck, Nathaniel, “Is Causal-Process Observation an Oxymoron?” 347-52;

§         Brady, Henry E., David Collier, and Jason Seawright, “Toward a Pluralistic Vision of Methodology,” 347-52.



o        In qualitative research, is it better to use the researcher’s categories or the participant’s categories?

o        Can one begin conducting research without a hypothesis?

o        It has been argued that “objectivity” in social science research is “an excuse for a power relationship every bit as obscene as the power relationship that leads women to be sexually assaulted, murdered and otherwise treated as mere objects.” Is this correct?

o        What is triangulation?

o       What ethical obligations do qualitative researchers have?



Week 4. Sep. 20. Interviews


·         Rubin, Irene, and Herbert J. Rubin, Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data (Sage, 1995).

·         Silverman, Interpreting Qualitative Data, Ch.4 Interviews.

·         Kathlene, Lyn, “Alternative Views of Crime: Legislative Policymaking in Gendered Terms,” Journal of Politics 57 (1995): 696-723.



Ø       Piaget, Jean, The Child’s Conception of the World (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1930).

Ø       Mayo, Elton, The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization (New York, MacMillan, 1933).

Ø       Freud, Sigmund, Therapy and Technique (New York: Collier, 1963).

Ø       Spradley, James, The Ethnographic Interview (New York: Hold, Rinehart & Winston, 1979).

Ø       Mishler, Elliot G., Research Interviewing: Context and Narrative (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986).

Ø       Seidman, Irving, Interviewing As Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences, 2nd ed. (Teachers College Press, 1998), Ch.6: “Technique isn’t everything, but it is a lot,” Ch.8: “Analyzing, Interpreting, and Sharing Interview Material.”



o        What is transparency? Is it important in interview research and qualitative research in general?

o        What is the difference between positive and interpretive interviewing? What is constructivist interviewing and how is it different from both positive and interpretive approaches?

o       It is argued that the danger of anectodatlism—reporting “typical” responses, brief extracts, or examples from your interviews—is that they can be used to support a preconceived argument rather than to test it. If this is the case, are the strategies of tabulating many cases and investigating deviant cases helpful in mitigating these dangers?


Assignment #1 Due. We will discuss your findings in class.


Week 5. Sep. 27. Focus Groups


·         David L. Morgan, “Focus Groups,” Annual Review of Sociology 22 (1996): 129-52.

·         John Bartle, “Measuring Party Identification: An Exploratory Study with Focus Groups,” Electoral Studies 22 (2003): 217-37.

·         Diane J. Heith, “One for All: Using Focus Groups and Opinion Polls in the George H.W. Bush White House,” Congress & the Presidency 30 (2003): 82-94.

·         Pamela Johnston Conover, Donald D. Searing, and Ivor Crewe, “The Elusive Ideal of Equal Citizenship: Political Theory and Political Psychology in the United States and Great Britain,” Journal of Politics 66 (2004): 1036-68.



o        Must focus groups have structured question formats?

o        Should focus groups be supplemented with other research methods?

o       To what extent did these authors succeed or fail to be transparent in describing their methodology? Will other researchers be able to replicate their studies?



Week 6. Oct 4. Ethnography and Observation


·         Silverman, Interpreting Qualitative Data, Ch.3. Ethnography and Observation

·         Fenno, Richard, Watching Politicians: Essays on Participant Observation (Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies, 1990).

·         Dunning, Thad, “Improving Causal Inference: Strengths and Limitations of Natural Experiments,” Paper prepared for short-course “SC1: Multi-Method Research,” annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, August 29, 2007.



Ø       Geertz, Clifford, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), especially “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight.”

Ø       Emerson, Robert M., Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw, Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

Ø       Stewart, Alex, The Ethnographer’s Method (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998).

Ø       Bayard de Volo, Lorraine, and Edward Schatz, “From the Inside Out: Ethnographic Methods in Political Research,” PS: Political Science & Politics 37 (2004): 267-71.



o        Is it useful to distinguish between observation and participant observation?

o        Is Fenno’s method observation, participant observation, or something else?

o        Is there ever a point, ethically or otherwise, when an observer should become a participant observer?

o       What is the relationship between observation (or participant observation) and interviews?

o       Are natural experiments different from observation?


Assignment #2 Due. We will discuss your findings in class.


Week 7. Oct. 11. Feminist Scholarship


·         Cook, Judith A. and Mary M. Fonow, Beyond Methodology: Feminist Scholarship as Lived Research (Indiana University Press, 1991).

o       Ch.2. Kathryn Payne Addelson, “The Man Of Professional Wisdom,” 16-34;

o       Ch.3. Patricia Hill Collins, “Learning From The Outsider Within: The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought,” 35-59;

o       Ch.5. Toby Epstein Jayaratne and Abigail J. Stewart, “Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences: Current Feminist Issues and Practical Strategies,” 85-106;

o       Ch.6. Lynn Weber Cannon, Elizabeth Higginbotham, and Marianne L.A. Leung, “Race and Class Bias In Qualitative Research on Women,” 107-18.



Ø       Spalter-Roth, Roberta and Heidi Hartmann, “Small Happiness: The Feminist Struggle to Integrate Social Research with Social Activism” in Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Feminist Approaches to Theory and Methodology: An Interdisciplinary Reader (New York: Oxford Press, 1999).

Ø      Devault, Marjorie, L., Liberating Method: Feminism and Social Research (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999).

Ø       Berg, Bruce. Ch.7 “Action Research,” in Qualitative Methods for the Social Sciences (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001).



o        How is Kathryn Payne Addelson’s argument related to Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions?

o        What does Kathryn Payne Addelson mean when she discusses “conventional understandings” by “significant communicators”? Is this a useful way of thinking about political science?

o        According to Patricia Hill Collins, what is “outsider within” status and how might it be useful for political science?

o        What is Black feminist thought and how is it related to research methods?

o        According to Jayaratne and Stewart, are quantitative methods antithetical to feminist research?

o        According to Jayaratne and Stewart, is “objective” research necessary if researchers are to have an effect on public policy?

o        According to Cannon, et. al., what are the consequences of failing to account for such respondent characteristics as race and class in qualitative research designs?

o       How can qualitative researchers make sure that race, class, and other demographic variables are incorporated into their research designs?


Assignment #3 Due. We will discuss your findings in class.


Week 8. Oct. 18. Narratives


·         Patterson, Molly and Kristen Renwick Monroe, “Narrative in Political Science,” Annual Review of Political Science 1 (1998): 315-31

·         Stivers, Camilla, “Reflections on the Role of Personal Narrative in Social Science,” Signs 18 (1993): 408-25.

·         Buthe, Tim, “Taking Temporality Seriously: Modeling History and the Use of Narratives as Evidence,” American Political Science Review 96 (2002): 481-93.

·         Herzog, Richard J. and Ronald G. Claunch, “Stories Citizens Tell and How Administrators Use Types of Knowledge,” Public Administration Review 57 (1997): 374-9.



Ø       Bates, Robert, Avner Grief, Margaret Levi, Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, and Barry Weingast, Analytical Narratives (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998).

Ø       Somers, MR, and GD Gibson, “Reclaiming the epistemological ‘other’: narrative and the social constitution of identity,” in Social Theory and the Politics of Identity, ed. C Calhoun (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1994), 35-99.

Ø       Polkinghorne, Donald E., Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1988).



o        What is the difference between narratives and unstructured interviewing?

o        How are narratives related to post-structuralism and postmodernism?

o        How are narratives related to paradigms?

o        Why is history particularly important in social science/political science narrative analysis?

o        Why do many social scientists find narratives objectionable as a methodological too?

o        According to Patterson and Monroe, why are exclusions, omissions, pauses, and silences important in narrative analysis?

o        According to Stivers, what is the relationship between positivism and paradigms?

o        How does Stivers’ critique of positivism relate to narrative analysis?

o       According to Stivers, is there no such thing as Truth? What is the difference between Truth and agreement?

o       What is the relationship between narrative and ethnography?

o       According to Stivers, is there a difference between fact and fiction, between history and literature, between science and art? What is an autobiography? What is a memoir?

o       According to Stivers, what is the role of critique in social science?

o       Based on the typology provided by Somers & Gibson, as discussed in Patterson and Monroe, which of the four separate kinds of narratives is Büthe suggesting be used is historical research?

o       How does Büthe define “history”?

o       According to Büthe, how is it possible and why is it desirable to model history?

o       Why does Büthe think that narratives are especially useful in testing models about historical processes? And how does he propose narratives be used to do this?

o       According to Büthe, what is the difference between using multiple narratives and alternative narratives? Which technique should researchers employ?

o       What is the “boundary” problem in research, and particularly in historical studies? How does the researcher overcome it?

o       What does Büthe say is the relationship between history and Truth?

o       From where do Herzog and Claunch derive the “seven categories of knowledge” they discuss?

o       What is “garbage knowledge” as discussed by Herzog and Claunch? Is this information useful to policymakers? Researchers? Does garbage knowledge bear any relationship to Patterson and Monroe’s discussion of omissions and exclusions in narratives?

o       How did Herzog and Claunch derive manager responses to the citizen data?

o       Did the researchers, Herzog and Claunch, have any effect on the behavior of the city managers?


Discuss work-in-progress on Assignment 4.


Week 9. Oct. 25. Reading Texts and Visual Images


·         Silverman, Interpreting Qualitative Data: Ch. 5 Texts, Ch. 6 Naturally Occurring Talk, Ch. 7 Visual Images.

·         Peregrine Schwartz-Shea & Dvora Yanow, “‘Reading’ ‘Methods’ ‘Texts’: How Research Methods Texts Construct Political Science,” Political Research Quarterly 55 (2002): 457-86.



Ø      The United States National Archives: Some of the online visual treasures include:

  • More than 6,000 Mathew Brady photographs of Civil-War-era personalities and scenes
  • More than 100 Civilian Conservation Corps photographs taken between 1939 and 1941
  • More than 100 photographs from the Kennedy White House
  • More than 100 Civil War-era maps, charts, plans, and drawings
  • About 40 plans, engineering drawings, diagrams, blueprints, and sketches of Civil War forts
  • About 500 photographs taken by Lewis Hine of child labor abuses for the National Child Labor Committee, 1908-1912
  • Almost 300 World War I posters from the U.S. Food Administration.

Ø       Coffey, Amanda and Paul Atkinson, Making Sense of Qualitative Data (London: Sage, 1996).

Ø       McKee, Alan, Textual Analysis: A Beginner’s Guide (London: Sage, 2003).

Ø       Emmison, Michael and Phillip Smith, Researching the Visual: Images, Objects, Contexts and Interactions in Social and Cultural Inquiry (London: Sage, 2000).

Ø      Rose, Gillian, Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials (London: Sage, 2001).



o        According to Silverman, what is the difference between content analysis and other forms of textual analysis?

o        What is a “membership categorization device” (MCD)?

o        Is there a difference between researcher-provoked data and naturally occurring talk?

o        What is the difference between working from a transcript versus the actual recording?

o        What is conversation analysis (CA)? Is it different from interviewing?

o        What is discourse analysis (DA)? What is its relationship to CA?

o        What are “stakes” and “scripts”?

o        Is analysis of visual images preferable to text?

o        What is semiotics and how is it used in the analysis of visuals?

o        What is the difference between denotation and connotation in visual analysis?

o        How is MCD related to visual analysis?

o       According to Schwartz-Shea and Yanow, how are research methods texts constructed?


Exercise: In class we will do a textual analysis. I will provide the text.



Week 10. Nov. 1. Comparative Analysis, Case Studies, and Categorization


·         Lijphart, Arend, “The Comparable-Cases Strategy in Comparative Research,” Comparative Political Studies, 8 (1975): 158-77.

·         Victoria E. Bonnell, “The Uses of Theory, Concepts and Comparison in Historical Sociology,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 22 (1980): 154-73.

·         Theda Skocpol and Margaret Somers, “The Uses of Comparative History in Macrosocial Inquiry,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 22 (1980): 174-97.

·         Elizabeth Nichols, “Skocpol on Revolution: Comparative Analysis vs. Historical Conjuncture,” Comparative Social Research 9 (1986) 163-86.

·         Theda Skocpol, “Analyzing Causal Configurations in History: A Rejoinder to Nichols,” Comparative Social Research 9 (1986) 187-94.

·         David Collier and James E. Mahon, Jr., “Conceptual ‘Stretching’ Revisited: Adapting Categories in Comparative Analysis,” American Political Science Review 87 (1993): 845-55.

·         Gerring, John, “What is a Case Study and What Is It Good for?” American Political Science Review 98 (2004): 341-54.



Ø       Campbell, Donald T., “‘Degrees of Freedom’ and the Case Study,” Comparative Political Studies 8 (1975): 178-93.

Ø       Skocpol, Theda, States and Social Revolutions (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

Ø       Coppedge, Michael, “Thickening Thin Concepts and Theories: Combining Large N and Small in Comparative Politics,” Comparative Politics 31 (1999): 465-76.

Ø       Odell, John S., “Case Study Methods in International Political Economy,” International Studies Perspectives 2 (2001): 161-76.

Ø       Chwieroth, Jeffrey M., “Counterfactuals and the Study of the American Presidency,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 32 (2002): 293-327.

Ø       Mahoney, James and Dietrich Rueschemeyer, eds., Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Ø       George, Alexander L. and Andrew Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004). 

Ø       Mahoney, James and Gary Goertz, “The Possibility Principle: Choosing Negative Cases in Comparative Research,” American Political Science Review 98 (2004): 653-69.

Ø       Sekhon, Jasjeet S., “Quality Meets Quantity: Case Studies, Conditional Probability, and Counterfactuals,” Perspectives on Politics 2 (2004): 281-93.

Ø      Pahre, Robert, “Formal Theory and Case-Study Methods in EU Studies,” European Union Politics 6 (2005): 113-46.

Ø      Gerring, John, Case Study Research: Principles and Practices (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Ø      Gerring, John and David Collier, eds., Concepts and Method: Giovanni Sartori and His Legacy (Oxford, UK: Routledge, forthcoming).




o        According to Lijphart, what are the four basic methods of discovering and establishing general empirical propositions?

o        What is the difference between the comparative method and a comparative perspective, or the comparative politics subfield of political science?

o        When is it most appropriate to use the comparative method?

o        According to Lijphart, what are the four ways of minimizing the problem of “many variables, small N?”

o        Is there a difference between the comparative and case study methods?

o        According to Lijphart, what is the difference between the comparative and statistical method?

o        What is Lijphart’s “comparable-cases strategy?”

o        According to Lijphart, in choosing cases how much variance should the researcher be looking for among the independent, control, and dependent variables?

o        What is the “whole-nation bias” in comparative politics research and what is the related problem for the field of international relations? How does Lijphart’s comparable-cases approach remedy this?

o        What is the danger of “conceptual stretching?” How can this problem be avoided?

o        How does Lijphart respond to the following criticisms: 1) there are so many differences between cases that sufficiently similar cases can never be found; 2) a comparative approach only leads to partial generalizations; and 3) research sites, data, and methods will inevitably dictate hypotheses?


o        According to Bonnell, what are the disciplinary differences between historians and sociologists?

o        What is a posteriori reasoning and how can it be used in historical analysis?

o        What is the difference between “analytical” and “illustrative” forms of comparison in historical-sociological research?

Skocpol and Somers

o        According to Skocpol and Somers, what are the three major logics of comparative-historical inquiry?

o        How are cases selected when undertaking a parallel demonstration of theory?

o        In parallel comparative history, should theoretical models and hypotheses be developed before or after examining historical case studies? Why?

o        What is the difference between parallel comparative history and contrast-oriented comparative history?

o        What role does hypothesis testing and multi-variate analysis play in macro-causal comparative history?

o        According to John Stuart Mill, what are the two basic analytic designs that macro-analysts employ and how does Skocpol use both in States and Social Revolutions (1979)?

o        According to Skocpol and Somers, can the three logics of comparative-historical analysis be combined?

o        According to Skocpol and Somers, how important is historical narrative, thick description, and chronology in macro-causal comparative history?

o        According to Skocpol and Somers, how do the three logics of comparative-historical analysis form a complementary cycle?

Nichols-Skocpol Debate

o        Nichols argues that Skocpol is not clear about whether she is explaining revolution or revolutionary success. What is the difference and why does Nichols claim that this matters? How does Skocpol respond?

o        What is Nichols’ criticism about Skocpol’s research design: specifically how Skocpol treats theory and derives her variables?

o        What is Nichols’ criticism about Skocpol’s use of “historical conjuncture”?

o        What does Nichols say are Skocpol’s three classes of variables? Does Skocpol consistently apply Mill’s joint method of agreement and difference to each class/level? What happens to Skocpol’s argument when Nichols applies Mill’s joint method? How does Skocpol respond? Specifically, what is Skocpol’s point about the interaction effects of variables?

o        How can Skocpol’s argument be falsified?

o        Can Skocpol’s theory of revolution be applied to any state at any time? Is it universal?

o        Why does Nichols’ highlight Skocpol’s treatment of the Iranian case? What does Skocpol say about Nichols’ argument?

o        According to Nichols, how does Skocpol treat modernization as a factor in revolution? How does she treat subjective factors like ideology and religion? How does Skocpol respond?

Collier and Mahon

o        In the article by Collier and Mahon, what is the difference between Sartori’s notions of conceptual traveling and conceptual stretching?

o        According to Collier and Mahon, is the problem of conceptual stretching limited to movement across cases or can it also be present within cases that change over time?

o        What is classical categorization or taxonomy?

o        What is the difference between categorical extension and intension?

o        How does classical categorization—i.e. the “ladder of generality”— help solve the problem of conceptual stretching?

o        What are “family resemblance categories” and how are they different from classical categories?

o        Does the concept of family resemblance categories counter Nichols’ criticism of Skocpol’s treatment of the Iranian revolution?

o        What is a “system-specific” approach to defining the properties of a category? Is this a useful technique?

o        What are radial categories? How do they relate to classical categories?

o        How should researchers use primary and secondary categories, in order to avoid the problem of conceptual stretching in classical categorization on the one hand and radial categorization on the other?

o        According to Collier and Mahon, why do the selection of secondary categories lead to scholarly disputes? Is this an issue for Skocpol in States and Social Revolutions (1979)? How can you choose secondary categories to avoid criticism?


o        How does Gerring define a case study? How is this different from other definitions?

o        Why does Gerring argue that “case study” is really a misnomer and that “unit study” is more appropriate?

o        How does case study research relate to cross-unit analysis such as comparative historical work?

o        What does Gerring say about the classic N=1 research design, which haunts the imaginations of social scientists? What is a study of a single unit observed at a single point in time without the addition of within-unit cases?

o       Is the case study research design compatible with the major theoretical frameworks of social science such as behavioralism, rational choice, institutionalism, and interpretivism?


Assignment #4 Due. Be prepared to discuss your experiences in class.


Week 11. Nov. 8. Typologies and Historical Analysis


·         Collier, David, Jody LaPorte, and Jason Seawright, “Putting Typologies to Work: Tools for Comparative Analysis,” Paper prepared for short-course “SC1: Multi-Method Research,” annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, August 29, 2007.

·         Collier, David, Jody LaPorte, and Jason Seawright, “Inventory of Multi-Dimensional Typologies,” prepared for short-course “SC1: Multi-Method Research,” annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, August 29, 2007.

·         Lustick, Ian S., “History, Historiography, and Political Science: Multiple Historical Records and the Problems of Selection Bias,” American Political Science Review 90 (1996): 605-18.

·         Thies, Cameron G., “A Pragmatic Guide to Qualitative Historical Analysis in the Study of International Relations,” International Studies Perspectives 3 (2002): 351-72.



·         Elman, Colin, “Explanatory Typologies in Qualitative Studies of International Politics,” International Organization 59 (No.2, spring, 2005): 293-326.



·         Are typologies useful in political science research?

·         What are the advantages and disadvantages to using typologies?

·         What is the difference between “history” and “historiography” or “histories”?

·         Why should we study historiography rather than history? What are the advantages?

·         Should political scientists who conduct historical analyses conduct primary research or can they rely on secondary sources?

·         In the contemporary discipline of history, what is the difference between “Rankeans” and “Annalists”?

·         How does Lustick’s article relate to the arguments made by feminist researchers?

·         What does Lustick urge that researchers do when selecting source material and constructing background narratives? How does he do it in his own work?

·         According to Lustick, can we choose one particular approach or school of historiography over others to base our historical analysis on? If so, which one do we choose? What does Thies say about this?

·         According to Lustick, can we look for regularities in different historical treatments and then deem those as authoritative, or true? How does this approach increase our “N”? How is Thies critical of this approach?

·         What is “quasi-triangulation”? How is it different from looking for regularities in multiple historical treatments?

·         What is “explicit triage”? How is this related to the issue of transparency? What role do footnotes play in this approach? What are the problems to this approach?

·         In the article by Thies, what are manifest and latent events? How are they the source of most historiographical disputes?

·         According to Thies, why should we triangulate contemporary, primary sources? What are the benefits?

·         According to Thies, can we rely on a single historian’s account of an event?

·         Why does Thies urge new scholars to mimic or emulate the work of senior, respected scholars in their field?

·         What is “presentism” or “whiggishness” is historical analysis? Is it a problem?

·         When consulting secondary sources, should you start with the oldest account and move forward toward the present or start with the most recent and work backward? Why?

·         Should political scientists consult historians before conducting research and should they have historians review their work?

·         Do quantitative analyses based on large-N data sets avoid the problems of selectivity and bias that plague historical research?


Week 12. Nov. 15. History and Time as Method


·         Pierson, Paul, Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).



·         Burnham, Walter D., Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 1970).

·         Skocpol, Theda, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).

·         Robertson, David Brian, “The Return to History and the New Institutionalism in American Political Science,” Social Science History 17 (1993): 1-36.

·         Skowronek, Stephen, The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to George Bush (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).

·         Hall, Peter A. and Rosemary C.R. Taylor, “Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms,” Political Studies 44 (1996): 936-57.

·         Immergut, Ellen, “The Theoretical Core of the New Institutionalism,” Politics & Society 26 (1998): 5-34.

·         Thelen, Kathleen, “Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Perspective,” Annual Review of Political Science 2 (1999): 369-404.

·         Schickler, Eric, Disjointed Pluralism: Institutional Innovation and the Development of the U.S. Congress (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

·         Orren, Karen and Stephen Skowronek, The Search for American Political Development (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

·         Thelen, Kathleen, How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, Japan and the United States (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).



·         Why does Pierson say, “this is not a book about methods”?

·         What is path dependence and how is it related to positive feedback?

·         What are the implications of Pierson’s statement, “Most variable-oriented research assumes a world without positive feedback, where history washes out and sequence is irrelevant. We only need to know the values of variables at the moment of interest, not the sequence through which these factors developed.”

·         What are “conjunctures” and when do they happen? Can they be predicted? Must we settle for Dr. Seuss-style, post-hoc explanations?

·         According to Pierson, what can rational choice teach us about temporal order in political processes? How does Pierson say that rational choice falls short, however, as a universal method of explaining political processes?

·         What are “downstream dynamics”? Is a political process “locked in” once path dependence begins?

·         In discussing Jacob Hacker’s (1998) comparative study of health care, why does Pierson say that recent proponents of national health care in the U.S. “were too late”?

·         What is the difference between cumulative causes and threshold effects? Are path-dependent processes always the result of long, slow, cumulative build-ups?

·         Why does most political science research fall into Pierson’ Quadrant 1 (Table 3.2, 3.3)? Is this problematic? If so, what can be done to remedy this?

·         What does Pierson say about functional explanations of institutional origins and change? Why are theories of actor-centered functionalism and societal functionalism “radically incomplete”?

·         What are “critical junctures”?

·         Why are political “losers” important for generating institutional change?

·         Why is it important to examine overlapping institutions/processes and interaction effects? Can one explain institutional development solely by an internal examination of the institution in question?

·         What is the difference between the three types of institutional change: layering, conversion, and diffusion?

·         Can these problems in studying institutional development be overcome: prediction, selection bias, focus on immediate sources of change or triggers, and a preoccupation with demands/pressures for change?

·         What is institutional resilience and what four factors does Pierson identify that make it difficult for institutions to change?

·         What are “regimes”?

·         What is a “deep equilibrium”?

·         Is a public policy an institution?

·         According to Pierson, what was the “decontextual revolution”?

·         According to Pierson, why is it necessary for political scientists to adopt strict boundary conditions in their research?

·         Why should we be weary of researchers who use pooled time-series regression analysis? Is there a right way and a wrong way to use this method?

·         Why is it important for researchers to specify which aspects of context can potentially be applied in multiple settings?

·         What are the benefits of multiple research efforts coordinated by communication among multiple scholars?

·         Should multiple methods be used in temporal analysis of institutions?

·         Should political scientists shift their focus from causal laws to the explication of social mechanisms?


Assignment #5 Due. Students should be prepared to briefly discuss their assignment. You may want to bring handouts/overheads and/or use the board to explain your analysis.


Week 13. Nov. 22. No Class.

Final Research Papers Due. Everyone must post their papers by Sunday night Nov. 25th. Be sure to print out, read, and ideally make written comments for each paper posted to Blackboard. We will discuss each paper in the following weeks.


Week 14. Nov. 29. Presentations/Discussion of Research Papers

Required: Read final research papers: last names beginning with the letters M-Z. Be prepared to ask questions and provide comments.


Due: Students with last names beginning with the letters M-Z will very briefly (5-10 min) discuss their research proposal.

Week 15. Dec 6. Presentations/Discussion of Research Papers

Required: Read final research papers: last names beginning with the letters A-N. Be prepared to ask questions and provide comments.


Due: Students with last names beginning with the letters A-N will very briefly (5-10 min) discuss their research proposal.

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