Fall 2009

Northern Illinois University


Instructor: Faon Grandinetti

Office:  Zulauf 107                   


E-mail:  fgrandinetti@niu.edu               

Office Hours:    T, TH 9:20-10:50 or by appointment


TA: Jian-Chuan Zhang

Office: DU 476


E-mail: jianchuanzhang@gmail.com

Office Hours: F 9:00-10:00 or by appointment


Class Meetings: T, TH 11:00-12:15 AM

Classroom: DU 170




Concepts and principal methods of research in political science: techniques of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data and reporting findings.




The first goal of this course is to help students learn to think about political problems scientifically by considering topics such as concepts and hypotheses, research design, and literature reviews.  We will focus on these topics for approximately one third of the course. The second goal of the course, covered for approximately the last two thirds of the semester, is to give students some specific tools that are commonly used in empirical social research.  These tools include methods of measurement, measures of association, and regression analysis.  The ultimate ambition of the course is to provide students with a good knowledge and understanding of social scientific research which will help them systematically address political questions in their coursework at NIU and beyond.




You are required to purchase one package for this course (it includes 3 items):

1)      The Essentials of Political Analysis, 3rd Edition (EPA) + An SPSS Companion to Political Analysis, 3rd Edition package, by Philip H. Pollock III  (this includes the student version of SPSS)

Additionally, 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.  You can visit the SOCQRL webpage (ww.socqrl.niu.edu) for more information, including the specific times the lab is open each week.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask.




There are three basic components of your grade in this course: weekly assignments, exams, and participation. The first requirement, weekly take-home assignments, ensures all students understand all aspects of the course material while giving students hands-on practice with the concepts and methods we address.  Although I would in many ways prefer to assign a semester research paper, the only way I can ensure all of the information is thoroughly conveyed and comprehended is to have you think through these problems each week.  I will assign a set of questions or a section of the workbook for you to complete 10 AM on Tuesdays.  All of this paperwork will take place on Blackboard: you will find the assignments, turn in your responses, and the TA will return them to you by Friday the same week.  You will not be able to submit your responses after Tuesday at 10AM! Do not attempt to email your late papers to myself or to the TA.  Please take note of the comments written in response to your work as well as the grade assigned for that work.  The weekly assignments will comprise 50 percent of your final grade.


            Second, there will be two written examinations, each worth 25 percent of the grade for a total of 50 percent.  The midterm will take place on March 5th.  The noncumulative final exam is scheduled for May5th.  The midterm and final examination will be scored on a 0 to 100 percent scale and assigned a corresponding letter grade (with plus and minus designations).  The exam material will be adapted from the questions I give you in your weekly assignments, so there should not be any surprises.


            The third requirement is participation.  Although I have not assigned a specific percentage of the course grade for participation, anything other than regular attendance will lower your final grade.  Each student may miss two class periods without lowering his or her course grade.  However, each unexcused absence past two will result in a 1/3 letter reduction in your final course grade.  Regular class attendance and participation is important for understanding the material presented in this course, especially because each lecture builds heavily upon the previous days and weeks.



Grading Scale:

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




           Weekly Assignments:                           50 percent

            Midterm Exam:                                   25 percent

            Final Exam:                                         25 percent

            Participation:                                         1/3 letter grade reduction for each absence after 2




1.      Electronic Assignments: All assignments for this class will be distributed and collected electronically via NIU’s Blackboard system.  Your weekly assignments will be posted online each Thursday, and you will return them online by 10 AM each Tuesday morning.  We will also respond to your posting electronically.  Please do not get in the habit of waiting until the last minute to post your contribution each week (see my late assignment policy).


2.      Makeup Exams: Makeup exams will only be given in extraordinary circumstances.  If such circumstances arise, please contact me as soon as possible and before the scheduled exam. To keep the process fair for everyone in the course, students will be asked to support requests for makeup exams with documentation. A missed examination without prior notification and a documented excuse will result in a zero and a course grade of “F” as opposed to an incomplete.


3.      Late Papers:  We do not accept late papers.  Any time you want to turn in an assignment and it does not reach us by the time it is due, which is 10AM  each Tuesday, it will be counted as though you skipped that week’s assignment.  In other words, you will receive a 0 for the assignment.  Because there are assignments every week in this course, we will give each student the benefit of the doubt once over the course of the semester without having the 0 grade apply.  However, for that week only the assignment must be submitted by the next week’s deadline (so you will turn in two assignments that next week) or the 0 will apply.  If you are submitting two assignments in one week, copy them to the same document so you can submit them together on Blackboard.


4.      Extra Credit: Extra credit assignments will not be given on an individual basis to raise final course grades.  Like makeup exams, such projects raise serious questions of equity. If a project is made available, every member of the class would be given the opportunity to complete it.


5.      Handouts: Handouts are a privilege for those students who attend class on a regular basis. No student is entitled to supplemental materials simply because they are registered for the course.


6.      Classroom Etiquette: Students are to arrive at class on time. Two tardy arrivals are equivalent to one class absence.  Students are to remain for the entire session unless excused by the professor beforehand or confronted with a serious personal emergency. For instance, it is not acceptable for students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters. Cell phones, pagers, or any electronic devices that make noise must be placed on vibrate during class unless the instructor has been notified beforehand of a special circumstance (e.g., sick family member, pregnant wife, special childcare situation, etc.). It is not acceptable to use an iPod, read a newspaper, use a laptop for anything other than taking class notes, use our classroom computers between 11:00 and 12:15 for anything other than POLS 340, or engage in other behavior that distracts one from the class proceedings once the session has begun. No one should talk while someone else is talking; this includes comments meant for a classmate rather than the entire group. What may seem like a whisper or a harmless remark to one person can be a distraction to someone else. Overall, classroom dialogue and behavior should always be courteous, respectful of others, and consistent with the expectations set forth by the university.


7.      10-Minute Rule: Just as I expect you to arrive at class on time each day, you can expect that I will do the same.  However, if some extraordinary event occurs and I am not in class within 10 minutes of the start time, you can assume that class is canceled and leave the classroom.


8.      Incomplete Requests: Such petitions will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances. The instructor reserves the right to ask for documentation to verify the problem preventing completion of the course by the normal deadlines. If the student does not present documentation from a university office or official, the matter will be left to the instructor’s discretion.


9.      Academic Dishonesty: Regarding plagiarism, the NIU Undergraduate Catalog states: “students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university.” The above statement encompasses the purchase or use of papers that were written by others.  In short, students are advised to do their own work and learn the rules for proper quoting, paraphrasing, and footnoting.  The department offers a site to help you prevent plagiarism when writing your papers: http://polisci.niu.edu/polisci/audience/plagiarism.shtml





10.  Class Participation: I recognize class discussion comes more easily for some people than for others. By temperament or habit, some individuals are “talkers” while others are “listeners.” Learning to be both is an important subsidiary goal of this course.  Comments that are not relevant to the ongoing discussion and off the point will not be rewarded. Remarks that are disruptive to the discussion, insensitive to others, or attempt to dominate the discussion will not be tolerated. I strongly prefer students to participate on a voluntary basis. If you are particularly uneasy about talking in class, or feel closed out of the discussion for another reason, please speak with me. Remember: communication skills and self-confidence are extremely important assets in the professional world. Thus it is better to develop these things in the collegial environment of this class rather than under more difficult circumstances later in life.


11.  Withdrawal Policy:  If you choose to stop attending class you, the student, are responsible for withdrawing from the course.  The instructor will not do so for you.  If you stop attending and have not withdrawn, a failing grade will be entered. 


12.  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 for which they may require accommodations should notify the University's Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR). CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


13.  Department of Political Science Web Site: Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to: http://www.niu.edu/polisci/


14.  Undergraduate Writing Awards: The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28. All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name. Only papers written in the previous calendar can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.        


15.  Amendments: This syllabus is subject to change with written notice.  However, I will not change the value of any graded components of the course.





Week of          Material Covered                               Read               


Aug. 25                   Studying Politics Scientifically                               Johnson and Reynolds, PSRM Chapter 2 (e-reserves)

                                                                                                                Edmund, “Scientific Method Today” (Blackboard link)       


Sept. 1                     Hypotheses, Concepts, Variables                          Babbie, The Basics of Social Research, pages 45-60 (e-reserves)

                                                                                                                EPA pages 44-54


Sept. 8                     Research Design                                                      EPA Chapter 4                                                      


Sept. 15                   Research Design cont. & Literature Review           TBA                                                                       


Sept. 22                   Measurement                                                          Babbie, The Practice of Social Research, Chapter 5 (e-reserves)                          

                                                                                                                EPA Ch. 1 & 2


Sept. 29                   Measurement, Transforming Variables                   Review previous week’s readings                                                          


Oct. 6                      Comparisons                                                           EPA pp.54-67                                                       


Oct. 13                    Catch up and Review                                                                                                                             


    ØOct. 15th         MID TERM EXAM


Oct. 20                    Controlled Comparisons                                         EPA Ch. 5                              


Oct. 27                    Sampling & Inference                                              EPA Ch. 6                                                              


Nov. 3                     Significance, Association                                        EPA Ch. 7                                                              


Nov. 10                   Correlation & Linear Regression                             EPA Ch. 8                                                              


Nov. 17                   Dummy Variables and Interaction Effects              EPA pp.184-194                                                   


Nov. 24                   Logistic Regression                                                 EPA Ch. 9                                                              


Dec. 1                      Review key concepts, problematic materials                                                                                        


Dec. 8                     FINAL EXAM, 10-11:50 am