POLS 340 Political Analysis

Spring 2008

Professor Barbara Burrell

Class Time: Tuesday and Thursday, 11:00-12:15

Dusable 170 and  208 McMurray

Office:  115 Zulauf , 753-7050,  bburrell@niu.edu

Office Hours:  Tuesdays, 3:30-4:30, Wednesdays, 1-3 PM. I am also usually in my office on Wednesday mornings and during the day before classes on Tues and Thurs.

Note that we will be using two classrooms.  Be sure to know which classroom we will be using which days of the semester.

Course Description:  The study of politics involves seeking answers to political problems, puzzles and questions.  In this course we will learn how political scientists have engaged in political inquiry with a focus on developing and implementing systematic research agendas and designs. Think about important concepts, for example, power, representation, and participation. How might we go about studying these concepts so central to political life, especially democratic political life? How might we answer the question, for example, of how widely power and influence is distributed in the United States?  Or what did the people say in the 2006 election?  How do lawmakers decide to cast the votes that they do? Do Supreme Court justices generally follow precedent when making their rulings or their own personal beliefs?  Does a cultural divide exist in the United States?  The nation is polarized. What does that mean and how might we study the idea of polarization? “Change” is the word in the 2008 election so far.  Who supports change and why?  This course will help you think carefully and systematically about political questions, their potential answers, and the types of evidence needed to evaluate those answers. 

In the first weeks of the course students will be introduced to social science research by discussing how one develops research questions and hypotheses. What is a hypothesis anyway?  We will consider different research designs, that is, what are the different ways in which you could go about investigating the political puzzle you wish to solve? The second part of the course provides students with the tools necessary to test hypotheses systematically and quantitatively. Here you will learn some basic statistics.  Statistics such as percentages have become a staple of informed political analysis and part of being a good consumer of political knowledge.   

 Required text books:

W. Phillips Shively, The Craft of Political Research, 6th edition, Pearson, Prentice Hall  

Philip Pollock III, The Essentials of Political Analysis, 2nd edition, CQ Press

Pollock III, Philip H.  2005.  An SPSS Companion to Political Analysis, 2nd edWashington, D.C.:  CQ Press.

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 and that it works. 

A fee is required to take this course. That fee gives 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 12PM-10PM, Friday from 8AM-5PM, and Sunday from 6PM-10PM.  You can visit the SOCQRL webpage (ww.socqrl.niu.edu) for more information.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask.    

 Course Policies:

Attendance and participation in class are required.  I will take attendance each day. You will get credit for attending class and will be penalized for not attending.  If you are late to class after attendance has been taken, you will not be allowed to sign in for the day. If you fall asleep in class or your cell phone goes off or you disrupt the class in any other way such as chatting, you will lose credit for being in class that day. If you have an urgent need to have cell phone on, please let me know ahead of time.  No cell phones or other personal electronic devices should be used in any way in class.

Class will end at 12:15. I am the one who ends class. Do not pack up and get ready to leave early or you will not get credit for being in class that day.  Please get water and take care of other necessities before, not during class.    

Course Outline:

It is important that reading assignments be done before the day in which they are assigned. 

NOTE:  I reserve the right to change the syllabus and the time lines are flexible. 

Political Analysis Readings. See Listing and Schedule in Course Documents in Blackboard. 

Week of Jan. 15th      Introduction and Course overview

Reading:   Shively, Chap. 1;   Pollock, Essentials, Introduction, and Chap 1, pp 7-12.

Assignment 1, Jan 17 -  Find a statement in one of your texts from another class that appears to cite a research puzzle or question and includes a concept.  Copy those sentences or paragraph and write a brief note about what is the puzzle or question and what is the concept or concepts involved.

Week of January 22nd   Concepts and Concept Measurement

Readings:  Pollock, Chap 1, pp 13-25, Chap. 2; Shively, Chaps 2, 4, 5

Political Analysis Reading 1 – See Course Documents in Blackboard


Week of January 29th    Looking at Data through Graphs and Charts,  

Readings:  Pollock, Essentials, Chap 3

January 29: Learning to create graphs and charts using Excel. We will meet in Dusable 170. We will use data from the Census Bureau’s Voting and Registration databases to create graphs http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/voting.html

Jan. 31: Political Analysis Reading 2


Week of February 5th     Presentation of Charts and begin research designs

Assignment 2. Feb 5: Graph of some aspect of Voting from Census Bureau with a brief description of the graph. Students will present their charts and graphs

February 7th:  Political Analysis Reading 3


Week of February 12th        Research Designs: Conducting Survey Research

ASSIGNMENT 3: Feb 12.  Find a public opinion poll in the national news media and answer the following questions: who conducted the poll, whom did they survey, how many people did they survey, what questions did they ask, what response categories did they give people to choose from, what were their findings and when was the survey conducted? What is your assessment of this poll as a measure of public opinion?  Attach the survey report to your paper.   

February 14th: Political Analysis Reading 4


Week of February 19th :   Continue Research Designs;  Conducting Experiments and Introduction to SPSS

Readings: Shively, Chap 6; Pollock Essentials Chap 2, Pollock SPSS, Getting Started and Chapter 1

February 21st: Political Analysis Reading 5    


Week of February 26: Review and Midterm examination

February 28: Midterm Exam


Week of March 5th : Descriptive Statistics

Readings: Shively, Chaps.10; Pollock, Essentials Chap 3, Pollock SPSS chap 2

March 7th:  Political Analysis Reading 6

Week of March 11th  - Spring Break

Week of March 18th : Continue Descriptive Statistics 

Stats assignment due: Pollock, SPSS, Chapter 2 exercises


March 20:  Political Analysis Reading 7


Week of March 25th;     Making Comparisons

Readings: Pollock Essentials, 6, Pollock, SPSS Chapter 3, Shively, Chap 9

March 27th: Political Analysis Reading 8


Week of April 1st April 1st: Guest lecturer: Sandy Arntz, Director of the Office of Research Compliance

Second Stats Assignment due: Pollock, SPSS chap. 3 and 4 exercises

Week of April 8th:   Making Controlled Comparisons

Reading: Pollock SPSS Chapter 3 , Pollock, Essentials Chap 4

April 10th:  Political Analysis Reading 9


Week of April 15th :  Making Inferences about Sample Means

Readings: Pollock, Essentials, Chap 5, Shively, Chap 10, Pollock, SPSS, chap 6

April 17th: Political Analysis Reading 10 


Week of April 22nd:  Chi-square and Measures of Association

Readings: Pollock, Essentials, Chap 6,

Fourth Stats Assignment due April 22: Pollock SPSS, chap 6 exercises


Week of April 29th   Conclusion and Summation

Fifth Stats Assignment due April 29: Pollock, SPSS chap 7 exercises

Week of May 6h  - Final Examination, Tuesday, May 6th,  10-11:50 AM   


Attendance: 30 points

Class participation: 10 points

First Assignment: 5 points

Second Assignment: 5 points

Reading presentation: 10 points

First Stats Assignment: 10 points

Second Stats Assignment: 10 points

Third Stats Assignment: 10 points

Fourth Stats Assignment: 10 points

Fifth Stats Assignment: 10 points

Midterm Examination: 45 points

Final Examination: 45 points


Total Points: 200


A = 180-200 points                 C = 140-159 points                 F = below 120 points

B = 160-179 points                 D = 120-139 points

Plagiarism Statement: "The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration as a serious offense. Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment written, in whole or in part, by someone else. Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without 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." Northern Illinois University Undergraduate Catalog.

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, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu.

Students with Disabilities. NIU abides by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a disability and require some type of instructional accommodation, please let me know. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources, the office on campus that provides services for students with disabilities. The CAAR office is located in the University Health Services building (753-1303).