POLS 503                                                                               Professor Rebecca J. Hannagan

Scope and Methods                                                               406 Zulauf Hall – 753-9675

Spring 2008                                                                            Email: rhannaga@niu.edu

                                                                                                Office Hours:  M 12:30 – 1:45 pm

                                                                                                W 4:00 – 5:30 pm and by appt.

I.                   Introduction


This second semester of the scope and methods sequence is an extension of what was covered in 502 (planning and executing a research project).  As a political scientist in training, you are expected to understand the research process not only for completion of your dissertation, but to pursue your research agenda as a scholar beyond graduate school.  Understanding the theoretical underpinnings and methods employed in political science research serves another practical purpose beyond executing research, however.  As a political scientist you should have a general knowledge such that you can read the journals and attend professional conferences and have something to say about other scholar’s work – even if it is outside your area of expertise. 


II.                Required Readings


The reading load is heavy (but that is life in grad school!).  I am asking you to buy four books that will be available at the campus bookstore and VCB.


David Silbergh, Doing Dissertations in Politics:  A Student Guide (Routledge Press, 2001)

Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science (Cornell U. Press, 1997)

Richard Bernstein, The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory  (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1976)

Mark Lichbach, Is Rational Choice Theory All of Social Science?  (U. of Michigan Press, 2003)


You will also be responsible for a number of articles and book chapters that will be available from me and via J-STOR. 


III.             Course Requirements


Class participation is essential and will figure into your final grade.  I expect everyone to have read the readings prior to class and be ready to discuss them in class.  15% of your grade.


During the “Philosophical Foundations” section of the course you will be responsible for writing a short reaction paper (2 pages) that is a critical analysis of the week’s readings.  There are eight class periods where we will cover philosophical foundations and you are required to write five reaction papers.  30% of your grade.


Eight times during the semester there will be a topic for debate that will serve to focus a portion of the discussion.  Students will be assigned to present alternative arguments to the rest of the class.  Everyone will join in the discussion of the debate topic once both sides have presented their cases.  10% of your grade.


Since the focus of the scope and methods sequence is to prepare you as a scholar, and because I aim at a practical approach to this course, you will be responsible for scheduling two meetings with me outside of class time to discuss your progress on your starred papers or dissertation prospectus or dissertation.  If you are revising seminar papers in preparation for the MA or preparing your dissertation prospectus for the PhD, I want to see drafts and/or outlines from you twice during the semester.  If this is something you are struggling with, we can also take this time to come up with a game plan.  15% of your grade.


There will be a take-home final exam that will simulate a comprehensive exam due to me no later than 6:00 pm on April 30.  30% of your grade.


General note about grades:  I do not accept late work.  There are no extensions granted under any circumstances.  If you turn in any assignment late, you will receive a 0 on that assignment.  Reaction papers are due at the beginning of class.  If you are absent on a day you are assigned to debate, you will receive an 0 for that assignment and there is no way to make it up.  If you never substantively contribute to class discussion, you will receive an F in participation. 


Academic Dishonesty:  The maintenance of academic honesty and integrity is of vital concern to the Department of Political Science and the University community.  Any student found guilty of academic dishonesty shall be subject to both academic and disciplinary sanctions.  If I find that you have plagiarized your academic work, you will receive an F on the assignment and fail the course – no exceptions.  In addition, if I suspect academic dishonesty your name will be turned over to the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Political Science Department who will make a determination as to further disciplinary action which may include academic probation or expulsion.


Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following: cheating, fabrication and falsification, plagiarism, and misrepresentation to avoid academic work. 


IV.             Weekly Topics and Assignments


January 16:      Intro


The Research Process


January 23:      Doing Research/Review of POLS 502


Read:   Silbergh, Chs. 1-2 (pp. 1-49) and Chs. 5-9 (pp. 89-180)

            Van Evera, Ch. 1-2 (pp. 1-88)


January 30:      The Dissertation/Dissertation Prospectus


Read:   Silbergh, Chs. 3-4 (pp. 50-88)

            Van Evera, Ch. 3-Appendix (pp. 89-128)


Shaun Bowler.  Guidelines for the Dissertation Prospectus:



The Philosophical Foundations of Political Science Research


February 6:      The Behavioralist/Positivist Perspective


Read:   Bernstein, Part I (pp. 3-54).


            Yanow, Dvora.  2005.  “In the House of “Science,” There are Many Rooms: Perestroika

and the “Science Studies” Turn.”  In Perestroika! The Raucous Rebellion in Political

Science.  Kristen Renwick Monroe ed.  New Haven: Yale University Press.  pp. 200-217.


Debate:  Just look at all of the advances made by science and you’ll know that the only way to understand human behavior is to study it scientifically.


February 13:    Contemporary Positivist Approaches:  Rational Choice


Read:   Peter Ordeshook.  1986.  Game Theory and Political Theory.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  Ch. 1 (pp. 1-52).


            Lichbach, Chs. 1-4 (pp. 3-69).


Debate:  Political scientists lose track of politics when they draw too heavily from outside the field, such as economics.


February 20:    Contemporary Positivist Approaches:  Political Psychology


Read:  John Sullivan, Wendy Rahn, and Thomas Rudolph.  2002.  “The Contours of Political

Psychology:  Situating Research on Political Information Processing.”  In James

Kuklinski ed.  Thinking About Political Psychology.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University

Press.  Ch. 1 (pp. 23-47).


            Robert Lane.  2003.  “Rescuing Political Science from Itself.”  In David O. Sears, Leonie

Huddy, and Robert Jervis eds.  Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology.  Oxford:

Oxford University Press.  Ch. 21 (pp. 755-793).


Debate:  Psychology is appropriate for modeling and explaining political behavior because it accounts for non-instrumental actions such as values, expectations and norms (instead of purely strategic and self-interested actions as economic models do).


February 27:    Open Day for Professional Development – workshop conference papers, practice

Midwest presentations, etc.




March 5:          Revisions of Positivist Methodology


Read:   Thomas Kuhn.  1970.  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 2nd ed.  Chicago:

            University of Chicago Press.  Chs. 1-2 (pp. 1-22) and Postscript (pp. 174-210).


            Terence Ball.  1976.  “From Paradigms to Research Programs:  Toward a Post-Kuhnian

Political Science.”  AJPS 20: 151-177.  JSTOR


Debate:  These guys might well say something to the natural sciences, but they don’t make much sense for political science.


March 12:        Spring Break


March 19:        The Interpretivist and Phenomenological Perspectives I


Read:   Berstein, Part II (pp. 57-114).


            Lichbach, Ch. 5 (pp. 73-98).


No debate this week!  Regular seminar format.


March 26:        The Interpretivist and Phenomenological Perspectives II


Read:   Berstein, Part III (pp. 117-169).


            James Farr.  1982.  “Historical Concepts in Political Science:  The Case of ‘Revolution’” 

AJPS 26: 688-708.  JSTOR


Debate:  Interpretivists have hit the nail on the head.  Since humans are self-interpreting, it’s imperative that we study them using an interpretive method.


April 2:            Moving Beyond Interpretivism to Critical Theory


Read:   Bernstein, Part IV (pp. 173-236).


Debate:  Political scientists need to improve society, not simply understand it.


April 9:            The Dialectical Perspective


Read:   Johan Galtung.  1977.  “Positivism and Dialectics:  A Comparison.”  Essays in

Methodology.  Copenhagen: Ejlers (pp. 214-229).


            Shlomo Avineri.  1968.  The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx.  Cambridge:

            Cambridge University Press.  Ch. 6 (pp. 150-184).


Debate:  Marxism is dead and therefore need not be studied.


April 16:          Contemporary Alternatives


Read:   Dana Villa.  1992.  “Postmodernism and the Public Sphere.”  APSR 86: 712-721.



Jennifer Ring.  1987.  “Toward a Feminist Epistemology.”  AJPS 31: 753-772.  JSTOR


Debate:  These contemporary approaches are just fads.  They contribute little to our understanding of human behavior beyond what more traditional approaches offer.


April 23:          Wrap-up Philosophical Foundations/Pick-up final exams


Read:   Lichbach, Chs. 9-10 (pp. 151-214).


No debate this week!  Regular seminar format.


April 30:          Final Exam due at 6:00 pm