POLS 603 - Scope and Methods II                                                     Professor Rebecca J. Hannagan

Tuesdays 6:30-9:15                                                                            406 Zulauf Hall

Spring 2009                                                                                        rhannaga@niu.edu

                                                                                                            Office Hours:  T 5-6 pm and

                                                                                                            T/TH 2-3 pm                                                                          

I.                   Introduction


This second semester of the scope and methods sequence is an extension of what was covered in 602 (planning and executing a research project).  This course serves a practical purpose.  As a political scientist in training, you are expected to understand the research process not only for completion of your dissertation, but in order to pursue your research agenda as a scholar beyond graduate school.  Understanding the theories and methods used in political science serves another practical purpose beyond executing your own research, however.  As a political scientist you should have a general knowledge of the scope and methods of your discipline such that you can read the journals and attend professional conferences and have something to say about other scholars’ work – even if it is outside your area of expertise.  Beyond the practical aims of this course, however, there are more lofty aims.  As someone who will bear the title Doctor of Philosophy you should understand the theoretical underpinnings of social science research – regardless of your particular subfield or methods.  It is entirely anti-intellectual to pursue “how” without understanding “why.” 


II.                Required Readings


The reading load is heavy some weeks (but that is life in grad school!), but there are weeks when it is not as heavy so look ahead and plan your weeks accordingly – part of success in graduate school is figuring out how to manage your time.  I am asking you to buy four books that will be available at the campus bookstore and through most any online book vendor.  These are all books that can be used as reference materials in your future career.  You should buy them.


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 the University Library reserves and via JSTOR. 


III.             Course Requirements


Class participation is essential in graduate seminars.  I expect everyone to have read the readings prior to class and to discuss them during class.  Participation is worth 10% of your overall grade.


During the nine weeks we cover the “Philosophical Foundations” you will be responsible for writing five short reaction papers (2 pages).  You may write your five papers any of the nine weeks you choose.  These five papers are worth 30% of your overall grade.  Instructions for the reaction papers are attached to this syllabus and will be posted on Blackboard for your reference.


Nine weeks during the semester there will be a topic for debate that will serve to focus our discussion of the readings.  You will be assigned dates that you will be responsible to debate your peers.  In this way, you are responsible for leading the class discussion that night.  Everyone will join in the discussion of the readings once both sides have presented their cases and the debate topic is either resolved or the groups have reached a stalemate.  Debate presentations count as 20% of your overall grade.


You will write a research design for this class.  Instructions for the research design are attached to this syllabus and posted on Blackboard for your reference.  If you have not done a research design for another course at NIU this will be good practice as many seminars require them.  If you have done a research design, this will be more practice.  You can extend a project you have worked on in previous semesters but you may not submit a research design you did for another class.  This is what we call “double dipping” and amounts to academic dishonesty.  Your research design is due no later than 6:30 pm on April 28th and will count as 20% of your overall grade.  Your research design must be submitted via Blackboard’s Digital Dropbox.  I will use SafeAssign to screen for plagiarism.


There will be a take-home final exam that will simulate a PhD comprehensive exam.  The final exam will be distributed in class on April 21st, is due to me no later than 6:30 pm on April 28th, and will count as 20% of your overall grade.  Your final exam must be submitted via Blackboard’s Digital Dropbox.  I will use SafeAssign to screen for plagiarism.


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 an F on that assignment.  Reaction papers are due at the beginning of class.  If you miss class, or your printer is broken, etc., etc., there will be no exceptions made to accommodate you.  If you are absent on a day you are assigned to debate, you will receive an F for that assignment and there is no way to make it up.  If you choose to 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 13:      Introductions and Course Overview


The Research Process


January 20:      Doing Research/Review of POLS 602


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

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


January 27:      The Dissertation/Dissertation Prospectus


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

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


The Philosophical Foundations of Political Science Research


February 3:      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 1:  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 10:    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 2:  Political scientists lose track of politics when they draw too heavily from outside the field, such as economics.


February 17:    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 3:  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 24:    Revisions of Positivist Methodology I


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


March 3:          Revisions of Positivist Methodology II


Read:               John Alford, Carolyn Funk, and John Hibbing.  2005.  “Are Political Orientations

Genetically Transmitted?”  APSR  99(2): 153-167. JSTOR


Evan Charney.  2008.  “Genes and Ideologies.”  Perspectives on Politics.  6: 299-320.


John Alford, Carolyn Funk, and John Hibbing.  2008.  “Beyond Liberals and Conservatives

to Political Genotypes and Phenotypes.”  Perspectives on Politics.  6: 321-328.


Rebecca Hannagan and Peter Hatemi.  2008.  “The Threat of Genes.”  Perspectives

on Politics.  6: 329-336.


Evan Charney.  2008.  “Politics, Genetics, and ‘Greedy Reductionism’.”  Perspectives

on Politics.  6: 337-344.


Debate 5:  The integration of research methods from the natural sciences, such as genetics and neuroscience, amount to a paradigm shift in political science.  The nature of our discipline is inherently different as a result of these new methodologies.


March 10:        No Class – Spring Break


March 17:        The Interpretivist and Phenomenological Perspectives


Read:   Berstein, Part II (pp. 57-114) and Part III (pp. 117-169)


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

AJPS 26: 688-708.  JSTOR


Debate 6:  Interpretivists have hit the nail on the head.  Since humans are self-interpreting, it’s imperative that we study them using an interpretive method.


March 24:        Moving Beyond Interpretivism to Critical Theory


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


Debate 7:  Political scientists need to improve society, not simply understand it.


March 31:        MPSA Presentations


April 7:            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 8:  Marxism is dead and therefore need not be studied.


April 14:          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 9:  These contemporary approaches are just fads.  They contribute little to our understanding of human behavior beyond what more traditional approaches offer.


April 21:          Wrap-up Philosophical Foundations/Pick-up final exams


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


No debate this week!  Regular seminar format.



April 28:          Final Exam and Research Design due at 6:30 pm








































Reaction Paper Assignment


A reaction paper is a two-page (typed, double-spaced, 12 pt. font) “reaction” to a group of readings.  I want you to react to the readings and not summarize the readings.  I read them.  I know what they are about.  I do not want a book report.  I want your reaction paper to illustrate that you had some sort of an “intellectual struggle” with the material.  I want you to take up one or more of the issues raised and talk about the problems, implications, your proposed solution, a different (a.k.a. “better”) way of looking at the issue, etc.  Think big.  This is hard, but another challenge is that it must ONLY BE TWO PAGES LONG. You will be down-graded if you go beyond two pages.  I recommend you get your thoughts down on paper then walk away from it for a day or so.  When you come back to it with fresh eyes you will be able to decipher what is important to say and what is not.  [Note: reaction papers done 20 minutes before class are generally really bad.]


Here are some Dos and Don’ts that may help you:




  • Be analytical – think BIG!  What are the implications of the key points of a reading or readings in the short-term, long-term, etc.?
  • Challenge the argument being made by an author or authors and suggest an alternative
  • Consider problems with the approach or methodology being used and suggest an alternative
  • Integrate common themes among the readings wherever you can





  • Summarize
  • Tell me you think the reading was long, boring, interesting, funny, etc.  You are not a literary critic.
  • State the obvious
  • Ignore the important themes among the readings












The Research Design

(adapted from the online handbook at Truman State University)


This packet is to provide students with guidance and expectations for completing a research design in political science. The research design should be a central assignment in courses required for the major as well as a training tool in graduate courses.  I value the research design as an undergraduate assignment and a training tool for graduate students.   Political scientists (i.e., me and other faculty members in political science at NIU) are educated in the diverse subfields of the discipline which often do not overlap. So for me, it is the research design that embodies political science: the research design unites us whether our specialty is American political behavior, public policy, public administration, Southeast Asian politics, U.S. foreign policy, or judicial activism.

*Undergraduates, you are then correct in noting, "Gee, this is important to the study of political science. I had better work hard to master this assignment!" 

**Graduate students, you are then correct in noting, "Gee, this is important if I want to consider myself a political scientist. I had better work hard to master this process for doing research as my future livelihood depends on it!" 

For many of you, the research design will at first seem foreign, if not aversive.  Many students are attracted to political science because they like history or current events; a secondary attraction is that as a social science, we seem removed from the hard sciences and mathematics. Then I hit you with a research design where you are expected to think and act scientifically and maybe even mathematically.  Generations before you have successfully completed research designs, and I am confident that you can, too.  This packet is something of a road map for your mastery.

Research Design Stages

You probably have an area of interest that has drawn you to the study of politics. Hopefully you have questions that you want answered, or ideas about how things work in the political world.

Once attracted to an area, we tend to read all we can about that area to try to understand what has occurred, and why.  Surely you have engaged in speculation and guessing based on hunches, whether it is about whether Zaire will fragment into five pieces, or whether Speaker Hastert can hold the conservatives in line to pass legislation, or whether Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg were likely to vote together in sex discrimination cases.  As we read more about an area, we develop theories about how the (political) world works.  It is the research design that allows us to test theories to explain the world and which might even let us predict successfully future political phenomena.


Step 1: Topic Selection/ Problem Statement

"In its simplest terms a research design should pose a question you can answer with evidence that you can gather in the time available to you." (White, 404)

The research design should begin with you identifying some political phenomenon of interest. Good topics often come from puzzling over something -- reading or hearing about something that you find surprising, and you want to find if the world really works that way, or perhaps why it works that way. While humans are great at explaining away phenomenon which do not seem to fit with their world view, a good social scientist sees an opportunity to investigate further.

It is common at this preliminary stage for students to run into problems of two different sorts. Perhaps the most common problem we encounter is topics which are overly broad or too abstract to be meaningfully discussed or examined in a semester project. A second common problem is that some topics have been beaten to death; there is nothing new to add. In either of these cases, I will work with you, and browbeat you if necessary, to get you to sharpen your focus. The burden lies on you, however, to select a topic and justify it as worthy for a research design.

There are several ways to develop topics.  One type of study extends previous literature.  So perhaps a study was conducted 20 years ago, and you have some reason to think that behavior has changed since.  Another type of study identifies a gap in existing literature and attempts to fill it.  A third type of study notes that there are competing explanations for the same phenomena, and then devises a test of both theories in the same study. 

When you have identified a likely topic, consider the following questions. You should be able to answer them affirmatively.

    1. Is the topic clearly and precisely stated? Avoid broad statements like: "I am interested in military budgets" What about military budgets interests you? Their relation to foreign policy speeches? Their growth since 9/11?  Their domestic sources of support? 
    2. Is there a relationship explicit in you topic or question? For instance, perhaps you want to know whether congressional support for the military budget is related to military spending in the congressional member’s district.  Note that you are trying to account for one thing (“dependent variable”) by another thing or two (independent variables). See below, under hypotheses, for more.
    3. Has other work been done on this topic?  If a lot of work has been done on a topic, you will have the luxury of learning a lot about your topic (with the attendant burdens of the time it takes to digest that material, and the pressure to contribute something new or different). On the other hand, if there is not much done on your topic, you will have to work harder at compiling studies for your literature review. This may well be worth it for your new contribution to the field: It is exciting to think you are the first to investigate an area.

This is the step that starts to bridge into the literature review.  A starting point for literature relating to your topic might be JSTOR (with limitations noted, below).  Keep in mind you are trying to participate in a scholarly debate or conversation, so you need to be a bit of an archeologist and trace that debate back a little bit.  Not all of your excavation will go into your paper, but it will help you to know your topic, and how your topic ties into other materials. 


One common misunderstanding is that you need to find literature exactly on your topic.   I do not expect you to find something exactly on topic (after all you are adding to literature). 


Your task then is to identify an interesting and engaging topic on which there has been some work to serve as a base. Use your professor as a sounding board. Remember that ultimately I will be evaluating your project. The selection of an appropriate topic can make or break this project. When you have completed this first step, you should have a statement of what you intend to investigate, and you should have full citations of 5-10 sources relating to your topic.

A well crafted statement often need be no longer than three to four sentences. One medium sized paragraph should be enough to state what it is that you intend to investigate.

Step 2: Literature Review

"Having presented the general purpose of your study, you should then bring the reader up to date on the previous research in the area, pointing to general agreements and disagreements among previous researchers." (Babbie, A11)

As noted above, the problem statement merges into the literature review.  After selecting a problem to investigate, you need to read all about your topic. A literature review should place your study in the context of other work that has been done in the field. It would not be uncommon for you to read parts of 20 or more studies. In the end, all of these studies may not be useful to you, and you might think that the work has been wasted.  However, we encourage you to read broadly first, and focus more narrowly later. (While you can see Mannheim and Rich, chapter 3, for further guidance, we have created some suggestions here, too.)

As you read literature, pay attention to a couple of specific things.

·          How do various authors treat their topic? Do they all agree on the nature of the problem being studied? If so, it is conventional to accept the convention; if not, perhaps you have a disagreement in the literature that you can explore further.

·          Be thinking ahead for your own study: what did these authors hypothesize? What variables did they employ? How did they measure the variables? What methods were used -- how did these authors gather data? How did they analyze the data? With what results in that study, and with what significance for the discipline of political science?

·          Look to the bibliographies of your literature for leads on studies that your research has not yet uncovered. This is just good detective work of building a case that you have examined all the evidence in order to frame and answer your question.


After this onerous task of reading broadly and then more deeply in your chosen area, you are ready to write up what you have found. A literature review should present major findings and controversies that remain in the area under investigation.

First, a word of what NOT to do: Do not write an annotated bibliography, which presents the sources one at a time and summarizes the articles. Instead, you want to integrate and synthesize the works you have read. Discuss the literature based on the dimensions of the problem that you are investigating.  Pick up a journal and see how these published authors do it. 

For instance, consider “The Political Economy of IMF Lending in Africa,” by Randall Stone in the November 2004 American Political Science Review.  Stone investigates why “IMF lending [has] achieved such poor results in Africa” is it due to imposition of the wrong conditions, or the failure to enforce those condition?  Stone has to explain how these competing explanations each have some basis in the literature. Similarly, Suzanna De Boef and Paul M. Kellstaedt have to discuss both the traditional economic explainatin, and literature that supports their alternative political explanation, for explaining consumer confidence.  Thus, in their article in the October 2004 American Journal of Political Science, De Boef and Kellstedt organize the literature around the competing explanations, or variables, and not the authors themselves. 

If you are investigating an ongoing controversy, you might organize the information into opposing camps, and highlight not only the disagreements in conclusions, but also in assumptions, data, and methods.

Maybe you want to see if a finding in one area is applicable to other areas, or is limited to the cases the previous authors chose to examine. For instance, you might relate voting studies from one geographic region (say, 10 congressional districts in the U.S) will carry over to another region (say, the provinces of Canada). You would then want to talk of what has been established in one area (U.S. voting) and what is not known (Canadian voting) and make the link.

Here is an important point to note: you may not find material exactly on your topic. Fine. Find related studies and findings. So if you cannot find studies on the effects of splinter parties in mobilizing voters in formerly communist lesser developed countries, you surely can find studies on the role of parties in mobilization and literature on turnout (and associated variables) in emerging democracies. Again, your job is both to tell what is known and what is not known, but simply speculated, or theorized, about.

Perhaps you'd like to find the impact of some state policy; you would need to discuss the general literature on state policy making AND discuss the different variables that appear to be important, AND then examine whether the policy you are studying is alike or not alike other policies that have been studied (will the same variables that influence spending on education and prisons at the state level be the same variables influencing whether the state has a death penalty, or has supported the ERA? why would or would you not expect this to be so?).

As you can see, we are moving directly toward the third major component of your research design, the hypotheses. Before we go on, review to make sure that you are doing what is asked, and also avoiding some common pitfalls.


·          Present the basic theory / theories in this field.

·          Attempt to be exhaustive; this means thinking of all related angles.

·          Make sure you get the very latest research included -- for instance, in many areas it would be common  to cite literature from the last six months.

·          Organize the literature to provide the contours of the field.

·          Use names and dates of authors you are using.

·          Paraphrase or use quotes.

·          Look at examples. Journals can be a good source for identifying what a lit review is to look like.

·          Make sure the articles you are examining are research articles, and not editorials or book reviews.

·          Use reference material available to you. (Mannheim and Rich’s, Empirical Political Analysis  Chapter 3 is chock-full of sources and methods for you literature search. They also have a sample lit review on pages 396-97.)


·          Think that you have to find something exactly on your topic -- if there was something already done on it, we could both read that study instead of your paper. Instead, think of the different components of your topic, and find relevant material.

·          Plagiarize. This can be done in numerous ways, purposefully or accidentally. It is a serious infraction on academic integrity and will be treated as such. Three examples are drawn from Babbie (A-11):

"You cannot use another writer's exact words without using quotation marks and giving a complete citation, which indicates the source of the quotation such that your reader could locate the quotation in the original context."

"It is also not acceptable to edit or paraphrase another's words and present the revised version as your own work."

"Finally, it is not even acceptable to present another's ideas as your own -- even if you use totally different words to express those ideas."

Finally, you will want to consult with me if it has crossed your mind to use a paper that you have written for another class.  This is referred to as “double-dipping.”  It is the attitude of at least some of us in political science that this is not acceptable.  I consider it a form of academic dishonesty.  While it is good for students to have a substantive interest that they pursue in more than one paper, this is to be distinguished from the scenario of submitting in two classes the same paper. When in doubt, (a) err on the cautious side, and (b) talk with me.





Step 3: Hypothesis / Hypotheses

Mannheim and Rich (Empirical Political Analyses, 31) state that, "[h]ypotheses are declarative sentences stating expected relationships between phenomena to which our concepts refer."

The problem statement and literature review should be logically connected to the hypotheses.  You are making a statement about how two or more phenomena are related.  There are examples below.

Your literature review discusses the theories in the field.  Your hypothesis or hypotheses then follow from the theoretical discussion that you have carried out. If you have not reviewed all the relevant literature, you may miss something relevant. If you have not understood the literature, you may misform your hypotheses. If you have not put any time into understanding the literature, but have assumed a relationship ('everyone knows that...'), you are setting yourself up for inadequate hypotheses explication.  Although I have not read all of the literature on every possible topic, it is likely that I (or other professors down the road) will catch you on this.  You will definitely be nailed on this when you begin to write and submit conference papers and journal articles.

Mannheim and Rich state (31) "They are usually stated in the following general form: The higher (lower, greater, larger, slower, etc.) the _____, the higher (lower, greater, larger, slower, etc.) the _____. The blanks are filled in with the names of the phenomena we expect to change together."

Your hypotheses should

      • state a relationship between two things
      • state how two things are related
      • be stated affirmatively (not as a question)
      • be testable with empirical evidence
      • be linked to theory or underlying logic which makes sense.

As you can see, a hypothesis is a cross between an explanation and a guess. It is more than a guess, because it has been informed by theory and all that reading you have done already. It is less than an explanation because you have yet to test it. At this point, I am trying to get you to think in terms of the relationship that Y = F (X), which we say as "Y is a function of X."

Y, as your dependent variable, depends upon, or is a function of, your independent variable, X. If you cannot articulate such a relationship, you are not ready to proceed.

This requires practice. Usually we are moving from general expectations or near hunches to formulating tight, straightforward hypotheses. For instance, you might be reading Judge Robert Bork's book The Tempting of America and come across a passage that reads something like: 'Unfortunately I was held to different standards. Nominees before me were measured on their character and competence -- yardsticks which, had they been applied to me, surely would have led to my confirmation. However, the Senate and liberal interest groups and the media were able to work together to shift focus of the hearings. They were better able to get out their distorted message than I was able to get out the truth, and as a result of my misconstrued constitutional views, I was denied my rightful place on the Supreme Court. Worse, this shift has apparently changed the confirmation process for good.'

As this stands, it is not a hypothesis, but it surely contains the seeds of one or more. First, strip away value statements or other statements that are not germane or not testable. From sentence one, remove "unfortunately." From sentence two, we can never know if Bork would have been confirmed under different standards. Sentence three presents the fodder for a different study -- whether groups worked together; here, it is not important. From sentence four, words such as "distorted" and "misconstrued" are not important for this study (thought they might be if one were to compare press coverage with his own writings, for instance). Sentence five again is value laden with the term "rightful place", and sentence six uses the term "worse."

If we strip out these terms, we can construct the following assertion: Nominees prior to Judge Bork were measured by their character and competence. Judge Bork was measured on his (perceived) constitutional views. Nominees subsequent to Judge Bork have also been measured on their constitutional views.
To turn this into hypotheses might be as follows. The first hypothesis would be something like: "Prior to the 1987 hearings on Judge Bork, Supreme Court nomination hearings focused on the nominee's competency." A second hypothesis could be "Since Judge Bork, Supreme Court nomination hearings have focused on the nominee's constitutional views."  (In fact, such work has been done.  Ayo Ogundele and Linda Camp Keith, conclude “that the extra focus on the judicial philosophies of Supreme Court nominees by the Judiciary Committee began earlier, with the first Rehnquist nomination, and that the Bork nomination simply continued this process. Additionally, we find that the level of constitutional questioning is significantly affected by the individual characteristics of the nominees (qualification and political closeness to the president) and one element of the political environment--the president's fourth year in office.”

Another example illustrates how you can move from more general to more specific, testable statements. In "Electoral Systems, Party Competition, and Strength of Partisan Attachment: Evidence from three Countries," The Journal of Politics 56(4):991-1007 (1994), Bower, Lanoue, and Savoie state

 "In sum, we expect that voters' loyalty is, in part, dependent on the electoral choices they are offered in their constituency."  

Now, the authors recognize that this statement is too vague to count as a meaningful hypothesis. For instance, assess it according to the general form that Mannheim and Rich provided, above. And also measure it according to the characteristics that were given above. Moving towards more specificity, the authors continue:

 "Specifically, more extreme opposition parties should polarize voters, causing them to develop an even stronger attachment to their party of choice in the face of a more serious perceived threat."

 While the authors do not identify this as their hypothesis, it clearly is; again, assess it by the sample given above from Mannheim and Rich, and according to the characteristics of a hypothesis. In Y = (f) X language, we would say that 'partisan attachment is a function of the presence of an extreme opposition party.'

 If your hypotheses do not have the characteristics that are listed above, you are in a quandary when someone asks you, "how do you know?" This is social science. We do not care what you think about something if it is merely opinion or tied into one book you read once. We do care that you say "given this previous work, I would expect this to happen, and here is how I can find out if my expectations are accurate."

Step 4: Conceptualization / Operationalization

Having formulated a hypothesis (or two or three), your next step is to move from a level of abstract concepts to concrete indicators. In essence, you want to tell what would count as evidence for or against your hypotheses. This is often hard work, requiring thinking about logical possibilities, and problems with them.

Consider again the example about Supreme Court nomination hearings. The researcher is essentially testing whether some event (the Bork hearings) marked a change in the confirmation process. In variable language, the dependent variable "hearing focus" (whether a senate confirmation hearing focuses on competency or constitutionalism) depends upon whether the hearing was pre- or post- 1987. Here, the job of telling whether a hearing was pre- or post 1987 would be easy.

What about the dependent variable, "hearing focus"? Two values for this variable have already been mentioned, those of "competency" and "constitutionalism." But how do we know whether a hearing focuses on constitutional issues or views, or the competency of the nominee? The researchers would have to tell us what are indicators of these variable values.

 EXAMPLE: They would need to say that they would read the transcripts for all the hearings, and code the question as predominantly constitutional oriented or predominantly competent oriented. They would further have to say something like, "A question will be classified as constitutionally oriented if it asks the nominee's views of a specific case, or a hypothetical set of facts, or about the correct way to interpret the constitution."

 The key here is that other researchers should be able to replicate -- or criticize -- your study: they should look at the same phenomena and classify it in the same way – here, agreeing what is a constitutionally oriented question, and what is a character oriented question.

The focus at this stage is to be very concrete: You are providing a road map.  Your reader should know what you have identified as your dependent and as you independent variables; what different values these variables may take on.  You should be able to hand your research design to someone else who would be able to go and gather exactly the same data that you would gather.   For instance, consider what variables might have the following values: (a) Yes/No; (b) Very Liberal, Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, Very Conservative; (c) High School Or Less, High School, Some College, College Graduate, Graduate Studies, Advanced Degree; (d) $0-$10,000; $10,001-$25,000; $25,001-$35,000; $35,001-$50,000; >$50,000.

For an exemplary treatment of variables, consider “How Initiators End their Wars: The Duration of Warfare and the Terms of Peace,” by Branislav L. Slantchev (48/4 American Journal of Political Science 813-29, October 2004).  Pursuing the question posed in his title, Slantchev has a section titled Principal Explanatory Variables, one of which is Rate of Loss: “To measure the relative rate of loss for the initiator, I compute the ratio of its military dead to the total military personnel and divide the result by the total rate of losses for both sides.”  Someone else using the Correlates of War data set could readily compute this figure, as well as Slantchev’s variable, “Outcome of War [which] is an ordered categorical variable that takes one of four values (1) defeat, if the initiator was exterminated or capitulated unconditionally because of inability to continue fighting; (2) concessions, If the initiator agreed to an armistice and concluded and agreement that was disadvantageous with respect to its war aims or the prewar status quo; (3) gains … and  (4) victory….” (818).

Note here that your variables and their indicators will in part be determined by what data is available to you! You can plan a wonderful study, but if the data are not available, or are not available in the form you assumed they would be, the design will be near meaningless.

Step 5: Methodology

Some projects will require you merely to explain what you would do, if you were to execute the study, while other projects require the full execution. Adapt the following language to suit what is required of you.

A. Data Collection. Since you have been identifying and defining your variables with an eye toward the available data, the next step is to go out and collect that data. Here you will be specific and straightforward about how your data were collected. We tend to divide data collection into the two categories of unobtrusive measures, such as looking through books for data, or using someone else's data set, and obtrusive measures, where you must confront the subject being studied.

An example of an obtrusive measure is a survey. Surveys often seduce students who, at some level, think they are avoiding the nasty business of data collection, because all they need to do is hand out and collect surveys.  I will tell you from personal experience that surveys are a pain in the butt and often produce very unsatisfying results.  The hard work comes is the crafting of the survey questions (you must justify each question you are asking, how you are asking it, and order in which questions are being asked).  And you should know from your reading that surveys have limitations; you will want to review these before you use them and before you write up your results. If you think you want to do a survey, COME TALK TO ME.

If you do end up using a survey, you will want to include it in your final project. Again, while surveys are appropriate for some studies, many research questions can be answered by data that already exists.

If you have appropriately identified your variables and the indicators and values of these variables, this data collection should be fairly straightforward.  Remember the cardinal rule of data collection: get data in the most disaggregated or basic form that you can; later you can turn interval level data into nominal level data if you need to, but not vice versa.

Many researchers find at this stage that the data that they were absolutely positively undeniably sure existed, doesn't – at least not in the form that they were expecting it to exist. As a result, you may need to slightly rework your variables or your study to accommodate what does exist. That's generally okay, as the research process is not nearly as linear as the "Five Steps" I have laid out here make it seem. But do be careful that you rework any earlier section of the paper that might need it, so that it stands as a coherent whole. Again, examples include statements like "A survey was be administered to a random sample of 300 undergraduate students", or "Every fifth Supreme Court decision was sampled between 1955 and 1995," or "Data were compiled from the Book of the States and the State Manuals of Illinois, Missouri and Iowa."
B. Statistical Testing. After collecting your data, it is time to run the appropriate statistical tests. Since you have been careful to identify your variables and collect your data, this too should be relatively straightforward: the tests you run depend upon the level of data you have (nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio). Here is where a statistics course and your stats textbook will be helpful. You can also check out any basic level statistics or social science methodology book from the library if you were foolish and sold your stats book back at the end of the semester.

Prior to "running the data" you will need to enter it into a statistical package. SPSS is the most widely used. You simply need to get the data entered in readable format (usually consisting of typing in strings of numbers, which numbers are simply codes of your variables, so in the string "1,0,4,2,2,1,..." the first 1 may stand for "Male" and the last 1 may stand for "freshmen." The specifics will be related to the variables you have identified, the values those variables take on, and indicators of those variables.  That is why it is so very important that you have operationalized your variables clearly).

Data entry is not altogether hard, but perhaps it is alien to some of you. Get a manual and read it, and follow the instructions. I have an SPSS manual you can examine and photocopy if you like, or you can get a similar online guide or a reference book from the library.  Once the data are entered, the analyses can be performed. See your statistics book or Political Science Methodology book for further discussion. If your project requires that you run the data, you will then need to report your findings. Most word processors allow you to readily incorporate tables into your paper. Consider doing this, and then summarizing the highlights. Do not describe the whole table, or it need not be there. Do point to important findings or highlights.
C. Findings. Having collected and crunched the data, it is time to discuss your findings. Are your hypotheses supported? As a discipline we are cautious in our language. We speak not of "proving" something, but of "lending support", or "providing evidence for." You should also consider addressing limitations (some might say "shortcomings") of your study at this point. For instance, if you surveyed 300 college students, you really don't know what "all Americans believe" or likely even all college students. This is a good place to consider what you might do different in the future as well.

Data Sources

The following are a mix of "hard copy" and on-line data sources.  Also, talk with professors who are familiar with literature in your field of study.  You can also ask a real live reference librarian.

I. International Statistics

     1) Economic and Demographic:
                    United Nations World Economic and Social Survey
                    World Bank World Development Report (data on infrastructure) 
                    United Nations Demographic Yearbook
                    International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook
                    United Nations Industrial Statistics Yearbook
                    Statistical Abstract of Latin America
                    Soviet Statistics since 1950
                    World Business and Economic Review

       2) Military statistics on expenditures:
                    U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers
                   1991-1992 (lists 144 countries 1981-1991)
                    Jane's Defense
                    U.S. Defense and Military Factbook

       3) Political Statistics:
                    International Almanac of Electoral History
                    Political Handbook of the World (very useful -- series kept by year)
                    Europa World yearbook and European Political Facts
                    World Factbook
                    World Government
                    Facts on File Yearbook

    II. U.S Statistics

        1) U.S. Economic and Demographic:
                    Economic Indicators Handbook
                    State Rankings
                    Statistical Abstract of the U.S.
                    USA by the Numbers
                    Moody's Industrial Survey

        2) Political Statistics:
                    Congress and the Nation
                    Congressional Quarterly Almanac
                    The Almanac of American Politics
                    The Election Data book
                    Handbook of Campaign Spending
                    Gallup Poll
                    Missouri Census Profile
                    County and City Extra

III. Other sources

                    Vital Statistics on American Politics
                    The Book of the States

  Commonly Used Political Science Journals
You should use JSTOR, Google or the Founders Memorial Library to locate journal articles.  Keep in mind that JSTOR has incomplete holdings: several major journals are not indexed there until they are five years old.  Thus, if you rely only on electronic searches, you may overlook important literature.   

 Administration and Society

American Journal of Political Science

American Political Science Review

American Politics Quarterly

British Journal of Political Science

Comparative Political Studies

Comparative Politics

Foreign Affairs

Foreign Policy

International Organization

International Political Science Review

International Studies Quarterly

Journal of Conflict Resolution

Journal of Politics

Legislative Studies Quarterly

Policy Studies Journal/Policy Studies Review

Political Behavior

Political Communication

Political Research Quarterly

Political Science Quarterly

Political Studies

Political Theory


Public Administration Review

Public Opinion Quarterly


Social Science Quarterly

World Politics

You may well run across other journals in your research, both within political science and in related social science fields – Women and Politics, Politics and Gender, Feminist Studies, Evolution and Human Behavior, Political Psychology, etc. Other big name journals in related disciplines include American Behavioral Scientist, American Economic Review, American Historical Review, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology, Journal of Marketing, Research, Social Forces, Sociology and Social Research, and Urban Affairs Quarterly.

Reference:  http://www2.truman.edu/polisci/design.htm