POSC 230 Methods of Political Research

Preliminary Syllabus - Winter 2002

(Prerequisite: Math 115/215/equivalent; intended for majors only.)

Professor: Kanishkan (Kani) Sathasivam
Office: Willis 404
Office Hours: 2:30 - 4:00 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
10:00 - 11:30 AM on Tuesdays
Phone: x4116 (office)
Email: ksathasi@carleton.edu

Course Description:

This course is intended to introduce you to the fundamentals of scientific research as they are employed in the discipline of political science. We will consider the nature of scientific research generally, the nature of social science research, theory construction and theory testing, applied political science research, and basic statistical tools. We will also examine some representative political research to illustrate a number of the preceding topics.

Course Requirements, Policies & Grading:

The final grade for this course will be based on three basic requirements: (1) a major research paper; (2) several homework assignments; and (3) active class participation, especially during ‘discussion’ days (see below). All written submissions must be typed (single-side), double-spaced, in 12-pt. font, and with 1" page margins. Always feel free to come to me seeking help with any aspect of the course.

The research paper assignment will be carried out in five stages, beginning in the first week of the term. I will be evaluating you on each part of the assignment; the overall grade for the assignment will be the aggregate of the grades for the parts. Thus, you will be very well served by consulting with me at each stage of the process. First, you must propose a clear, researchable question (the ‘research question’) that the paper will attempt to answer. Second, you must specify all primary and alternative hypotheses that follow from your research question and define and operationalize all variables. A good literature review will be essential to the successful completion of these two stages of the research process. Third, you will settle upon the most appropriate research design for your paper, which will determine the nature of the data analysis you will perform later on. Fourth, you will obtain the appropriate data for analysis. The data should correspond with your operationalizations of your variables. Finally, you will (statistically) analyze your data and draw relevant inferences from your empirical results. This assignment must produce a quantitative research paper; absolutely NO CASE STUDIES!!!

Always keep in mind that the reading assignments listed below are also a part of the course requirements. Active class participation is expected. In addition, a good class attendance record is also expected through the entire course. The five class periods during which we will be discussing the ten research articles listed below are particularly important. On these days, previously appointed students will lead our critical examination of the specified research articles. While all students will be expected to have read the articles, the appointed students will share the burden of carrying the discussion for the period.

Grades will be based on the following distribution scheme:

Research paper: 50%
Homework assignments: 30%
Discussion of research articles
and active class participation: 20%


94 -100 % A

90 - 93 % A-

87 - 89 % B+

83 - 86 % B

80 - 82 % B-

75 - 79 % C+

70 - 74 % C

65 - 69 % C-

51 - 64 % D

0 - 50 % F


All students are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity. Any act of academic dishonesty or misconduct will be referred to the Office of the Dean. For further information, see Carleton College’s Academic Honesty in the Writing of Essays and Other Papers and the section on "academic honesty" in Academic Regulations and Procedures, 2001-02. Both are available in Laird 140.

Special needs: Students requiring access to learning tools or special schedules approved by Student Support Services should contact me at the beginning of the course.

Reading Assignments:

You are expected to keep up with the reading assignments as we go through the term, which means that you are supposed to read each assignment before the corresponding class period. The class lectures and discussions are meant to build upon the assigned reading material.

The following three required texts are available for sale at the Carleton bookstore:

[1] Johnson, Janet Buttolph, Richard A. Joslyn, and H. T. Reynolds. 2001. Political Science Research Methods. 4th ed. CQ Press. [JJR henceforth.]

[2] Theodoulou, Stella Z., and Rory O’Brien. 1999. Methods for Political Inquiry: The Discipline, Philosophy, and Analysis of Politics. 1st ed. Prentice Hall. [T&O henceforth.]

[3] Van Evera, Stephen. 1997. Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. 1st ed. Cornell University Press. [SVE henceforth.]

Additionally, ten sample research articles from major political science journals are on closed reserve in the library:

I. Experimental studies.

Herrmann, Richard K., Philip E. Tetlock, and Penny S. Visser. 1999. "Mass Public Decisions to Go to War: A Cognitive-Interactionist Framework." American Political Science Review 93(3): 553-73.

Morton, Rebecca B., and Kenneth C. Williams. 1999. "Information Asymmetries and Simultaneous versus Sequential Voting." American Political Science Review 93(1): 51-67.

II. Cross-sectional (limited dependent variables) studies.

Ellingsen, Tanja. 2000. "Colorful Community or Ethnic Witches’ Brew?" Journal of Conflict Resolution 44(2): 228-49.

Schickler, Eric. 2000. "Institutional Change in the House of Representatives, 1867-1998: A Test of Partisan and Ideological Power Balance Models." American Political Science Review 94(2): 269-88.

III. Longitudinal/time-series studies.

Edwards, George C., III, and B. Dan Wood. 1999. "Who Influences Whom? The President, Congress, and the Media." American Political Science Review 93(2): 327-44.

Enders, Walter, and Todd Sandler. 2000. "Is Transnational Terrorism Becoming More Threatening? A Time-Series Investigation." Journal of Conflict Resolution 44(3): 307-32.

IV. Case studies.

Druckman, Daniel. 2001. "Turning Points in International Negotiation: A Comparative Analysis." Journal of Conflict Resolution 45(4): 519-44.

Snyder, Robert S. 1999. "The U.S. and Third World Revolutionary States: Understanding the Breakdown in Relations." International Studies Quarterly 43(2):265-90.

V. Formal modeling studies.

Brams, Steven J. 1999. "To Mobilize or Not to Mobilize: Catch-22s in International Crises." International Studies Quarterly 43(4): 621-40.

Erikson, Robert S., and Thomas R. Palfrey. 2000. "Equilibrium in Campaign Spending Games: Theory and Data." American Political Science Review 94(3): 595-609.


F 1/4

Introductory remarks.


Part 1: The Research Question

M 1/7

What is political science? T&O 1 & 2; JJR 1(skim it) & 2.

W 1/9

What is scientific theory? T&O 5; SVE 1.

F 1/11

Hypotheses, concepts and variables: JJR 3.

M 1/14

Measurement: JJR 4.

W 1/16

In-class work day for research paper: producing a good research question; specifying hypotheses; defining and operationalizing variables.


Part 2: The Research Design

F 1/18

Planning a research project: T&O 11 & 14; JJR 6; SVE 3 & 4(pp.97-110).

M 1/21

Research design: JJR 5 & 14(pp.437-8).

I. Experimental research designs.

W 1/23

Discussion: Herrmann, Tetlock, and Visser (1999); Morton and Williams (1999).

F 1/25

II. Non-experimental research designs—cross-sectional studies.

Univariate data analysis and descriptive statistics: T&O 12 & 13; JJR 11.

M 1/28

Bivariate data analysis: JJR 12.

W 1/30

Multivariate data analysis: JJR 13.

F 2/1

Limited dependent variables.

M 2/4

Midterm break.

W 2/6

Discussion: Ellingsen (2000); Schickler (2000).

F 2/8

III. Non-experimental research designs—longitudinal/time-series studies.

M 2/11

Discussion: Edwards and Wood (1999); Enders and Sandler (2000).

W 2/13

IV. Non-experimental research designs—case studies: SVE 2.

F 2/15

Discussion: Druckman (2001); Snyder (1999).

M 2/18

V. Non-experimental research designs—formal modeling studies: T&O 15.

W 2/20

Discussion: Brams (1999); Erikson and Palfrey (2000).


Part 3: Gathering Data

F 2/22

Sampling: JJR 7.

M 2/25

Making empirical observations: JJR 8.

W 2/27

Document analysis: JJR 9.

F 3/1

Elite interviewing and survey research: JJR 10.

M 3/4

In-class work day for research paper: data analysis.


Part 4: The State of the Discipline of Political Science

W 3/6

Discussion—the nature of political study: T&O 3; other readings possibly forthcoming.

F 3/8

Discussion—methodology controversies in political science: T&O 10; other readings possibly forthcoming.

M 3/11

Course wrap-up and evaluation.

F 3/15

Research paper is due in my office by 5 PM.