Political Science 394

Fall 1999

 The Logic of Inquiry

Professors R. Keiser, N. Vig, A. Montero

Tu 12:30-2:15 p.m.

Office Hours

Sayles 252


Stephen Van Evera. Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. 1997


Kate Turabian. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (6th Edition). 1996

Joseph Gibaldi. MLA Handbook for Writing Research Papers (4th Edition). 1995

Schedule of meetings and readings

Week 1 - 9/14
Introduction: Research Design and Paper Writing

A brief introduction to the comps writing process in the Political Science Department. This session will focus on the department's requirements for the comps paper and research design. Some important questions: Why do a research design? What are the important components? What are the department's expectations?

Reading: Department handout on Integrative Exercise.

Week 2 - 9/21
Picking a Topic

Students will try a first cut at picking a topic for a comps project. In-class discussion of topics suggested by students.

Reading: Van Evera, chs. 3-5

Assignment: Due Monday by 10 a.m. in box outside R. Keiser's office. On a single sheet of paper, list a general topic (or two or three-but one sheet for EACH topic) that interests you. Be as specific as possible:

  • State the general topic.
  • Describe why the topic interests you, what questions of Political Science you will ask.
  • State (briefly) what you already know about this topic.
  • List the work (courses, readings, off campus study, internship, etc.) you have already completed that relates to this topic.
  • Turn in 3 copies, one for each faculty member.

Week 3 - 9/28
Narrowing the Topic

Working with a faculty member, students will narrow their general topic and focus on that part of the topic that will generate a good 40-page paper.

Reading: Van Evera, ch. 1 to p. 40

Assignment: Due Friday, 9/24. On a sheet of paper, write

  • A working title for the project.
  • A brief description of the project.
  • A good one-sentence summary that begins "In this paper I will (examine, investigate, study) the .…"
  • When you meet your advisor, have him or her read and sign this paper to show they approve of your project at this preliminary stage.
  • After you've met with your advisor, on another sheet write up a brief account of your conversation with your advisor. If your advisor makes any suggestions as to sources of data or other scholars' work on your topic, note them.

Week 4 - 10/5
The Case Study Method

For this session, students will come prepared to discuss the processes of case study selection, theory building, and theory testing.

Reading: Van Evera, ch. 2

Week 5 - 10/12
Locating Information/Data

For this session, students will specify the kinds of information/data necessary for the completion of the proposed research project.

Assignment: Due 10/8. Consulting your faculty advisor if necessary, locate and list the sources of the information you will need to complete this study. In 1-2 pages list:

  • All of the information sources (specific books, journals, questionnaires, films, data sets, etc.) that you plan to use for this project.
  • For each of the above, specify the kind of data you will need. Be specific about the data you will use, if it encompasses one or more sets of data, part of a data set, etc.
  • State the actual, physical location of the data and the details of any travel plans you have to get at it, or any assistance you are counting on to get it. (the Gould Library, The University of Minnesota Library, downloaded off the Internet from the ICPSR with the assistance of Carleton ACNS computing assistant Paula Lackie).

Week 6 - 10/19
Situating your project in "the literature" on your topic

For this session, students will outline the foundations of their study. Students will describe the most important works on this topic completed by other analysts and explain how these works relate to their proposed research topic.

Reading: Readings from a list to be announced.

Assignment: Due 10/15. Write a 1-2 page statement that includes the following:

  • After consultation with your faculty advisor and your own research, determine the works by scholars that have an important bearing on your topic. List these.
  • A brief statement attached to each of the entries that describes the importance of the books and authors and explains how and why each relates to your study.
  • A summary statement that indicates the most important 2-3 works that bear on your study theoretically and/or empirically.

Week 7 - 10/26
Writing the Proposal

Assignment: Due Friday, 10/22. Write a draft of the research proposal and hand in four copies, three for the class and one copy to your faculty advisor for comments. It should include:
  • A working title.
  • A one-sentence summary that begins "In this paper I will examine…"
  • A brief discussion of the works of scholars who have worked on your topic and the theoretical perspectives from their work you will use in your project.
  • A detailed list of the sources of information and evidence (and their locations) that you will use in your research.
  • An explanation of how you will ensure that your findings are valid and reliable.
  • A statement that outlines your expected conclusions.
  • A bibliography of books, journals and articles that relate to your topic.

Week 8 - 11/2
Rethinking the proposal

Assignment: Due 10/29. Second draft of research proposal, incorporating the faculty advisor's and the instructor's comments.

In this session, students will come to grips with comments made by the faculty members on the comps committee, change their projects accordingly, and work on the "final draft." This is a discussion session.

Week 9 - 11/9 (no meeting)

Final Draft of Research Design due Monday 11/8

Week 10 - 11/16
Writing the Paper

Comments about paper writing: first drafts, rewriting, outlining, feedback, working with your advisor, style and style manuals.