Most social science classes focus on the theories, concepts, and findings that have emerged from research in a particular area, rather than the research process itself. Our class will reverse that emphasis. We’ll get “under the hood” of research in political science to understand how to design and interpret a research study. The topics to be covered include identifying questions to investigate, developing theories, collecting data, finding reliable and valid measures, and analyzing results. We’ll also examine the tools and methods of social science research such as surveys, experiments, case studies, and statistical analysis. Students will learn basic data skills through the open-source software R, a language and platform for statistics and graphing.
Students will emerge from the class better equipped to conduct research of their own and assess the credibility of other people’s research. The class does not presume any prior knowledge of or experience with research. We will spend most of our time focusing on the kinds of quantitative data commonly used in the social sciences today.
The grading will be based on a midterm exam, a final exam, a paper where students will analyze the research methodology of a political science article, and a set of section assignments where students will develop their programming and data analysis skills.