This is the syllabus from the last time I taught POS 5736 (Research Design, a.k.a. "Methods I") at Florida State University. It will obviously need to be updated before I ever teach PSCI 5340 (Political Science Scope and Methods) at the University of North Texas.

POS 5736: Research Design ("Methods I")

Dr. Paul Hensel
Phone: 644-7318


Fall 1996 Semester
Mondays, 9:00 - 11:30 AM
511 Bellamy Building
Office Hours: TBA


This course is designed to introduce you to the logic underlying the scientific study of politics. We will begin with philosophy of science issues, which are crucial to understanding what political scientists can and should be doing in our research. We will also consider research design issues, ranging from generating a "good" research question to designing "good" studies using different types of research methodologies. Along the way, you will hopefully learn to apply these issues in reading other scholars' work and in designing your own future research.

In many ways, this could be the most important course that you take in your graduate career. Many other courses will be more useful for providing you with specific methodological tools and for acquainting you with specific areas of the scholarly literature. But all of the methods and literature in the world will not be able to save a piece of research that begins with a bad question or that follows a flawed research design. Also, the topics covered in this course are applicable to the entire discipline of political science; scholars working in every subfield and using every methodological approach all depend on asking good questions and following meaningful research designs.

Required Texts (available at the FSU bookstore)

John L. Casti (1990). Searching for Certainty: What Scientists Can Know About the Future. NY: William Morrow and Company.

James A. Davis (1985). The Logic of Causal Order. Beverly Hills: Sage.

Paul Diesing (1991). How Does Social Science Work? Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Gary King, Robert Keohane, and Sidney Verba (1994). Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

John Allen Paulos (1995). A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. NY: Basic Books.

Robert Scott Root-Bernstein (1989). Discovering. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Royce A. Singleton, Jr., Bruce C. Straits, and Margaret Miller Straits (1993). Approaches to Social Research, 2nd ed. NY: Oxford University Press.

A coursepack of additional required materials will also be available at the FSU Union Copy Center (next to the post office).

Course Requirements

(1) Regular class attendance and active participation
All students are expected to come to each class meeting prepared to discuss the readings. This will involve both spending the time to read each book or article on the reading list, and thinking about what each reading contributes to the weekly topic. For example, what are the main issues or questions addressed by a given week's readings? What does each reading for that week tell us about these issues and questions? What do you think about each reading's discussion of these issues, and where relevant, about the solutions that it offers?

(2) Evaluating published research
Before designing and conducting your own research, it is often instructive to examine other scholars' published research. The first two written assignments for the course will involve detailed examination of two empirical articles from recent political science journals. The last section of this syllabus presents an outline of what these abstracts should include, as well as a sample abstract. You will be required to turn in your abstract of the article in question, as well as a photocopy of the article itself. These two abstracts will be due at the start of class on October 14 and October 28.

The articles that you choose for these abstracts must be empirical analyses of some topic in political science. You should choose two recent articles from political science journals (e.g., the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, or International Studies Quarterly). You may choose articles from any subfield of political science, as long as the articles that you select make a theoretical argument, assemble evidence in support of or against that argument, and evaluate the results. If there is any question about whether or not an article is appropriate, you may photocopy the article or selected portions of the article to bring by my office.

(3) Writing your own research design
After learning what to look for in other scholars' research, you will have an opportunity to develop your own research design on some topic that interests you. More details will be provided later in the semester. The research design will be due at the start of class on November 25.

(4) Take-home final exam
The course will conclude with a take-home final exam, which is meant to assess your understanding and integration of the topics covered through the entire semester. The question for this final exam will be handed out on December 2, and your answer will be due at the scheduled examination time for the course (Thursday, December 12, at 10 AM). More details will be provided later in the semester.

Course Schedule and Readings


1. August 26: Introduction to the Course

2. Sept. 2: No class (Labor Day)


3. Sept. 9: The "Science" of Political Science
* Casti, Searching for Certainty: chapters 1, 5, summary (skim chap. 2-4, 6)
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapters 1-2
* Diesing, How Does Social Science Work?: chapters 11-12 (skim chap. 6-10)
* Dessler, "Prediction as a Criterion of Theory Appraisal in International Relations: Lessons from the Natural Sciences" (in coursepack)
* Gould, "The Face of Miranda" and "False Premise, Good Science" (in coursepack)

4. Sept. 16: Causation, Explanation, and Prediction (a philosophical view)
* Casti, Paradigms Lost, chapter 1 (in coursepack)
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapter 3
* Diesing, How Does Social Science Work?: chapters 1-5

5. Sept. 23: Causation, Explanation, and Prediction (a practical view)
* Davis, The Logic of Causal Order: all
* King, Keohane, & Verba, Designing Social Inquiry: chapters 1-3
* Fischer, "Fallacies of Causation" (in coursepack)
* Dessler, "Beyond Correlations: Toward a Causal Theory of War" (in coursepack)

6. Sept. 30: Theories, Models, and Hypotheses
* Stinchcombe, "The Logic of Scientific Inference" (in coursepack)
* Casti, Alternate Realities, chapter 9 (in coursepack)
* Lave and March, "An Introduction to Speculation" and "The Evaluation of Speculations" (in coursepack)

7. Oct. 7: Concepts, Indicators, and Measurement
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapter 5
* Collier and Mahon, "Conceptual 'Stretching' Revisited" (in coursepack)


8. Oct. 14: Methodological Approaches I
Experiments / Quasi-experiments
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapters 7-8
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapters 14-15
* Paulos, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper: all
* Huff, How to Lie with Statistics, chapter 10 (in coursepack)
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapters 9-10

9. Oct. 21: Methodological Approaches II
Case studies / comparative method
* Eckstein, "Case Study and Theory in Political Science" (in coursepack)
* George, "Case Studies and Theory Development" (in coursepack)
* Collier, "The Comparative Method: Two Decades of Change" (in coursepack)
* Ragin, The Comparative Method, chapter 3 (in coursepack)
Ethnography / Thick Analysis / Field Research
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapter 11
* Geertz, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight" (in coursepack)

10. Oct. 28: Methodological Approaches III
Mathematical models
* Maki and Thompson, "Mathematical Models and Principles" (in coursepack)
* Richardson, "The Use of Mathematics / Arms Races" (in coursepack)
Game theory / rational choice
* Lave and March, "Choice" (in coursepack)
Multimethod research
* Moon, "The Logic of Political Inquiry: A Synthesis of Opposed Perspectives"
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapter 13

11. Nov. 4: Research Design
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapters 4 and 6
* King, Keohane, & Verba, Designing Social Inquiry: chapters 4-6
* Przeworski & Teune, The Logic of Comparative Social Inquiry, chapter 1
* Shively, "Causal Thinking and the Design of Research" (in coursepack)
* Doyle, "Silver Blaze" (in coursepack)

12. Nov. 11: No Class (Veterans Day)

13. Nov. 18: Data Collection and Canned Data Sets
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapter 12
* International Studies Quarterly, Symposium on event data (in coursepack)

14. Nov. 25: Ethics and Professional Responsibility
* Singleton, et al., Approaches to Social Research: chapter 16

15. Dec. 2: Creativity and Discovery
* Root-Bernstein, Discovering: all
* Gould, "Darwin's Middle Road" and "The Validation of Continental Drift" (in coursepack)
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