Political Science 301—Political Science Methods

 Fall Semester 2015

 Monday/Wednesday 1:45-3:30

 RAM 203

 Professor Sid Olufs 

 Office: Xavier 153, olufs@plu.edu

 Fall 2015 Office Hours:  M 12:30-1:30, T 9:30-12:30, W 12-1, plus by appointment.



Course Schedule

The Assignments Page

Course Sakai Site



How does Political Science approach analysis of the political world?  This course covers the approaches borrowed and developed by the discipline, research design, and qualitative and quantitative methods to conduct research.  Upon completion, students should be able to critique, understand, and conduct research about politics.



By the end of the semester students will:

·      Demonstrate a critical understanding of a variety of methods used in the discipline of Political Science

·      Write a paper analyzing a public policy

·      Design a research project that conforms to the standards learned in the course

Here is how to do well in the course. 

Be sure to check the assignments page, which offers more direction than the schedule. 

Here is a description of the logic of policy papers.   The paper prompts are here. 

Here is an introduction to research design. 

Use  Purdue Owl, an online writing guide


Conceptual Outline

I. Political Science as a Science

- Normative & empirical questions, prediction, policy

- Choose broad research area

II.  Causality

- How to determine causality

- Spuriousness

- Models and relationships

III. Asking Research Questions

- Falsification

- Refine research area

IV. Literature Review - understanding prior research

- Finding sources

- Determining relevance

- How to read a research article

- How to critically evaluate articles

- Applying material

- Overview of different methods: quantitative, qualitative, experimental

-  Put it all together for your research area

V. Crafting a Theory based on literature

VI. Hypotheses and Identifying Concepts

VII. Designing Analysis


Readings   [See the bibliography and course schedule. ]

·      Booth, et.al., The Craft of Research, Third Edition, University of Chicago Press, 2008 (ISBN-13 = 978-0226065663)

·      Charles E. Lindblom, Inquiry and Change, Yale University Press, 1992 (ISBN-13 = 9780300056679)

·      portions of Meehan’s Reasoned Argument in the Social Sciences

·      articles that illustrate the variety of approaches we find useful in studying politics. 

·      A writing manual, which may be online.  Perhaps the best out there is Purdue Owl, a guide to many writing issues.  Get familiar with it.  The main advantage of the online version is it is free.  There are many printed handbooks, and they tend to be expensive.  The Little, Brown Handbook, any edition, set the standard long ago.  I like Lester Faigley, The Brief Penguin Handbook (NY: Longman, 2003).  Other editions are OK, too, but I like The One With The “Plastic Comb” Binding.  Anything by Dianne Hacker is good, the long or short versions.

Complete all readings in advance, and follow note-taking guidelines discussed in class. 


Argumentation.  Among the approaches to argumentation we will use is one created by Stephen Toulmin.  Read about him and his approach to practical arguments.


Finding Sources.  Make a habit of finding sources.  Use the library.  We will practice different ways of framing a question, finding sources, vetting sources, preparing literature reviews, and more.