POLS 301, Political Science Methods

 

Fall 2015, The Assignments Page

Please Note:  We have made adjustments to the original syllabus schedule.  The assignments page is the source to follow.

 

Week of December 7 and 9

Monday, December 7.  Bring to class a draft of your final project.  We will work with them in class.

   We will also consider the final chapters of Lindblom.  They should be read closely by those of you who are studying something involving the media, US government institutional change, or citizen behavior. 

   Here are some observations and questions about the chapters.

Lindblom, Chapter 13.

   Lindblom, at. p. 213, tells us the dream of s scientifically guided society can not come true.  He suggests the workable alternative is the "self-directing society," described starting at p. 216.  Note (at p. 220) that both traditional liberals and conservatives embraced elites, and were wary of what Lindblom calls lay probing.  He describes a commitment of those who want the self directing society at 227:

"Their vision of society calls neither for harmonious anarchy nor benevolent authority, but for political institutions and leadership, and for a citizenry of investigators who turn again and again to politics to reach problem solutions because of the many conditions in which inquiry, discussion, and persuasion cannot reach a solution without the additional element of imposition."

   And, at 230, he describes the first step on this path:  Reduce the disincentives to probe.

   This is the subject of Herman and Chomsky's propaganda theory of the media. (If you have never encountered this, there is a halfway decent wikipedia page available.)  It suggests the five filters through which the media mediate (ownership, funding, sources, flak, and an ideology of fear) work mainly to discourage, to use Lindblom's term, lay probing.   This reviewer claims it is fair to say that Herman & Chomsky are making an argument about a central force that impairs lay probing, and that Lindblom would largely agree.

 

Lindblom, Chapter 14.

   This is where we see whether Lindblom comes to terms with his apparent recognition of Herman & Chomsky's thesis about propaganda.  There is a list of requirements for the self-directing society on pp. 231-3.  There is a discussion of partisanship starting on p. 254, which closes the chapter.  What picture emerges? 

 

Lindblom, Chapter 15.

   This chapter focuses on the role of social scientists in a possible self-directing society.  Overall, it is a story of limited but important contributions, of which the description on the bottom of p. 273, continuing onto 274, indicates the general picture.  The last paragraph before the appendix on p. 279 addresses a central role for social science that is aimed at the tension identified above. 

 

Lindblom, Chapter 16.

   This chapter is about the possibilities of reducing impairment.  The approach is described at the top of p. 287.  After responding to arguments that impairment supports social order, Lindblom gets down to discussing possibilities for its reduction at p. 293.  (Dang--the book ends at 302.... can he do this in ten pages?) 

   You will be asked to consider these ten pages in class. 

   Well, what do you think of his answer? 

   Moreover, what do you think of your role as a citizen, after considering this argument?

 

Wednesday, December 9.   Bring to class an edited draft of your final project, in the light of comments received Monday. 

 

Week of November 16 and 18:  We will have individual meetings about your papers.  You will receive an email Thursday the 12th or Friday the 13th describing what you need to complete and bring to the meeting.  Email olufs@plu.edu with your preferred meeting time.  Meeting times are as follows:

Monday Nov. 16

Tuesday Nov. 17

Wednesday Nov. 18

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Monday, Nov. 9.  Planning and Drafting your Paper.  Read Booth chapters 12 & 13, and the quick tip advice on pp. 268-9.  Bring to class on paper the first page of your paper. 

                                                                                                                 

Wednesday, Nov. 11.  That's right, PLU meets this national holiday.  Outline and Diagram your project.  Read Booth, chapter 17.  Bring to class on paper three representations of your project:  an outline, a diagram of the argument, and an abstract.   Make them good enough to present to the entire class. 

 

 

Earlier assignments are below...

 

 

Monday, November 2.  For today, bring to class a draft of your policy paper that peers can read and comment upon.  Also for today, Read mack_legal_hist_pols, in Sakai.  Please bring written responses to the following questions:  How much of the review (%) is a description of the book?  How much of the review is interpretation in the light of other literature?  What parts of the review make you want to read the book?  What parts of the review have the opposite effect?  You might be interested that it is possible to do a capstone project that is similar to Mack's article.  Also, take another look at the literature review of Gilens.  Do these two provide a model for you to use in your own paper? 

 

Wednesday, November 4.  Your policy paper is due today, in class.  We will go on to look at the material in Booth, chapters 15 & 16, on expectations for presentation of arguments and information. 

 

Monday, October 26.  Any questions or discussion on the policy paper assignment?  For today, read Bartels, in Sakai.  Take detailed notes (bring to class) on how the author measures variables and relationships.  Also review Gilens on the same issues.  You will be asked to reproduce this analysis for your own course project. 

 

Wednesday, October 28.  Bring to class an abstract of your own course project paper.  Also bring a brief description of how you intend to measure variables and relationships in your project.  We will discuss in class.  These are both initial runs through these ideas, but that is how we will make progress. 

 

Monday, October 19.  Last Wednesday you were shown the policy paper assignment.  That page includes a link to the description of the Meehan method, and the longer version of that method.  Read through these carefully.  The approach is graphically depicted in the Meehan_chart found in the Sakai resources section.  Also in Sakai is an excerpt from one of the original descriptions of the approach, entitled Meehan_policymaking.  It is optional for people who wish to explore further.  For today, bring to class a commitment to one of the three prompts in the policy paper assignment. 

Wednesday, October 21.  Today bring to class an outline of your policy paper, detailed enough so that a reader can tell what part of the policy your paper will emphasize, and what argument you will apply to it.  Also for today, see the essay in Sakai, pollack.    Does Pollack's argument meet the standards for policy papers assigned in this class?  Why or why not?  Do this in about one page and bring on paper to class. 

Monday, October 12.  Please write an abstract of your major course research project.  Under most circumstances the abstract is written last, but here we are using the exercise to develop our vision of the entire project.  In this discipline abstracts are commonly between 100 and 300 words in length.

  Also for today, Read Booth, chapters 5 & 6; and Pinckney_invisible, found in Sakai.  The Booth chapters offer advice on finding and using sources in your projects.  Follow the advice.  Note that the search for sources will likely lead you to shift your topic.  Note also you need good habits of recording what you find, and keeping notes on how you will use it in your project. 

   For Pinckney, write a brief paragraph describing how the choice of particular sources has influenced the explanations of the authors reviewed.  Bring to class, on paper.

   For today, bring to class, on paper, a statement of your project topic, along with citations for five sources that are on point for that topic, with an eye toward building a literature review.  Make sure you have collected, perhaps electronically, the full-text version of each source.  Include a sentence for each source that describes how you will likely use it.

 

Wednesday, October 14.  Based on the criteria for developing papers developed on Monday, bring a re-written abstract of your project to class, on paper.  Also include any other information that was specially designated at your Next Step. 

 

 

Monday, October 5.  Connections and Theories; Concepts and Variables.  Read King & Smith; and Gilens. Both are found in Sakai.  For each, identify the major concepts and variables, and bring your account to class, on paper.  Also, Bring two possible paper topics to class, written on paper.  (If both assignments fit on the same paper, that is fine.) 

 

Wednesday, October 7.  More Concepts, Variables, and Hypotheses, in Arguments.  Read Booth, chapters 7 through 11. These chapters describe the Toulmin approach to argumentation.  You are to apply it to your own project. 

We will work with two kinds of diagrams. 

1.   See the diagrams in Booth, pp. 115 (repeated in different form on 153,156, 161 & 162), 116.  Construct a diagram using this method for your own paper argument. 

2.   In Sakai, read the Michels file, and follow the instructions.  This will include constructing a different kind of diagram, one that identifies concepts and relationships between them.

Bring both of these, on paper, to class. 

 

 

Monday, September 28.  Please Read Lindblom, chs. 6-8, and Crayton, located in the resources section of Sakai.

For chapter six, Write a brief restatement of the argument about communications leading to impairment, in particular leading to elite advantage, and cite one example in your personal experience.  Chapter seven makes some claims about the advantages of current elites in promoting particular directions in convergence. Note that Lindblom published this one year prior to the Internet becoming widespread. Bring to class brief  versions of research questions for any three of Lindblom’s claims about how this works. 

In chapter eight, why do we need to explain convergence?  (119)  Does Lindblom believe that “the marketplace of ideas” produces better knowledge?  (see esp. the few pages leading up to note 16 on p. 127)  What is his hypothesis about convergence?  (128)

Crayton Questions:  Are the authors attempting to promote or challenge convergence?  Cite one example that supports your answer, with specific references to items in Crayton and in Lindblom that you used to answer this question. 

 

Wednesday, September 30.  What role does social science play in the political world?   Read Lindblom, chapters 9 through 11; and Mills (found in Sakai).  Mills offers advice on how to take investigation seriously.  Bring answers to the following questions:

For Lindblom, chapter 9:  How consequential are the social sciences?  (136-7, and the conclusion to the chapter)  Note that Lindblom advocates the use of a variety of methods.  What is his classification of the types of inquiry possible (explanation, prediction, reporting, evaluation, etc.).  Which categories describe your own paper topic(s)?

For Lindblom, chapter 10:  According to Lindblom, why are professional and lay probing necessarily bound together?  (up to p. 167)   Do professional probers reliable, verified results? (167-end)

For Lindblom, chapter 11:  Lindblom claims (at 181) that "social scientists both preempt and paralyze lay investigating by offering their proposed solutions as a substitute."  Summarize the argument leading to this conclusion. 

Also, using Google Scholar, find three articles published since 2008 on the effectiveness of the food stamps program in the United States.  (click to not include patents or legal documents) Bring your list to class. 

 

 

Monday, September 21.  Thinking about interesting problems.  Read Booth, chapters 3, 4; and Lindblom, chapters 3, 4.  Bring to class, on paper, written responses to these questions:

Booth Questions:  Be sure to read the prologue to these chapters, on pp. 31-3.  Using one of the topics written in class on those 3x5 note cards (or, another of your choosing), write descriptions of the “four steps” on pp. 31-2, applied to your topic.  Chapter three offers advice on how to do each of these.  Previous students in the class have found the advice on pp. 42-7, and the second half of p. 50, particularly useful. 

Chapter four in Booth will make more sense the more you know about the literature about your topic.  Write brief answers to these questions:  Is your project question practical or conceptual? (53-8)  What is the chain of reasoning, from topic to potential practical application, implicit in your topic?  (61)

Lindblom Questions:  As Lindblom says, “probing is a large concept.” (p. 35)  In the two days prior to class, pay attention to your “everyday probing” he says we all do.  Is it connected to your seeking to “warrant this volition instead of that in a world in which one must choose while knowing one’s own fallibility?”  (35)   How so?  Pay attention to the advice on p. 43, on the practical difficulties of having clear models to guide your probing.

Chapter four in Lindblom claims (47) there is a “principal conflict-resolution mechanism” in human affairs—what is it?  Note that on pp. 51-2 he moves toward methodological individualism: your visions of a good society must make sense in the light of experience of particular people in actual situations.  Read his description of the ways various forces attempt to influence this “principal conflict-resolution mechanism.”  In the two days prior to class, pay attention to attempts to wield such influence, and bring a short description of one such example to class. 

 

Wednesday, September 23.  Thursday, Sept. 19.  Impaired Probing.  Read Lindblom, chapter 5.

Bring to class, on paper, written responses to these questions:

Lindblom Questions Chapter Five:  Chapter five presents quite a challenge.  He is trying to help us see the thing described in the quote on p. 64.  Make a list of the ways people can impair each other’s probing (p. 66, but expanded throughout the chapter) that you have personally experienced.  What does he mean by “convergence”? (72)  Why pay attention to it?  (76-7)

 

The deferred  readings are Lindblom, chs. 6-8, and Crayton, located in the resources section of Sakai.

For chapter six, in the future you will briefly restate the argument about communications leading to impairment, to elite advantage, and cite one example in your personal experience.  Chapter seven makes some claims about the advantages of current elites in promoting particular directions in convergence.  You'll be asked to briefly write research questions for any three of Lindblom’s claims about how this works. 

In chapter eight, why do we need to explain convergence?  (119)  Does Lindblom believe that “the marketplace of ideas” produces better knowledge?  (see esp. the few pages leading up to note 16 on p. 127)  What is his hypothesis about convergence?  (128)

Crayton Questions:  Are the authors attempting to promote or challenge convergence?  Cite one example that supports your answer, with specific references to items in Crayton and in Lindblom that you used to answer this question. 

 

 

 

Monday, Sept. 14.  What are interesting problems to study?  Read Booth, chapters 1, 2; Lindblom, chapters 1, 2; and Althaus, which is found in the course sakai site resource section  Bring to class, on paper, written responses to these questions:  

Booth Questions:  What kind of topic for your capstone project is likely to be most interesting to you?  What will be your intended audience?  (See if the list on 26-7 is helpful here.)

Lindblom Questions: What does Lindblom mean by “probing”?  (11-12, 14)  Pay attention, today, to any probing on your part.  What is his distinction between preferences and volitions?  (19-22)  What is his approach to volitions?  What is his goal for the book? 

Althaus Questions:  Althaus presents a counterintuitive claim.  What is it?  What is the most compelling piece of evidence used to test the claim?

 

Wednesday, Sept. 16.  Thinking about interesting problems.  Read Booth, chapters 3, 4; and Lindblom, chapters 3, 4.  Bring to class, on paper, written responses to these questions:

Booth Questions:  Be sure to read the prologue to these chapters, on pp. 31-3.  Using one of the topics written in class on those 3x5 note cards (or, another of your choosing), write descriptions of the “four steps” on pp. 31-2, applied to your topic.  Chapter three offers advice on how to do each of these.  Previous students in the class have found the advice on pp. 42-7, and the second half of p. 50, particularly useful. 

Chapter four in Booth will make more sense the more you know about the literature about your topic.  Write brief answers to these questions:  Is your project question practical or conceptual? (53-8)  What is the chain of reasoning, from topic to potential practical application, implicit in your topic?  (61)

Lindblom Questions:  As Lindblom says, “probing is a large concept.” (p. 35)  In the two days prior to class, pay attention to your “everyday probing” he says we all do.  Is it connected to your seeking to “warrant this volition instead of that in a world in which one must choose while knowing one’s own fallibility?”  (35)   How so?  Pay attention to the advice on p. 43, on the practical difficulties of having clear models to guide your probing.

Chapter four in Lindblom claims (47) there is a “principal conflict-resolution mechanism” in human affairs—what is it?  Note that on pp. 51-2 he moves toward methodological individualism: your visions of a good society must make sense in the light of experience of particular people in actual situations.  Read his description of the ways various forces attempt to influence this “principal conflict-resolution mechanism.”  In the two days prior to class, pay attention to attempts to wield such influence, and bring a short description of one such example to class.