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POLSC251: Research Methods in Political Science

Unit 1: The Science of Politics   This unit will serve as an introduction to the scientific study of politics. As a social science, political science straddles both the hard and soft science worlds. Hard science is characterized by strict and rigorous scientific standards with close attention to formal standards for hypothesis formulation and testing. Soft sciences are more informal relying on interpretive approaches. Thus, political science borrows research methods and theories from various other disciplines – history, economics, psychology, anthropology, and even biology and neurology. The reading for this unit and other units will rely heavily on a general social science text supplemented with political science examples. In this unit, you will define political science as a field of research, and you will discuss how and what political scientists study.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 4.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 30 minutes

☐    Subunit 1.3: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.4: 1 hour

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you should be able to - describe the basic principles of the scientific method; - give a basic description of political science and its history; - discuss whether political science is actually scientific; and - describe some central concepts necessary to understand the research process in political science such unit of analysis, variables, and hypotheses.

1.1 Social Science and the Scientific Method   - Reading: Social Science and Scientific Method The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)
  • Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Scientific Method” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Scientific Method” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Scientific Method,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is about 7 minutes long, for an overview of how the scientific method relates to research. While you will not need to write a paper at this point, pay close attention to his description of how to write a research paper to help you understand this process. More detail on research papers will be provided later.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Assessment: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “What Is Science?” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “What Is Science?” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please work through this tutorial. You must click “next” at the upper right hand corner of the text to move through each of the 10 short entries. There will be a question at the end of some of these short entries. Attempt to respond to the question by typing your answer, and then click on “Instructor’s Answer” to read the instructor’s response. This article details the principles that were laid out in the previous reading in this subunit.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Assessment: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “What Is Science? Quiz” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “What Is Science? Quiz” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link aboev and complete this quiz.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.2 Defining Political Science and the Phenomena that Political Scientists Study   - Reading: Wikipedia: “Political Science” Link: Wikipedia: “Political Science” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this article, noting the historical roots
and breadth of political science as a discipline and the breadth of
methods used to study politics.  

 Terms of Use:Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.3 Is Political Science a Science?   - Reading: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center: “Political Science” Link: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center: “Political Science” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please read this article. Note that this discussion
of political science clearly indicates that it can be scientific.  

 Terms of Use: This work is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 2.5
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/). It is
attributed to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and
the original version can be found
[here](http://writingcenter.unc.edu/resources/handouts-demos/writing-for-specific-fields/political-science).
  • Reading: The Guardian: David Wearing’s “How Scientific Is Political Science?” Link: The Guardian: David Wearing’s “How Scientific Is Political Science?” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this article. Note that this article challenges the idea that political science can be scientific. You may recognize this article from POLSC101. Here, you should try to compare this article to the first article by The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in this subunit. The first article asserts that political science can be scientific, and this one challenges that perspective. Make sure to take notes on the claims based on each article, and try to develop your own reasoning as to what makes this discipline scientific or not.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The New York Times: Patricia Cohen’s “Field Study: Just How Relevant Is Political Science?” Link: The New York Times: Patricia Cohen’s “Field Study: Just How Relevant Is Political Science?” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this article, which was also used in POLSC101. In this course, review the article, which is used to point to the implications of whether political science is perceived as scientific.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.4 Knowledge and Research   1.4.1 Basic Research Concepts   - Reading: Basic Research Concepts The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

1.4.2 The Research Process   - Reading: The Research Process The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

1.5 Further Study Suggestions   - Reading: University of Rochester: Frank Wolfs’ “Introduction to the Scientific Method” Link: University of Rochester: Frank Wolfs’ “Introduction to the Scientific Method” (HTML)

 Instructions: This is an optional article. Frank Wolfs, a physicist
at the University of Rochester offers a great introduction to the
scientific method.  

 Terms of Use:Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Serendipity: Peter Meyer’s “An Essay in the Philosophy of Social Science” Link: Serendipity: Peter Meyer’s “An Essay in the Philosophy of Social Science” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an optional article. The essay offers a critiqueof empirical studies of human behavior, questioning whether political science is always science.

    Terms of Use:Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Robotwise: Jorn Barger’s “The Scientific Method, Applied to Human Sciences” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

    Submit Materials

  • Reading: Stanford University: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Science and Pseudo-Science” Link: Stanford University: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Science and Pseudo-Science” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an optional article. The entry offers a good discussion of how researchers and scholars demarcate science from “pseudo-science.”

    Terms of Use:Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: University of Windsor: Michael Dartnell’s “Online Research Guide to Political Inquiry” Link: University of Windsor: Michael Dartnell’s “Online Research Guide to Political Inquiry” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an optional article. The site offers helpful links to theory and analysis sties and writing resources with a focus on international studies.

    Terms of Use:Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.