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POLSC251: Research Methods in Political Science

Unit 2: Foundations: Theories and Hypotheses   Before you design, conduct, and evaluate research in the field of political science, you must understand the nuts and bolts of study in a more general sense. This unit will define the terms theory and hypothesis and will provide you with some pointers on how to develop and test them. By the end of this unit, you will understand how theories are formulated and how they can help you develop clear, scientific hypotheses that can be tested through the research process. 

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 4 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 2.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 2.4: 30 minutes

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you should be able to - describe the basic principles of theory in science; - give a basic description of a hypothesis and it components; - discuss the relationship between theory and hypotheses; and - formulate hypotheses for testing.

2.1 The Functions of Theory   - Reading: The Functions of Theory 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.

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  • Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Paradigms vs. Theories” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Paradigms vs. Theories” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Paradigms vs. Theories” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is about 15 minutes long, for an overview of how paradigms and theories work in the social sciences. Note that this lecture will cover the material you need to know for subunits 2.1 through 2.3 and any inclusive subunits.

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2.1.1 Paradigms and Theory   Note: Thomas Kuhn and Imre Lakatos prominently wrote and influence the way scientists in many fields thought about the development of theories and paradigmatic shifts in assumptions about what can be known and studied. The readings below introduce you to Kuhn and Lakatos and their principle ideas and influence.

  • Reading: The Guardian: John Naughton’s “Thomas Kuhn: the man who changed the way the world looked at science” Link: The Guardian: John Naughton’s “Thomas Kuhn: the man who changed the way the world looked at science” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this article, which offers a concise discussion of the prominence of Thomas Kuhn’s arguments regarding the evolution of science and the developing of dynamic scientific paradigms.

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  • Reading: Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Lakatos’s Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes” Link: Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Lakatos’s Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this article. Like Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos is among the most prominent theorists of modern science in western history.

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2.1.2 The Building Blocks of Theory   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath Subunit 2.1.

2.1.3 Approaches to Theorizing   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath Subunit 2.1.

2.1.4 Examples of Theories   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath Subunit 2.1.

2.2 Hypotheses   2.2.1 What is a Hypothesis?   - Reading: Fayetteville State University: Professor D. Wallace’s “Steps in Hypothesis Testing” Link: Fayetteville State University: Professor D. Wallace’s “Steps in Hypothesis Testing” (PDF)

 Instructions: Scroll down to “Lecture 10” and download the PDF.
Please read these lecture notes. Pay close attention to the examples
and the three elements a good hypothesis should contain. The brief
statistics section at the end serves as a primer for Units 4, 5, and
6.  

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2.2.2 Types of Hypotheses: the Null and Alternative Hypothesis   - Reading: Web Center for Social Research Methods: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Hypotheses” Link: Web Center for Social Research Methods: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Hypotheses” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this article. Click on each of the
hyperlinks in the article and read those as well. In addition to the
description of the difference between a null and alternative
hypothesis, pay close attention to the distinction between deductive
and inductive reasoning.  

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2.3 The Relationship between Theory and Hypotheses   - Reading: Kent State University: Professor Rashid Bin Muhammad’s “Deduction and Induction” Link: Kent State University: Professor Rashid Bin Muhammad’s “Deduction and Induction” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this article, which makes clear that a
hypothesis is derived from a theory in deductive reasoning and it
goes the opposite way when using inductive reasoning. Deductive
reasoning is preferable in scientific research, but in instances
where we do not have clear theory, inductive reasoning may be
used.  

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2.4 Hypothesis Testing   - Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Statistics-Hypothesis Testing” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Statistics-Hypothesis Testing” (iTunes U)

 Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll down to the
lecture titled “Statistics-Hypothesis Testing,” and click on “View
in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is about 17 minutes long,
for an overview of how hypotheses are tested. This lecture will also
relate to Unit 6 where the material will go into more detail on how
statistics are used to test hypotheses.  

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2.5 Internal and External Validity   Note: Understanding the concepts of internal and external validity are important to both measurement and research design concerns. The article and tutorial below as well as some of the material in the Further Study section engages with these very important constructs.

  • Reading: Research Methods in Psychology: “Section 6.1: Experiment Basics” Link: Research Methods in Psychology: “Section 6.1: Experiment Basics” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this section on internal and external validity as well as other important measurement issues.
     
    Reading this section should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: The text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work's original creator or licensee.

  • Web Media: Athabasca University, Centre for Psychology: “Internal Validity Tutorial” Link: Athabasca University, Centre for Psychology: “Internal Validity Tutorial” (HTML)

    Instructions: Spend some time with this tutorial on internal validity. It is important to understand this construct as you move into Unit 3.

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2.6 Further Study Suggestions   - Reading: Webster University: Linda M. Woolf’s “Introduction to Measurement and Statistics” Link: Webster University: Linda M. Woolf’s “Introduction to Measurement and Statistics” (HTML)

 Instructions: This is an optional article. The site explains
different types of measurement scales and how they should be
statistically analyzed.  

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  • Reading: Virginia Tech: Statistics Activity Based Learning Environment: “Measurement Scales in Social Science Research” Link: Virginia Tech: Statistics Activity Based Learning Environment: “Measurement Scales in Social Science Research” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an optional article. This tutorial explains measurement scales.

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  • Reading: California State University, Fresno: John A. Cagle’s “Science and Theories” Link: California State University, Fresno: John A. Cagle’s “Science and Theories” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an optional article regarding the importance of theory development as the foundation of scientific inquiry.

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  • Reading: Stat Trek: “What is Hypothesis Testing?” Link: Stat Trek: “What is Hypothesis Testing?” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an optional article that offers a good discussion of the development of hypothesis statements and hypothesis testing in empirical research.

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  • Reading: YouTube: zapohd1965’s “Threats to External Validity” Link: YouTube: zapohd1965’s “Threats to External Validity” (YouTube)

    Instructions: This is an optional video that highlights the importance of external validity in research design as well as the challenges.

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