Loading...

POLSC251: Research Methods in Political Science

Unit 3: Research Design   *Before conducting any research, you must create a logical research plan. This unit will detail the standard structure of a research article/project, identify the steps that you should take in order to formulate a strong research design, and present you with an introduction to various types of research designs used in political science in the process.

After detailing the standard structure of a research article/project, we will take a careful look at causal relationships and how they (or assumptions about them) play into research in political science. In previous courses, you learned how to identify and analyze empirical or observable relationships between two variables. In scientific research, however, you must identify the causal relationship between two variables in order to determine whether certain factors produce a particular outcome.

You will then explore the many types of research designs that political scientists use, focusing first on experimental designs, where political scientists manipulate and control variables in unnatural environments in order to test their theories. We will discuss how different experiments are designed and used and weigh their potential strengths and weaknesses. The unit will then present other types of research design, including surveys, data collection pertaining to naturally occurring phenomena, and case studies. Each of these research designs plays an important role within the discipline, though all have drawbacks.*

Unit 3 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 18 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 30 minutes

☐    Subunit 3.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 3.3: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 3.4: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.4.1–3.4.3: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.4.4: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.5: 9.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.5.1: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 3.5.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.5.3: 3 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you should be able to - describe the structure of a standard research article; - discuss factors that go into making causal inferences; - distinguish between experimental and non-experimental research designs; and - describe the basics of research designs standard in political science.

3.1 Standard Research Article/Project Structure   - Reading: Northwest Missouri State University: Connie Ury and Carolyn Johnson’s “Structure of a Research Article” Link: Northwest Missouri State University: Connie Ury and Carolyn Johnson’s “Structure of a Research Article” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this webpage. This short summary provides
the basic components of a standard research article. There will be
examples of articles that conform to this typical format later in
this unit.  

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

3.2 A General Description of Research Design   - Reading: A General Description of Research Design 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/)

3.3 Causality   3.3.1 Understanding Variables: Dependent and Independent Variables   - Web Media: YouTube: YourTeacher.com’s “Independent and Dependent Variables” Link: YouTube: YourTeacher.com’s “Independent and Dependent Variables” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Watch this brief 2-minute video. This video serves as
a preface to the material that will be covered in Subunits 3.3.2 and
3.3.3.  

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

3.3.2 Causation vs. Correlation   - Reading: George Mason University’s Statistical Assessment Service: “What Is the Difference between Causation and Correlation?” 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/)

3.3.3 Causation vs. Spurious Associations and Coincidence   - Reading: Carnegie Mellon University: Richard Scheines’ “Causation” 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/)

3.4 Experimental Design   - Reading: Experimental Design 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: “Experiments” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Experiments” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Experiments,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is approximately 25 minutes long, for an overview of how experimental research works.

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

3.4.1 Grouping: Test Group and the Control Group   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 3.4. Pay close attention to the discussion of these concepts in the lecture and how Cabanacand Bonniot-Cabanac set up the groups in their experiment.

3.4.2 The Importance of Random Assignment   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 3.4. Pay close attention to the discussion of these concepts in the lecture and to the way Cabanacand Bonniot-Cabanac incorporate random selection into their design.

3.4.3 Strengths/Weaknesses of Experimental Design   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 3.4. The strengths and weaknesses of experimental design are addressed throughout the lecture.

3.4.4 Quasi-Experiments   - Reading: Web Center for Social Research Methods: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Quasi-Experimental Design” Link: Web Center for Social Research Methods: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Quasi-Experimental Design” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the sections titled “Quasi-Experimental
Design” through “Advances in Quasi-Experimentation.” Also click on
each of the hyperlinks in the assigned article and read those as
well. This article gives full coverage of various types of
quasi-experiments.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: National Center for Technology Innovation: “Fraction Assist Software Assists Math Students” Link: National Center for Technology Innovation: “Fraction Assist Software Assists Math Students” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article, which provides an applied example of how quasi-experimental research is conducted and used.

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

3.5 Non-Experimental Design   3.5.1 Survey Research   - Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Survey Building” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Survey Building” (iTunes U)

 Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture
titled “Survey Building,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to
this lecture, which is approximately 11 minutes long, for an
overview on how to design surveys.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Survey Administration” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods“Survey Administration” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Strengths and Weaknesses of Surveys,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is approximately 11 minutes long, for an overview on how to conduct surveys.

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

  • Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Strengths and Weaknesses of Surveys” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Strengths and Weaknesses of Surveys” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Strengths and Weaknesses of Surveys,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is approximately 7 minutes long, for an overview on the validity of surveys.

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

  • Reading: German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA): Journal of Current Chinese Affairs: Min Xia’s “Social Capital and Rural Grassroots Governance in China” Link: German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA): Journal of Current Chinese Affairs: Min Xia’s “Social Capital and Rural Grassroots Governance in China” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please read this article. This article provides an actual example of survey research.

    Terms of Use: This article is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 License. It is attributed to Min Xia and the original version can be found here.

  • Reading: Survey Research 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

3.5.2 Case Studies   - Reading: Case Studies 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/)

3.5.3 Historical Analysis   - Reading: Boise State University: Professor E.L. Skip Knox’s “Analyzing Historical Events” Link: Boise State University: Professor E.L. Skip Knox’s “Analyzing Historical Events” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this article, which provides a basic
description of how to approach historical analysis. Pay attention to
the three “Cs” and the four spheres described in this article.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Historical” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Historical” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Historical,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is approximately 2 minutes long, for an overview on the process of historical analysis.

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

  • Reading: German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA): Journal of Current Chinese Affairs: James W.Y. Wang’s “The Political Economy of Collective Labour Legislation in Taiwan” Link: German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA): Journal of Current Chinese Affairs: James W.Y. Wang’s “The Political Economy of Collective Labour Legislation in Taiwan” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please read this article, which provides an example of historical analysis.

    Terms of Use: This article is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 License. It is attributed to James W.Y. Wang and the original version can be found here.

3.5.4 Comparative Analyses   - Reading: WikiSummary: Aaron Lijphart’s “Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method” Link: WikiSummary: Aaron Lijphart’s “Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method” (HTML)

 Instructions: Aaron Lijphart’s writings and books on comparative
politics and method are considered among the best and most
comprehensive. Read this summary of Lijphart’s important work.  

 Terms of Use:Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Millsaps College: Iren Omo-Bare’s “What is Comparative Politics?” Link: Millsaps College: Iren Omo-Bare’s “What is Comparative Politics?” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this lecture outlining how comparative research designs in political science are unique and different from other research approaches.

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

  • Lecture: YouTube: PoliSciPaul’s “Scientific Method in Comparative Politics” Link: YouTube: PoliSciPaul’s “Scientific Method in Comparative Politics” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Watch the lecture on conducting research in comparative politics.

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

3.5.5 Developing Your Own Research Questions   Note: Each of the above sub-units presented different methods for tackling research questions. Developing and writing research questions are often a challenge for beginning researchers. The two articles below are meant to offer insight in how to develop research question and how to write a research question.

  • Reading: Empire State College Online Writing Center: “Developing a Research Question” Link: Empire State College Online Writing Center: “Developing a Research Question” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this article.

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

  • Reading: George Mason University Writing Center: “How to Write a Research Question” Link: George Mason University Writing Center: “How to Write a Research Question” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this article.

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

3.6 Further Study Suggestions   - Reading: Stanford University: Adam Royalty’s “Research as Design Packet” Link: Stanford University: Adam Royalty’s “Research as Design Packet” (PDF)
 
Instructions: This is an optional article. The site offers worksheets and templates for thinking through research questions, research designs and potential analyses.
 
Terms of Use:Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Brigham Young University: Lynn Henrichsen, Michael T. Smith,and David S. Baker’s “Research Design and Method” Link: Brigham Young University: Lynn Henrichsen, Michael T. Smith,and David S. Baker’s “Research Design and Method” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: This is an optional article exploring how the research question is instrumental in the developing of a research design and research method.
     
    Terms of Use:Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Link: National Institute of Health, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research: John W. Creswell, Ann Carroll Klassen, Vicki L. Plano Clark, and Katherine Clegg Smith’s “Best Practices for Mixed Methods Research in the Health Sciences” Link: National Institute of Health, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research: John W. Creswell, Ann Carroll Klassen, Vicki L. Plano Clark, and Katherine Clegg Smith’s “Best Practices for Mixed Methods Research in the Health Sciences” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an optional article. Mixed methods approaches integrating quantitative and qualitative designs often offer the most rigorous approaches to addressing research questions. This site offers examples of mixed method approaches in the context of the health sciences.

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