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POLSC251: Research Methods in Political Science

Unit 4: Data and Measurement   In this unit, you will learn how political scientists use data and measurement to understand and quantify political phenomena. You will first examine the measurement process, learning the importance of clearly defining the concepts and political phenomena that you are studying. This unit will also take a look at the concepts of the dependent and independent variable in research design and how their characteristics impact the measurement process. Finally, you will learn about data in its many forms, discovering how it is collected and used in the research process. By the end of this unit, you should have a clear understanding of the preliminary steps required for the successful implementation of research design.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 18 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.1.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.1.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: 6.5 hours

☐    Subunit-wide Resources: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.4: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.5: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.6: 30 minutes

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you should be able to - describe the theory that underlies sampling; - describe several different types of samples and discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and appropriate uses; - discuss how concepts are developed and measured in political science; and - describe the primary data considerations in political science.

4.1 Types of Data   - Reading: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Types of Data” Link: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Types of Data” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this article. Also click on and read each
of the embedded hyperlinks. This article describes the differences
between quantitative and qualitative data. This material is
applicable to subunits 4.6.1 and 4.6.2.  

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4.1.1 Qualitative Data   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 4.1. There are only two types of data: qualitative and quantitative. Pay close attention to the distinction between the two. Being able to define qualitative data is necessary to fully understand Unit 7.

4.1.2 Quantitative Data   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 4.1 There are only two types of data: qualitative and quantitative data. Pay close attention to the distinction between the two. Being able to define quantitative data is necessary to fully understand Unit 5 and 6.

4.2 Sampling   4.2.1 The Central Limit Theorem   - Reading: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Statistic Workshops: “Central Limit Theorem” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Statistic Workshops: “Central Limit Theorem” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this tutorial. You must click next at the
upper right hand corner of the text to move through each of the 28
short entries. There will be a question at the end of some of these
short entries in which you can enter your own answer and then click
on “Instructor’s Answer” to compare what you wrote against the
instructor’s response. This tutorial lays the foundation for why
sampling works.  

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  • Assessment: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Statistic Workshops: “Central Limit Theorem Quiz” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Statistic Workshops: “Central Limit Theorem Quiz” (HTML)

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

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

4.2.2 Types of Samples   - Reading: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Sampling Methods” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Sampling Methods” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this tutorial. You must click next at the
upper right hand corner of the text to move through each of the 36
short entries. There will be a question at the end of some of these
short entries. You may attempt to type in your own answer, and then
compare it with the instructor’s response by clicking on
“Instructor’s Answer.” 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.
  • Reading: Types of Samples 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

  • Assessment: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Sampling Methods Quiz” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Sampling Methods Quiz” (HTML)

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

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

4.3 Measurement Process   - Reading: Measurement 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/)
  • Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Conceptualization” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Conceptualization” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Conceptualization,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is approximately 34 minutes long, for an overview on the process of conceptualization.

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  • Reading: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Specifying Constructs” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Specifying Constructs” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this tutorial. You must click next at the upper right hand corner of the text to move through each of the 11 short entries. There will be a question at the end of some of these short entries. You may attempt to write your own answer, and then compare it with the instructor’s response by clicking “Instructor’s Answer.” 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: “Specifying Constructs Quiz” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Specifying Constructs Quiz” (HTML)

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

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4.3.1 Determining a Political Concept   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 4.3. Pay close attention to the reading and assignments from Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Details centered on how we move from concept to measurement are provided in all the material in subunit 4.3.

4.4 Operational Definition: Determining How the Concept Is Empirically Measured   - Lecture: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Operationalization” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Operationalization” (iTunes U)

 Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture
titled “Operationalization,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen
to this lecture, which is approximately 7 minutes long, for an
overview on how we measure concepts in the social science.  

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displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Operational Definitions” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Operational Definitions” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this tutorial. You must click next at the upper right hand corner of the text to move through each of the 34 short entries. There will be a question at the end of some of these short entries. You may attempt to answer the question, and then compare your answer to the instructor’s by clicking on the “Instructor’s Answer” button. 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: “Operational Definitions Quiz” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Operational Definitions Quiz” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on Workshop Quiz from the menu on the left side of the webpage, and complete the quiz.

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

4.5 Levels of Measurement   - Reading: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Levels of Measurement” Link: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Levels of Measurement” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this article. Also, click on each of the
hyperlinks in the assigned article and read those as well. You can
then click your back button to get back to the original article. You
do not need to click on the hyperlinks in the articles that were
linked to the original article. Just click back to the original
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: “Levels of Measurement” Link: iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Levels of Measurement” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Levels of Measurement,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is approximately 8 minutes long, for details on the four levels of measurement and how they apply to social science.

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4.6 Units of Analysis   4.6.1 Definition and Importance of Units of Analysis   - Reading: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Unit of Analysis” Link: William M.K. Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base: “Unit of Analysis” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this article. Also, click on each of the hyperlinks in the assigned article and read those as well. You can then click your back button to get back to the original article. You do not need to click on the hyperlinks in the articles that were linked to the original article. Just click back to the original article.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.6.2 Understanding and Preventing Ecological Fallacy   - Reading: Census Learning and Teaching Materials: “Ecological Fallacy” Link: Census Learning and Teaching Materials: “Ecological Fallacy” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this entry to learn about the ecological fallacy in statistical research. If you are interested in learning more about the ecological fallacy, there are several additional links embedded within this short reading.
 
Reading this entry should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. It is attributed to CDU and the original version can be found here.

4.7 Assessing Measurement   - Reading: Assessing Measurement 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: “Reliability and Validity” iTunes U: East Tennessee State University: Dr. Blake Snider’s Research Methods: “Reliability and Validity” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: After clicking the above link, scroll to the lecture titled “Reliability and Validity,” and click on “View in iTunes.” Listen to this lecture, which is approximately 21 minutes long, for an overview on reliability and validity in social science measurement.

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  • Reading: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Confounds – Threats to Validity” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Confounds – Threats to Validity” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this tutorial. You must click next at the upper right hand corner of the text to move through each of the 11 short entries. There will be a question at the end of some of these short entries. You may attempt to answer each question, and then check your answer by clicking on “Instructor’s Answer.” 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: “Confounds – Threats to Validity Quiz” Link: Wadsworth Cengage Learning’s Research Methods Workshops: “Confounds – Threats to Validity Quiz” (HTML)

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

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

4.7.1 Types of Measurement Error   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 4.7.

4.7.2 Reliability   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 4.7. The lecture addresses the importance of reliable measurement.

4.7.3 Validity   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 4.7. Pay close attention to the reading and assignments from Wadsworth Cengage Learning as well as the lecture in subunit 4.7 for details on threats to validity.

4.7.4 Assessing Reliability and Validity   Note: This topic is covered by the material beneath subunit 4.7. Pay close attention to the reading and assignments from Wadsworth Cengage Learning as well as the lecture in subunit 4.5 for details on how to test for measurement validity.

4.8 Further Reading Suggestions   - Reading: AllPsych Online’s Research Methods:“Chapter 5: Experimental Design” Link: AllPsych Online’s Research Methods“Chapter 5: Experimental Design” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This is an optional article. Experimental methods are increasingly common in political science research. This site offers insight in experimental designs, as well as their strengths and limitations.
 
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  • Reading: Centre for Research in Social Simulation: “What is Social Simulation?” Link: Centre for Research in Social Simulation: “What is Social Simulation?” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an optional article.Data simulations are increasingly common in empirical political science. This reading offers an introduction on how simulations are done using data on social behaviors and attitudes.

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