«Instructor: Gábor Tóka (Department of Political Science, CEU) Credits: 4 credits (8 ECTS credits) Semester: Fall 2009 Level, track: Core course for ...»
Course: Research Design and Methods in Political Science1
Instructor: Gábor Tóka (Department of Political Science, CEU)
Credits: 4 credits (8 ECTS credits)
Semester: Fall 2009
Level, track: Core course for all tracks in the PhD program in Political Science
This course is to assist participants in designing dissertation projects and other research activities,
and in debating and adjudicating methodological issues in the profession. As a starting point, we
shall locate dissertation projects within the broader framework of careers in political science and contemplate how the concept and evaluative criteria of dissertations have evolved in the profession in recent years. We will then review issues in conceptualizing research questions, study design, methodology, data collection, and different strategies in data analysis. In doing so, the course will focus partly on the issues and problems that occur in all fields and methodological traditions in political science, and partly on strategies related to “small-N” qualitative research, for the most part setting aside techniques of large-N statistical analysis that are dealt with in separate statistics courses in the school’s curriculum. The course participants will read and discuss texts related to theory formation, hypothesis testing, and concept formation;
creating proxies and measurement; descriptive and causal inference; basics of logical reasoning;
longitudinal, comparative and case study research; field data collection; working with texts and analyzing qualitative data; and, finally, dissertation write-up. Throughout the course, we will not avoid issues of epistemology, i.e., how we know what we know and how to adjudicate competing “truth” claims. However, we will set aside or bracket many of the epistemological and ontological debates in order to discuss at a practical level particular techniques for researching and analyzing social phenomena. The course will therefore focus on the following main topics: (1) the goals of dissertations and other scholarly analyses, and elements of research design; (2) selection and application of different methodologies for conducting research; (3) collection of primary and secondary data on the field; (4) analysis and synthesis of data in the dissertation-writing process; (5) professional practices and conventions.
Acknowledgements: The general concept of this course was developed in exchanges with Zsolt Enyedi, Erin Jenne, and Carsten Schneider. The section on course objectives is a nearly direct borrowing from the predecessor of this course, i.e Erin Jenne’s ‘Methods and Research Design’ for PhD students in IR and European Studies. Zdenek Kudrna, Elena Stavreska, and Sara Svensson offered a number of thoughts and comments on the initial concept that helped refining and expanding the agenda. Xymena Kurowska was very helpful in selecting readings and developing concepts for the sessions on interpretive methods and discourse analysis. Thilo Bodenstein, Andreas Goldthau, Andrea Krizsán, and Nick Sitter gave valuable advice on readings, methods and topics that may be of particular interest to public policy scholars, while Dorothee Bohle, András Bozóki, Levente Littvay and Carsten Schneider offered various suggestions on readings in the philosophy of science and methodology. Scott Althaus kindly agreed to let his dissertation be used as a course reading. Thanks are due to all of them for the advice and encouragement.
By the end of this course, participants will be better able to:
Identify their central research question Situate their research question in the relevant literature(s) Formulate a theoretically-interesting argument Identify the relevant universe of cases and units of analysis Select appropriate methods best suited for addressing the research question Prepare an executable research plan Apply the method(s) to a research project Assess the empirical support for an argument Make informed decisions on their future academic career path Participate in scholarly discussions and the peer-review system in political science Argue about the relevance and merits of different research methods and study designs in the context of particular research questions Course requirements: reading, participation, presentations, short assignments, final paper Readings are listed below in the week-by-week program. Readings marked by a # mark are mandatory and everyone has to cover them before the first class of the respective week.
The syllabus also gives shortlists of further useful readings, occasionally showing internet addresses or Dewey numbers (e.g. 300./1) for library shelves where they can be accessed.
Class participation including two presentations (30%): Active participation in discussions throughout the course will be essential and should help in developing a better understanding of your already existing strengths and (soon to be overcome) weaknesses as a researcher, and improving your approach to methods issues as a participant to discussions. Each participant will introduce the discussion on one of the research articles discussed in the course and play the role of the (reasonable and not necessarily uncritical, but nevertheless firm) advocate of the positions taken by that reading while the rest of us will contemplate the merits and possible weaknesses of the given analysis. Presenters must meet the instructor during office hours during the week before their presentation is scheduled, and submit by e-mail their slides by 1 pm on the Wednesday of the presentation’s week. The second presentation will be a five-minute outline of a draft dissertation proposal, which we will discuss then at some length. The topic may be something that you just invented merely for the purpose of this course, but ideally it would be the one that you actually intend to develop into your dissertation proposal in the coming months. The two presentations will each count for 10% of the final grade.
Weekly assignments (30%): several times during the term, each course participant will have to turn in a short written assignment by email to the instructor (at ceu.hu). Unless otherwise noted in the syllabus below, the deadline for submission is always at noon on the Wednesday of the given week. For details on the assignments see the week by week program below. Feedback on the assignments will be provided in class as well as in one-toone consultations (two times 20 minutes for each participant) organized in weeks 4 and 6 of the course.
Final paper (40%): By 11 January 2010, all course participants will have to submit a maximum 4000 words (plus references) long draft research proposal – ideally, for those planning to do empirical research in their dissertation, a first draft of the participants’ dissertation proposal. This paper should contain (1) the central research question; (2) an identification of the scholarly literature and the debate (if any) that it addresses; (3) the theory and hypotheses/theoretical expectations (the latter have to be stated if the purpose of the study is not purely descriptive); (4) the methodology; (5) a technical discussion of case selection and its substantive and methodological justification; (6) a plan of data collection and analysis; and may add (7) a timetable for the planned research activities and further arguments about the feasibility of the research plan, including write-up.
Rules on late submission: Marks on written assignments submitted after the deadline will be reduced by ten percent for every day passed since the respective deadline unless evidence is provided of a (e.g., medical) condition beyond the student’s control that inhibited work on the assignment. Any such evidence has to be submitted together with the assignment in question.
Class schedule and course structure As a general rule, we have three time slots for this class every week during the term: Wednesday 17:20-19:00; Thursday 15:30-17:10; and Friday 15:30-17:10. The idea is that we split into two groups for half the classes so that we can have more intense participation in the seminar discussions. Thus, the Wednesday and Thursday classes will normally be dedicated to discussions and you will each attend just one of the two classes, while we will all meet on Friday afternoons to complete and wrap up the topics of the week. The Friday classes will also have some mini-lectures on methods topics that – in a somewhat arbitrary order – were added to the topics to be covered during the various weeks.
The course is divided into four parts. The first two weeks cover various aspects of the profession and should be useful for making prudent choices about your academic targets for the next couple of years. The second section looks at some other factors that you should consider in choosing a dissertation topic, such as: what epistemologies do you feel comfortable with? How can you identify or develop appropriate theories? Where will you get the necessary data for your analysis? Part three surveys some scholarly methods of analysis. The purpose here is neither to organize a crash-course introduction into particular methods nor to have a systematic and comprehensive survey of the most frequently used methodologies in the profession. Instead, the aim is to improve your understanding of (A) general methodological issues in political research and how they occur with respect to just about any method that you may use; and (B) the strengths of particular methods and what their application may require from you in terms of research questions, data, skills, and further training. Part four will consist of two kinds of events.
The Friday classes of this period will explore some very practical issues with the help of guest speakers, while the seminars will be devoted to your presentation of your (possibly just preliminary) ideas for a research proposal, which you will then revise, elaborate and submit as the final assignment for this course in January 2009.
Expected prior knowledge, general and further readings This course is meant to be taken by a relatively large and heterogeneous group of participants.
Many of you took academic writing as well as methods classes like Qualitative Methods with Thilo Boldenstein, or Methods and Research Design with Erin Jenne or Scope and Methods in Political Science with Levi Littvay and Tamas Meszerics during your previous studies, and we cannot revisit here the material covered in those courses (for a good collection of syllabi for similar courses, visit http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/moynihan/programs/cqrm/syllabi.html).
Instead, this course is organized mostly as a series of seminar discussions about concrete examples of empirical research, and we will merely refer back to the specialist literature on research design and specific methods when issues covered in that literature arise in our discussions. On the questions of greatest relevance for your own work, you will of course want to follow up independently the scholarly discussions of the specific methods, research design, or professional practice issues covered in this course, but the course can only direct you to some further readings on each week’s topics, and it may be useful to browse these materials before the seminars, and, maybe, also shortlist for yourself a couple of them for careful reading some time after this semester is over. To take full advantage of this course while it is running, you should, however, never accept having difficulties in following discussions in the class, but either ask for instant clarification or consult some of the following general works (that provide at least some starting points) or other appropriate sources.
Epistemological issues 300./1 Martin, Michael, and Lee C. McIntyre, eds. 1994. Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. (Especially Carl Hempel’s “The Function of General Laws in History”, Clifford Geertz’s “Thick Description: Towards an Interpretive Theory of Culture”, Charles Taylor’s “Interpretation and the Sciences of Man,” and Jon Elster’s “The Nature and Scope of Rational Choice Explanation” and “Functional Explanations in the Social Sciences”.) 300./1 HOL Hollis, Martin. 1994. The Philosophy of Social Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
501 KUH Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962) 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 2nd enlarged ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
501 LAK Lakatos, Imre. 1970. “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programs.” in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, ed. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available at http://www.philosophy.ru/edu/ref/sci/lakatos.html 501 LAK Motterlini, Matteo, ed. 1999. For and Against Method: Including Lakatos's Lectures
on Scientific Method and the Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondence. Chicago, IL:
University of Chicago Press.
Newall, Paul et al. 2004-. The Galilean Library on the History and Philosophy of Science. URL:
http://www.galilean-library.org/hps.php# Modes and designs of inquiry. Methodology textbooks and handbooks 300./72 GRA Gray, Paul S., John B. Williamson, David A. Karp, John R. Dalphin, with Karen Bettez Halnon and James Carritte. 2007. The Research Imagination: An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Methods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
300.1 KIN King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry:
Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
300./3 SIL Smelser, Neil J., and Paul B. Baltes, eds. 2001. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
300./72 BRA Brady, Henry E., and David Collier. eds. 2004. Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
320.072 Evera, Stephen van. 1997. Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
300.1 RAG Ragin, Charles C. 1987. The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
300./72 DEL della Porta, Donatella, and Michael Keating, eds. 2008. Approaches and Methodologies in the Social Sciences: A Pluralist Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
320./072 BOX Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., Henry E. Brady, and David Collier, eds. 2008. The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.