Research Methods


Reasearch Methods

Dr. Udi Sommer

Course description

The purposes of this course are to provide students with useful tools for engaging in empirical research in political science and to help students understand literature that uses a range of research methods. Students will learn how to think about theoretical problems in terms of empirical models – theory, hypothesis testing, data collection, presentation of research, writing research papers and a thesis. Finally, this class is intended to give students an opportunity to develop their thesis.


II. Learning Objectives

This course should prepare students to:
1. Identify and evaluate scholarship in political science with an emphasis on security and diplomacy and
on leadership, communication and elections.
2. Design an individual research project, matching theory with the appropriate research methodology.
3. Obtain and evaluate information relevant to the execution of a research project.
4. Present findings from a research project.

III. Course Requirements

• Final Assignment and Presentation:
Final Assignment + Class Presentation: 40% of final grade.
Assignments are to be handed in at the beginning of the class session for which they are due. When
possible, students are encouraged to submit an electronic copy of the assignment, rather than submit a
hard copy. Just like the hard copy, the e-copy is due at the beginning of the class session. Electronic
submission is possible via email.
• Exams: 40% of final grade.
• Participation: 20% of final grade.

Final Assignment - Research design paper (foundations for thesis):
The design should have a complete literature review and situate the research question within an established
theoretical debate. It should include greater detail about the aspects of the argument that the final research
project will make. It should employ at least one of the methods discussed in class. It should offer greater detail
about information gathering. The text of the paper should be 6 pages in length (double spaced; 12 font) and
contain proper citations and a complete bibliography. The bibliography does not count as a part of the 6 pages.
Papers should be well written and argued. Further requirements for the final paper and presentation will be
discussed in class.

A research design proposes a project, it does not actually complete that project (the goal is for you to set the
foundations in the research design and then complete the project as a part of your thesis, if you are planning to
write one). A research design advances a tentative initial argument in response to its question. It does not mean
that the initial argument will in fact be the final argument and conclusion – the experience and process of
research always alters the original design. However, the design offers a starting point and an initial plan from
which an experienced researcher can learn to deviate and improvise as the situation warrants. Your papers will
help you learn to make better plans for your own research. Your experience in following through on those
plans will make you a better researcher.

IV. Class Schedule and Readings (note: additional readings may be added)

Reading assignments should be completed before the class for which they are assigned.

Week 1

• General introduction, syllabus, assignments and exams

Week 2

• Components of a research paper
• From Title to Appendix
To do:
Assignment: come up with a list of 3-4 potential topics of research in political science. Then pick one of those
topics and come up with 3-5 potential research questions for it. Bring both lists to class.
Browse these two guides to formulating research questions:

Week 3

• Ethics of Research
• Asking Questions
• What is theory?
• What is research?

Steve Smith, “Singing the World into Existence: International Relations and September 11,” International
Studies Quarterly 48:3 (2004), pages 499-515
Jack Snyder, “One World, Rival Theories,” Foreign Policy, November/December 2004
Richard Swedberg. 2012. "Theorizing in Sociology and Social Science: Turning to the Context of Discovery",
Theory and Society, 41(1): 1-40.
Team-Based Learning Assignment #1

Week 4 

• Literature Review
• Constructing answers: Evidence and arguments
• Using the library: Information literacy and primary sources
• The scientific method in the social sciences
• Causal Models and Hypothesis Testing
• Quantitative methods: Science by statistics

Jeffrey W. Knopf, “Doing a Literature Review,” PS: Political Science and Politics 39 (January 2006), pages
John Stewart Mill, “Two Methods of Comparison,” -
Studenmund (2006) Using Econometrics, Chapters 1-2

Week 5 – Research questions and literature review (individual meetings)

Week 6 

• Quantitative methods: Science by statistics
• Testing research questions quantitatively
• OLS regression
• Recap for Midterm Exam

Studenmund (2006) Using Econometrics, Chapters 1-2
Maltzman, Forrest and Paul J. Wahlbeck. 1996. “May It Please the Chief? Opinion Assignments in the
Rehnquist Court.” American Journal of Political Science 40:421-433.
April 22 – Memorial Day

Week 7 - Research Design (individual meetings)

Week 8  – Midterm Exam

Week 8

• Using statistics software packages: STATA
• Basic regression analysis
• Hypothesis testing in regression

Studenmund (2006) Using Econometrics, Chapters 3-5

Week 9

• Using statistics software packages: STATA
• Model Specification (independent variables and functional form)
• Interactions
• Limited Dependent Variables

Studenmund (2006) Using Econometrics, Chapters 6-10, 13

Week 10 

• Qualitative methods
• Comparative case studies

Andrew Bennett and Colin Elman, “Case Study Methods in the International Relations Subfield,” ComparativePolitical Studies, 40(2) (February 2007), 170-95
John Gerring, “What Is a Case Study and What Is It Good For?” American Political Science Review 98 (2004):341-54

Week 11

• Evaluating the democratic peace debate
• Evaluating a causal qualitative argument: What caused the end of the Cold War?
• Social Network Analysis
• Epistemological Foundations of IR Theory and Power / Knowledge
• Writing – how to start (and finish) good theses and good papers in political science
• Presentations – how to create an effective presentation
• Recap for Final Exam

Zeev Maoz and Bruce Russett, “Normative and Structural Cases of Democratic Peace, 1946-1986,” American
Political Science Review, 87(3), (1993), 624-38
Henry Farber and Joanne Gowa, “Polities and Peace,” International Security, 20(3) (1995), 123-46
Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth, “Power, Globalization and the End of the Cold War: Reevaluating a
Landmark Case for Ideas,” International Security, 25(3) (2000/1), 5-53
Robert English, “Power, Ideas, and New Evidence on the Cold War’s End,” International Security, 26(4)
(2002), 70-92.
Kevin C. Dunn, “The Forum: Examining Historical Representations,” International Studies Review, 8(2)
Hayward Alker, Jr. and Thomas Biersteker, “The Dialectics of World Order: Notes for a Future Archeologist
of International Savoir Faire,” International Studies Quarterly, 28(2) (1984).
Charles Tilly, “To Explain Political Processes,” The American Journal of Sociology 100(6) (1995), 1594-610
Karin Fierke, “Links Across the Abyss: Language and Logic in International Relations,” International Studies
Quarterly, 46 (2002), 331-354
David Kinsella, “The Black Market in Small Arms: Examining a Social Network,” Contemporary Security
Policy, 27(1) (2006) 100-117
Alexander Dryer, “How the NSA Does ‘Social Network Analysis’”, Slate, May 15, 2006.
Team-Based Learning Assignment #2

Week 12

• Using online databases
• Quality of Government Database
• Supreme Court Database
• Merging databases
• Interpretive research
• Interpreting institutions and participant observations
• Genealogy
• Feminist Approaches

Iver Neumann, “’A Speech That the Entire Ministry May Stand For,’ or: Why Diplomats Never Produce
Anything New.” International Political Sociology, 1(2) (2007), 193-200
Richard Price, “A Genealogy of the Chemical Weapons Taboo,” International Organization, 49(1) (1995), 73-104
J. Ann Tickner, “What Is Your Research Program? Some Feminist Answers to International Relations
Methodological Questions,” International Studies Quarterly 49(1) (2005), 1-22
Team-Based Learning Assignment #3

Week 13  – Final Exam

Week 14  – Class presentations (first batch)

Week 14 – Class presentations (second batch) + Final paper due


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