Welcome to PS222


This course focuses on how we go about collecting evidence in order to provide answers to important social, political, and legal questions. We will cover a range of quantitative and qualitative methods, from direct observation to surveys to statistical analysis. But more importantly, we will pay attention to how good research design allows us to draw helpful conclusions about the world we live in while flawed methodologies can yield misleading results. Upon successful completion of PS222, I expect you will be able to critically evaluate information presented to you as “research” in your future careers in policy, advocacy, law, or simply as engaged global citizens.

Final Exam

For your final exam in this class, please read the following articles and book chapters over the weekend:

I highly encourage you to work in groups, take notes, and annotate the articles.  The exam is open-book, open-computer, open-note.  In fact, you will definitely want access to the articles on exam day.  The exam will consist of a series of questions about the articles.  I am not going to tell you the types of questions I am going to ask…you should be able to figure this out for yourself.  In fact, thinking about the types of question that you should be asking yourself when reading “research” is the whole point of this course!

My advice:

1) Read the articles in the order above, and think critically about each article BEFORE you read the next one.  Then consider how that subsequent article might make you think differently about the earlier one. (But don’t let that next article totally overturn what you previously thought…keep your notes from when you read the first and continue to reflect back and forth across the articles)

2) Take lots and lots of notes and annotations.

3) Try to predict my questions.  And prepare answers accordingly.

4) After you have done all of this, I highly ENCOURAGE you to meet and discuss with other members of the class.  If someone else thought of something you didn’t think of that’s great.  If you get to a point where you all agree on a bunch of major points…that’s a good sign…the odds are against everybody being wrong, so you’re probably all on track for a B.  If you get to the point where you all agree on the basics, but you disagree with some of your classmates on more subtle points…that’s even better, you might be on track for an A.


Good luck, and as always, have fun!

Week 13: Linear Regression

This week we are going to return to the topic of statistics.  We will use Monday’s class to review the T-test for comparing means between two different groups.  Then on Wednesday and Friday we will move on to talk about a more sophisticated technique for comparing relationships between multiple continuous variables.

Meanwhile, your final homework of the semester is due on Friday.  Also on Friday, I will hand out an article for you to read over the weekend.  That article will be the basis for next Monday’s (12/3) final exam.

Monday, November 26: T-Test Review

Wednesday, November 28: Linear Regression

Friday, November 30: Linear Regression continued

Week 12: Thanksgiving Week

This will be a bit of a transition week as we wrap up our analysis of qualitative data and run through a quick review of statistics before we turn toward statistical regression analysis next week.  In the meantime, we will continue to workshop your research projects in class. Remember that your Research Project Part 3 is due Monday, November 26th, your final exam is Monday, December 3rd, and the final research paper and presentation is due during our exam period on Wednesday, December 12th.

Monday, November 19th

Wednesday, November 21st

  • Review PSRM pp. 428-490
  • Work on your research project!

Week 11: Analyzing Qualitative Data

This week we will be discussing ways to collect and analyze original qualitative data, whether it be from interviews, focus groups, historical records, or direct ethnographic observation.  Remember that the second part of your research design project is due Monday and that the third part is due after Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12th: Collecting Qualitative Data

Wednesday, November 14th: Analyzing Qualitative Data

  • PSRM: Ch. 9

Friday, November 16th: Interpretive Approaches to Qualitative Research

Week 10: Case Studies

This week we will finish up our discussion of experimental approaches and move on to discuss ways of making causal inferences through the qualitatively analysis and comparison of carefully selected cases.  Remember that your Research Project Part 2 is due on Monday 11/12.

Monday 11/5: Experimental Method Review

  • Review PSRM Research Design Chapter
  • Review Ansolabehere article
  • Freaks and Geeks (just read enough so you get a taste of the concept of a “natural experiment”

Wednesday 11/7: Comparative Case Studies

Friday 11/9: Process Tracing

Week 9: Causal Inference

This week we are going to step away from statistics and explore the difference between when we say that two variables are correlated and when we can say that one CAUSES the other.  As you might expect, the latter is much harder to prove from an empirical standpoint.  As we head into the last week of the election, we will explore the question of what effect negative advertising has on election outcomes.  We will look at an example of how some scholars used an experimental approach to try to get an answer to this question and we will discuss the utility of trying to conduct social research like an experiment.

Monday: Confounding Causality

  • PSRM: Ch. 6

Wednesday, Oct 31: Experimental Approach

Friday, Nov. 2:

Week 8: Midterm Week

This week we are going to wrap up our work on statistical inference and review what we have learned so far in preparation for your exam on Friday.  Homework #6 is due on Monday.  It is posted below as an Excel spreadsheet file.  Please note that there are 2 worksheets in the document, make sure you complete both “Polls” and “States”.  A guide sheet for the midterm is posted below.

Monday, October 22: T-Tests

Wednesday, October 24: Review — Below are two chapters from an alternative textbook on statistics. This is not required reading, but if you found PSRM’s treatment of statistics a little confusing, you might find this alternative presentation helpful.

Friday, October 26: Midterm Exam

Week 7: Analyzing Quantitative Data

This week we will begin learning techniques to deal with quantitative data, from basic summary statistics and graphical presentation to the use of confidence intervals for proportional data.  Please bring a laptop to class each day this week if you own one.  If not, we will provide you with a laptop during class.

Monday, October 15: Presentation of Data Using Excel

Wednesday, October 17: Statistical Inference

  • PSRM: Ch. 12

Friday, October 19: Statistical Inference Continued

A reminder that your midterm exam is next Friday, October 26!

Week 6: Surveys and Datasets

This week we will be moving on to discuss how quantitative data is collected.  Working in teams,  you will design and conduct a small survey-based research project ove the course of the week.  You will be tasked with writing questions, conducting the survey on an appropriate sample population, and interpreting the results.  We will also take a look at some large existing datasets that you will frequently see used in political science studies and that may even be helpful for your own research project.


Monday 10/8: Survey Design Project

  • PSRM Ch. 10

Wednesday 10/10: Basic Data Analysis

  • PSRM Ch. 11

Friday 10/12: Datasets

  • Review PSRM Ch. 11
  • Work on Homework #5 (Now Due Monday 10/15)

Week 5: Sampling and Measurement Continued

Your Research Design Assignment Part 1 is due by class time on Monday!  We will spend the rest of the week catching up on aspects of measurement and sampling that we did not get to last week, concluding with a discussion of efforts to assess the number of casualties in Iraq attributable to the US intervention.  We will also begin to make the transition from the theme of democracy and war to the theme of Presidential polling.

Monday, October 1st: Measurement Catch-up

Wednesday, October 3rd: Sampling Strategies

Friday 9/28: Iraq War Casualties