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JOHN CABOT UNIVERSITY

COURSE CODE: "PL 460"
COURSE NAME: "Social Science Research Methods "
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2020
SYLLABUS

INSTRUCTOR: Michael Driessen
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 11:30-12:45 PM
TOTAL NO. OF CONTACT HOURS: 45
CREDITS: 3
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing
OFFICE HOURS:

COURSE DESCRIPTION:
This course presents an introduction to research methods commonly used by political and other social scientists. The course covers the logic of the scientific method, including literature reviews, research design, surveys and experiments, as well as the use of statistical data. Students will hand in a thesis proposal, an outline of their senior thesis topic, and their choice of first and second readers as an exit requirement.
SUMMARY OF COURSE CONTENT:

 

The general structure of this course is meant to teach students how to 1) ask a good research question; 2) craft a research design to begin answering that question; 3) collect evidence appropriate to the task of this research design; and 4) evaluate and articulate the significance of one’s findings relative to this task.

 

In order to achieve the above, this course will discuss the different types of arguments and logics that social scientists employ to answer questions. We will learn how to conduct background research on these questions using the libraries and computers at our disposition. We will consider how the collection of data may be used to establish causality and how to assess the limits and uncertainties of “truth claims.” The course will also introduce the student to various qualitative approaches to data collection. We will also ask what the ethical implications of our research are, chart out how we can carry out field research in our own Italian backyard and learn how to write up the results of our research project.

 

As an applied course, student interaction will be essential and a student’s final grade will be based on the strength of their collaborative participation in class as well as the quality of their final research project. Students, therefore, will regularly present in class on the progress of their projects and will also be required to critique their fellow students’ presentations.

 

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

My pedagogical hope is that students will finish this course with the beginnings of a substantive research project in hand. They will be able to name and apply basic social science research methods to good research questions. They will be prepared to write their senior thesis well.

 

Note: The JCU Library has kindly prepared the following webpage for our course: Link

If you are not familiar with it already, the Library’s Political Science Research Guide is also very helpful: Link

TEXTBOOK:
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Political Research: Methods and Practical SkillsSandra Halperin & Oliver HeathOxford University Press978-0-19-870274-0  
REQUIRED RESERVED READING:
NONE

RECOMMENDED RESERVED READING:
NONE
GRADING POLICY
-ASSESSMENT METHODS:
AssignmentGuidelinesWeight
Outline and Bibliography 10%
Quiz 15%
Paper Presentation 10%
Literature Review 15%
Participation 15%
Final Paper 35%

-ASSESSMENT CRITERIA:
AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

-ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENTS:
This course presents an introduction to research methods commonly used by political and other social scientists. The course covers the logic of the scientific method, including literature reviews, research design, surveys and experiments, as well as the use of statistical data. Students will hand in a thesis proposal, an outline of their senior thesis topic, and their choice of first and second readers as an exit requirement.
ACADEMIC HONESTY
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
STUDENTS WITH LEARNING OR OTHER DISABILITIES
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.

SCHEDULE

January 20Introduction to the Seminar: Working in and on International Politics

Readings: None

PART I: CONCEPTS, METHODS, MODELS REVISITED

January 22: Issues, Methodologies, Theories, and Values in Global Political Research

Readings: Sandra Halperin & Oliver Heath, “Political Research,” Political Research: Methods and Practical Skills (Oxford University Press, 2012/2017), pp.1-22 [Chapter 1] 

January 27 : Philosophy of Knowledge in Political Science

Readings: Sandra Halperin & Oliver Heath, “Research Design,” Political Research: Methods and Practical Skills: pp. 44-48; 53-69 (2012 edition) or pp. 44-49; 54-70 (2017 edition) [parts of Chapter 2 & 3]

January 29: Asking and Answering Research Questions: Formulating Puzzles & Hypotheses

Readings: Sandra Halperin & Oliver Heath,” Political Research: Methods and Practical Skills (Oxford University Press, 2012) “Asking Questions,” and “Answering Questions,” (Chapters 5 & 6 in 2012 edition, chapters 4 & 5 in 2017 edition)

February 3Research Question Workshop I

Workshop Assignment 1: bring a draft of your question to class and circulate to the group

Readings: Max Weber (1958), “Science as a Vocation,” Daedalus, (87)1,

February 5: Research Question Workshop II

Workshop Assignment 2: Name the most important term of your research topic. Then: 1) Provide a working definition for that term (conceptualization) and 2) Name one way you could measure it in reality (operationalization)

February 10: Effective Research Designs

Library Session This Week

Readings: Sandra Halperin & Oliver Heath,” Political Research: Methods and Practical Skills : “Research Design,” & “Comparative Research” (Chapters 7 & 9 in 2012 edition, Chapters 6 & 9 in 2017 edition)

February 12Doing Research I

Readings: James Mahoney (2004), “Comparative-Historical Methodology,” Annual Review of Sociology (30)

Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” available at:

February 14 (make-up date for April 13th holiday)Doing Research II: Interviews and Surveys

Readings: Sandra Halperin & Oliver Heath,” Political Research: Methods and Practical Skills  “Surveys,” and “Interviewing and Focus Groups,” (Chapters 10 & 11 of 2012 edition or Chapters 11 & 12 of 2017 edition)

February 17: Doing Research III: Ethnographies and Textual Analysis

Readings: Sandra Halperin & Oliver Heath,” Political Research: Methods and Practical Skills  “Ethnography and Participant Observation,” and “Textual Analysis,” (Chapters 12 & 13 of 2012 edition or Chapters 13 & 14 of 2017 edition)

February 19: METHODOLOGY QUIZ

February 24: Writing Policy

Readings: Bidisha Biswas & Agnieszka Paczynska (2015), “Teaching theory, writing policy: Integrating lessons from foggy bottom into the classroom,” PS: Political Science & Politics, 48 (1): 157-161. Link

February 26: Mapping Policy Clusters (or how to chart out your future career)

Readings: James G. McGann (2019) “2018 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report,” University of Pennsylvania     

Workshop Assignment 3: Bring to Class a list of the top 5 entrants in each of the following categories as relates to your research: 1) top 5 scholars working on your area of research; 2) top 5 graduate school programs in your area of research; 3) top 5 think tanks/NGOs in your area of research; 4) top 5 policy briefs ever written on your area of research; 5) top 5 International/Governmental Organizations working on your area of research

March 2: Exploring Writing Styles I

                Workshop Assignment 4: Map out a policy-oriented research article for your project

March 4 : Exploring Writing Styles II

              Workshop Assignment 4: Map out a policy-oriented research article for your project

Outline and Annotated Bibliography Due by Friday March 6th

SPRING BREAK: MARCH 9-13

March 16-18  No Class: Driessen in Abu Dhabi

Students are required to sign up for a 30-minute meeting with Professor Driessen between March 18-April 6

March 20  One on One Writing Workshop  

March 23: One on One Writing Workshop

March 25: No Class: Driessen at International Studies Association Conference

March 30One on One Writing Workshop

April 1: One on One Writing Workshop

DRAFT OF LITERATURE REVIEW DUE; TO BE CIRCULATED AMONG PARTICIPANTS

PART II: DOING AND PRESENTING IR RESEARCH AND POLICY OPTIONS

Students are required to sign up for a 30-minute meeting with Professor Driessen between April 13-April 27

April 6: Student Presentations & Discussion 

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April 8:  Student Presentations & Discussion

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April 13Student Presentations & Discussion

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April 15: Student Presentations & Discussion

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April 20: Student Presentations & Discussion

                 Workshop Assignment 5: Make Calendar Plan for 2020 Thesis Writing

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April 22: Student Presentations & Discussion

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April 27:  Student Presentations & Discussion

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April 29: Student Presentations & Discussion

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FINAL TERM RESEARCH/POLICY PAPER DUE on FINAL EXAM DATE