Political Science | Research Methods in Political Science
Y580 | 23398 | McGinnis

Topic:  Research Design

In scientific research, the way in which that research is designed
can be a critical determinant of its value in terms of contribution
to scientific knowledge. This seminar introduces graduate students
to the art and science of research design. We will cover the basic
logic of scientific inference, paying particular attention to the
key steps of conceptualization, hypothesis-formation,
measurement/operationalization, case selection, and interpretation
of results. Our focus will remain on the overall logic of research
design, rather than on the specific mechanics of any one particular
technique. Students should emerge from this seminar with an
appreciation of the wide range of approaches to research in
political science and public policy, as well as the ability to
comparatively evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different
approaches. We will cover the basic logic of experimental and quasi-
experimental designs, comparative case studies, and some types of
qualitative research. We will read general treatments of the logic
of research design as well as specific instances of exemplary
design. After completing this course, students should be able to
design their own research projects (including their required second-
year paper) in a way that insures that, no matter what they find,
their findings will constitute a valid contribution to scientific
knowledge on their chosen subject.

This seminar is primarily designed for second-year students in
political science, as part of our newly instituted multi-year
program of orientation to the profession of political science.
(Other students can be enrolled with permission of the instructor.)
Although this course is listed at the same time and place as a
section of Y580 taught by Bill Bianco, these two sections will meet
on alternate weeks. These two seminars are intended for different
audiences (mine for second-year students, Bianco’s for more advanced
students), so students should sign up for at most one. Both seminars
are intended to continue into the spring semester, and the work load
will be distributed across both semesters.