Political Science 409



Spring 2004

1:00-2:15 Tuesday & Thursday


Professor Marie Hojnacki                                                                      Office:   N-165 Burrowes

Office hours:  Tuesday 2:30 to 3:30                                                         Office phone:    865.1912

Wednesday 11:00 to 1:00 & by appointment                                            Email:   marieh@psu.edu



Course Objectives


The objective of this course is to introduce you to the social science method and its application to the quantitative study of politics.  Topics to be taken up will include measurement, research design, data collection, quantitative data analysis, and the construction of research questions and hypotheses.  An understanding of some basic statistical techniques is necessary to study politics quantitatively.  But you will not be required to memorize statistical formulas or engage in computation more complex than multiplication and division.  Rather, the overall emphasis in the course is on understanding the strengths and limitations of a scientific approach to politics, and on the interpretation of quantitative analyses of political and policy-relevant data.


All of the analyses you undertake will be completed using the SPSS for Windows statistical software, which is not difficult to use.  We will spend time during the semester learning how to navigate through the SPSS menus (e.g., how to open a file, how to print an output file), and how to accomplish some basic data analysis tasks. 



Books & Other Reading Materials


Most of the reading for this course will be drawn from one text: Johnson, Janet Buttolph, Richard A. Joslyn, and H.T. Reynolds.  2001.  Political Science Research Methods, 4th edition.  Washington, DC: CQ Press. (JJR in the syllabus)  This book is available for sale in the bookstore and through regular reserve.


I will assign additional reading either in class or by Email (you are responsible for making sure that I have an accurate Email address for you throughout the semester and also for checking your Email regularly).  I will either provide these additional readings for you, provide a web address to access the material, or make them available through electronic reserve.  Current journal articles can be found in the social science library at Paterno.  Journal articles that are a few years old or older can be found on the web at www.jstor.org.     



Grading/Course Requirements


Final course grades will be calculated as follows:


In-class and take home assignments       25%

Midterm exam                                       30%

Final exam                                            30%

Participation and attendance                   15%


Some assignments are listed in the course schedule that appears below.  Additional assignments will be added during the semester.  All assignments are to be turned in during class on the day they are due.  Late assignments will be penalized one full letter grade for each day that passes between the due date and the date you turn in the assignment.  Missed in-class assignments cannot be made up.  


The examinations in this course will have a short answer format.  Some questions will require that you define and explain relevant terms and concepts, and others will require that you assess the use of certain research methods and analytic techniques.  The final exam will require you to apply formulas for analytic techniques we cover in class, and to interpret the results of analyses you perform (you also may be asked to interpret empirical analyses I present to you).  There are only a few formulas that I expect you to memorize for exams; other formulas will be provided for your use on the exams.


The midterm examination will be given on Thursday, 26 February.  The date for the final examination will be announced when it is available.  Make-up exams will not be given.


Class participation and attendance are an important part of your grade.  I expect students to read carefully the assigned materials on time, to attend class, and to contribute to class discussions.  You’ll learn a lot more if you come to class than if you don’t, and you’ll also get more from the class if you participate actively in the learning process (by engaging in class discussions, asking questions, and listening attentively to me and to others in the class).  If you miss a substantial number of classes (more than six) for any reason, you will not receive a passing grade for participation and attendance.  This applies even if you have missed these days because of illness.  If you become so sick that you miss more than six classes (equivalent to more than 20 percent of the semester), then your illness will have prevented you from fulfilling the participation/attendance requirement for the class.  If you do not participate in class discussion, your grade for the participation and attendance portion of the course will be adversely affected.


Note that it is not possible in this class to submit extra assignments in an effort to raise your grade, unless I have specified in advance to the entire class that such an opportunity exists.  See the statement at the end of the syllabus for information regarding academic misconduct and dishonesty.



Course Schedule


I reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus as the semester progresses.  You are responsible for keeping up with these changes, which will be announced either in class or via Email.  You are responsible for making sure that I have an accurate Email address for you throughout the semester, and for checking your Email regularly.


Unless otherwise specified, the first reading listed is due on the first day of each of the units mapped out below (e.g., for the first unit, JJR, chapter 1 is due on 15 January).  As we approach each of these units, I will tell you precisely when the other readings will be due.  Assignments are due on the date indicated.  If no date is listed, I will also let you know when that assignment is due.  Additional assignments may be added.



What is the science of politics?  What does it mean to undertake scientific research about politics?  (15–27 January)




·                     Empirical political science and studying politics scientifically

·                     Inference and uncertainty

·                     A sampling of questions and topics that motivate empirical research in political science




  • JJR, chapter 1
  • JJR, chapter 2 (read for Tuesday, 20 January)
  • King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane and Sidney Verba.  1994.  Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.  Chapter 1, The Science of Social Science.  Note: Available through electronic reserve; read for 20 January.




(1)    JJR chapter 1, exercise 1 (instead of the journals mentioned in the exercise, look only at the American Political Science Review, Comparative Politics, and International Studies Quarterly).  Write up a one-page description of the major topics addressed in these journals.  We will discuss in class the information you gather.  Due: Tuesday, 20 January


(2)    JJR chapter 2, exercise 2 (use the New York Times or another national newspaper as your source of current event information) and exercise 6.  Due: Thursday, 22 January


(3)    Describe in one paragraph of no more than 250 words what you think it means to study politics scientifically, identifying any aspects of the scientific study of politics that are unclear or confusing.  Due: Tuesday, 27 January   



What are the critical components of social science research?  What is the nature of inquiry in political science?  What does it mean to “measure” concepts in political science?  Are all measures created equal?  How do social scientists evaluate the quality of measures? What types of measurement error exist and why are the differences important to a researcher? (29 January-19 February)




·         What makes a good research question

·                     Identifying concepts and units of analysis

·                     Understanding variation: independent and dependent variables

·                     Understanding and posing hypotheses

  • Constructing measures
  • Evaluating measures – reliability and validity
  • Random and systematic measurement error
  • Measurement precision (aka “levels of measurement”)




  • JJR, chapter 3
  • JJR, chapter 4




(1)    JJR, chapter 3, exercise 4


(2)  JJR, chapter 4, exercises 3, 4, & 5



What are the different ways to design a scientific research project?  (24 February)




·         Experimental and non-experimental research designs

·         Internal and external validity




·         JJR, chapter 5 (read pages 111-118 and 133-148)




(1)  JJR, chapter 5, exercise 5



Midterm Exam, Thursday, 26 February



How much data should be collected?  Why does it matter how the data are collected?  (2-4 March)




·         Samples and populations

·         Random and nonrandom samples

·         Sampling error

·         Uncertainty and inference




·         JJR, chapter 7 (be attentive to the differences among, and strengths and weaknesses across, different types of samples; you need not need be fluent in the details of different types of probability and nonprobability samples)





·         In-class exercise illustrating the principles underlying sampling distributions.



What are some of the techniques used to analyze data quantitatively?  (16 March-27 April)




·         Simple descriptive presentations of data: frequency distributions, charts

·         Measures of central tendency and dispersion

·         Assessing relationships between two variables: crosstabulation and chi-square, simple measures of the strength and direction of a relationship, bivariate regression analysis

·         Spurious relationships

·         Assessing relationships among more than two variables: multivariate regression analysis




·         JJR, chapter 11 (pages 305-327) – measures of central tendency & measures of dispersion

·         JJR, chapter 11 (pages 327-334) – the normal distribution & statistical inference

·         JJR, chapter 12 (pages 338-363) – crosstabs & measures of association

·         JJR, chapter 12 (pages 363-369) – difference of means

·         JJR, chapter 12 (pages 369-384) – bivariate regression

·         JJR, chapter 13 (pages 393-402, 405-408, 409-412) – statistical control and multivariate regression




(1)  JJR, chapter 12, exercises 5, 9, and 11


(2) There will be three or four data analysis assignments.  I will provide the data sets you will use for these assignments.  I also will indicate the type of data analysis I’d like you to undertake for each assignment.



Final Exam, Date and Time TBA



Academic Integrity and Academic Dishonesty1


Along with the Department of Political Science, the College of the Liberal Arts and the University, I take violations of academic dishonesty seriously. Observing basic honesty in one's work, words, ideas, and actions is a principle to which all members of the community are required to subscribe.


All course work by students is to be done on an individual basis unless an instructor clearly states that an alternative is acceptable. Any reference materials used in the preparation of any assignment must be explicitly cited. For an exam, violations of academic integrity consist of any attempt to receive assistance from written or printed aids, or from any person or papers or electronic devices, or of any attempt to give assistance, whether the one so doing has completed his or her own work or not.


Other violations include, but are not limited to, any attempt to gain an unfair advantage in regard to an assignment or exam, such as tampering with a graded exam or claiming another's work to be one's own. Violations shall also consist of obtaining or attempting to obtain, previous to any exam, copies of the exam or the questions to appear thereon, or to obtain any illegal knowledge of these questions. Lying to the instructor or purposely misleading any Penn State administrator shall also constitute a violation of academic integrity.


In cases of a violation of academic integrity it is my policy to impose appropriate penalties that are consistent with College and University guidelines.  The College of Liberal Arts academic integrity website http://www.la.psu.edu/assocdea/academicinteg.htm provides additional information about the procedures that are followed in cases of academic dishonesty.




The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified people with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities and is committed to the policy that all people shall have equal access to programs, facilities, and admissions without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation in this course or have questions about physical access, please tell me as soon as possible. Reasonable accommodations will be made for all students with disabilities, but it is your responsibility to inform me early in the semester so that appropriate accommodations can be arranged.


Department of Political Science web site


You will find a wealth of information on the Political Science Department web site (http://polisci.la.psu.edu/) including course schedules, faculty office hours, faculty home pages describing their areas of teaching and research activities, answers to questions about advising, internship opportunities, announcements, and much, much, more. Check back often: information about internships and career opportunities is regularly updated. 


1Much of this text has been directly obtained from the sections of the Princeton University website hftp://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/rrr/99/pages/Ol.htm ) concerning academic integrity (Rights, Rules, Responsibilities introductory text as well as pages 55‑69) as well as from the website of the Department of Economics at The Pennsylvania State University.