Building blocks of scientific research


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Building blocks of scientific research

  1. 1. The Building Blocks of Social Scientific Research <ul><li>Andrew Martin </li></ul><ul><li>PS 372 </li></ul>
  2. 2. Political Scientists study... <ul><li>Individual behavior (voters, citizens)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Group behavior (parties, interest groups)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Institutional behavior (Congress, presidency)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Jurisdictional behavior (states, nations)‏ </li></ul>
  3. 7. Specifying a Question <ul><li>Specify the question or problem </li></ul><ul><li>Propose an explanation </li></ul><ul><li>Define concepts ID'd by hypotheses </li></ul><ul><li>Formulate testable hypotheses </li></ul>
  4. 8. Example <ul><li>Specify the question or problem: </li></ul><ul><li>Are financially and organizationally stronger parties more successful in civil and criminal litigation in state supreme courts? </li></ul><ul><li>Wheeler, et al. 1987. “Do the 'Haves' Come Out Ahead? Winning and Losing in State Supreme Courts, 1870-1970.” Law and Society Review 21: 403-445. </li></ul>
  5. 9. Propose Explanation <ul><li>Theory </li></ul><ul><li>Reasons why stronger parties might fare better in court: </li></ul><ul><li>1. Normative tilt of the law </li></ul><ul><li>2. Class/social relationships </li></ul><ul><li>3. Litigation resources </li></ul>
  6. 10. Propose Explanation <ul><li>Theory </li></ul><ul><li>Reasons why weaker parties might far better in court: </li></ul><ul><li>1. Political/social movements </li></ul><ul><li>2. Judicial elections </li></ul><ul><li>3. Fewer appeal resources/judge sympathy </li></ul>
  7. 11. Propose Explanation Theory Perhaps no systematic advantage exists. Other explanations for outcomes: 1. Court ideology 2. Appeals typically are not frivolous
  8. 12. Identifying Concepts Parties are categorized as individuals, business proprietors, business organizations (or corporations), government (small town) and government (city and state)
  9. 13. Formulate Hypotheses Example: Individuals and Gov't H1: In criminal cases, when one legal party is an individual and the other is the government, the government has a higher probability of winning an appellate case.
  10. 14. Specifying a Question <ul><li>Political science phenomena should be ... </li></ul><ul><li>Significant -- focused yet meaningful </li></ul><ul><li>Observable -- capable of conceptualization </li></ul><ul><li>Political -- must concern political phenomena </li></ul>
  11. 15. Specifying a Question <ul><li>Political science research should ... </li></ul><ul><li>Illuminate relationships </li></ul><ul><li>Relationships should illustrate an association between two variables </li></ul><ul><li>Go beyond gathering factual knowledge </li></ul>
  12. 16. Specifying a Question <ul><li>Have a practical or academic application. </li></ul><ul><li>Not be framed in normative terms. </li></ul><ul><li>Should be interesting. </li></ul>
  13. 17. Coming up with research ideas <ul><li>Start early </li></ul><ul><li>Observe multiple cases for a patterned relationship. </li></ul><ul><li>Find an assertion or statement in research or media you believe is incorrect. </li></ul><ul><li>Find two studies with contradicting conclusions. </li></ul>
  14. 18. Propose an Explanation <ul><li>After question specification, a researcher should propose an explanation for the phenomenon under study. </li></ul><ul><li>The researcher will identify other phenomena related to the primary phenomena. </li></ul><ul><li>Researcher will specify the nature of those relationships. </li></ul>
  15. 19. Examples of Research Questions <ul><li>Is the equal distribution of income related to whether a leftist political party is in control of the government? </li></ul><ul><li>Are human rights abuses related to rapid growth, military regimes, colonial history and economic development? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the tone of a campaign affect voter turnout? </li></ul>
  16. 20. Variable <ul><li>Variable refers to properties or attributes that can be clearly identified or measured in some way. </li></ul>
  17. 21. Variable <ul><li>With variables properties or attributes can change across observations. </li></ul><ul><li>Properties or attributes may change in quality or quantity. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: democracy (quality), PAC contributions (quantity) </li></ul>
  18. 22. Types of Variables <ul><li>Dependent variable </li></ul><ul><li>Independent variable </li></ul><ul><li>Control variable </li></ul>
  19. 23. Dependent Variables <ul><li>Dependent variables are the variable the researcher is trying to explain. </li></ul><ul><li>It is the primary variable of interest. </li></ul>
  20. 24. Dependent Variables <ul><li>Dependent variables are thought to depend on, be caused by or a function of independent variable. </li></ul><ul><li>Changes in values of the dependent variable are somehow related to changes in values of the independent variable. </li></ul>
  21. 25. Independent Variables <ul><li>Independent variables are hypothesized to explain variation in the dependent variable. </li></ul><ul><li>Independent variables are sometimes referred to as explanatory variables. </li></ul>
  22. 26. Independent Variables <ul><li>Independent variables are generally thought to cause a change in the values of dependent variables. </li></ul><ul><li>X CAUSES Y or </li></ul><ul><li>X --> Y </li></ul>
  23. 27. Variables <ul><li>X = Independent Variable </li></ul><ul><li>Y = Dependent Variable </li></ul>
  24. 28. X --> Y <ul><li>We are in effect making 3 claims: </li></ul><ul><li>1. X and Y covary. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Change in X precedes change in Y </li></ul><ul><li>3. The covariation is not coincidental or spurious but direct. </li></ul>
  25. 29. Control Variables <ul><li>Control variables are used to test whether the relationship between the independent and dependent variable are real or spurious. </li></ul>
  26. 30. Control Variables <ul><li>A spurious relationship occurs when the relationship between the independent and dependent variable appears to be valid but is actually explained by other variables. </li></ul><ul><li>Control variables filter spurious relationships. </li></ul>
  27. 32. Control Variables <ul><li>Antecedent variable -- A variable that occurs prior to all other variables and may effect other independent variables. </li></ul><ul><li>Intervening variable -- A variable that occurs closer to the dependent variable and is affected by other independent variables. </li></ul>
  28. 34. What is a hypothesis? <ul><li>A hypothesis is a tentative or provisional or unconfirmed statement that can (in principle) be verified. </li></ul><ul><li>A hypothesis explicitly states the relationship between the independent and dependent variable. </li></ul>
  29. 35. The Big 6 <ul><li>A hypothesis must be: </li></ul><ul><li>1. An empirical statement </li></ul><ul><li>2. Stated as a generality </li></ul><ul><li>3. Plausible </li></ul><ul><li>4. Specific </li></ul><ul><li>5. Stated in a way consistent with testing </li></ul><ul><li>6. Testable </li></ul>
  30. 36. Empirical Hypothesis <ul><li>Wrong: “Democracy is the best form of government.” </li></ul><ul><li>Right: “Democracy is more likely to be found in countries with high literacy than in countries with low literacy.” </li></ul>
  31. 37. General <ul><li>Wrong: The cause of World War II was economic upheaval in Germany. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: Countries experiencing economic upheaval are more likely to become involved in wars. </li></ul>
  32. 38. Be plausible <ul><li>Wrong: People who eat eggs for breakfast are more likely to be liberal. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: People with lower levels of income are more likely to be liberal. </li></ul>
  33. 39. Specific <ul><li>Hypotheses should specify a specific relationship. </li></ul><ul><li>Relationships should be either positive or negative. </li></ul>
  34. 40. Specific <ul><li>Wrong: Raising the U.S. minimum wage will affect job growth. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: Raising the U.S. minimum wage will create more jobs. (Positive relationship)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Right: Raising the U.S. minimum wage will cut jobs. (Negative relationship)‏ </li></ul>
  35. 41. Consistent with Testing <ul><li>Wrong: As the percentage of a country’s population that is literate increases, the county’s political process becomes more democratic. </li></ul><ul><li>Why? Because we do not know whether the researcher is examining one country over time or several countries at the same time. </li></ul>
  36. 42. Testable <ul><li>Difficult to test: The less support there is for a country’s political institutions, the more tenuous the stability of that country’s political system. (Tautology)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Not Testable: Children supportive of authorities as children are less likely to engage in political dissent as adults (No data)‏ </li></ul>
  37. 43. Unit of Analysis <ul><li>A good hypothesis should specify the types or level of political actor to which the hypothesis will test. </li></ul>
  38. 44. Unit of Analysis Levels Individual – individual bureaucrats Group – individual gov't agencies Institutional – bureaucracies
  39. 45. Examples <ul><li>Bureaucrats with more autonomy will be more efficient than those working under stricter regulations. </li></ul><ul><li>Agencies with more autonomy will be more efficient than those working under stricter regulations. </li></ul><ul><li>Bureaucracies in countries with more autonomy will be more efficient than those working under stricter regulations. </li></ul>
  40. 46. Ecological Inference <ul><li>Ecological inference is the process of inferring a relationship between characteristics of individuals based on group or aggregate data. </li></ul>
  41. 47. Ecological Fallacy Ecological fallacy occurs when one deduces a false relationship between the attributes or behavior of individuals based on observing that relationship for groups to which the individuals belong.
  42. 50. Concepts <ul><li>Concepts are abstractions that act as representations of objects, or one of that object’s properties, or a behavioral phenomenon. </li></ul><ul><li>These representations are not empirical phenomena but are symbols of empirical observations. </li></ul>
  43. 51. Concepts <ul><li>Allow scientists to classify experiences and generalize from them </li></ul><ul><li>Are components of theory -- they define a theory’s content and attributes. </li></ul><ul><li>(Nachmias-Nachmias, 2000)‏ </li></ul>
  44. 52. Concepts <ul><li>Provide a common language for political scientists </li></ul><ul><li>Provide perspective for looking at phenomena </li></ul><ul><li>(Nachmias-Nachmias, 2000)‏ </li></ul>
  45. 53. Examples of Concepts <ul><li>War -- representation of militarized conflict between two states or countries </li></ul><ul><li>Casualties -- representation of one of war’s properties </li></ul><ul><li>Votes – preferences of canvassed individuals </li></ul>
  46. 54. Examples of Concepts <ul><li>Wheeler (1987) </li></ul><ul><li>Parties – typology of parties represented in state courts </li></ul><ul><li>Case type – criminal vs. civil </li></ul><ul><li>Legal resources – lawyers, private investigators, evidence, etc. </li></ul>
  47. 55. Concepts <ul><li>Concepts are largely shaped by our language and the way we use it. </li></ul><ul><li>The meaning of concepts can change over time. </li></ul>
  48. 56. Democracy Democracy is a tricky concept because its meaning has changed considerably over time. Are parties, free elections and a reasonable participation by the population enough? Do we have to include legal guarantees of freedom (speech, press, religion, etc) ?
  49. 57. Concepts <ul><li>Some concepts are concise (vote, GDP, level of education, income)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Some concepts are abstract (democracy, equal opportunity, human rights, social mobility)‏ </li></ul><ul><li>For this reason, political scientists have to be clear in explaining a concept. </li></ul>
  50. 58. Concepts <ul><li>Concepts need to be accurate, concise and informative (or transmissible). </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul><ul><li>a) defining concepts allows one to develop measurement strategy </li></ul><ul><li>b) allows communication between scientists </li></ul>