Grigsby 2 Political Science and Scientific Methods in Studying Politics
Political ScienceAn academic and research discipline that deals with the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behavior.
HistoricalDevelopments• Beginnings traced to Ancient Greece • Socrates • Plato • Aristotle• Academic Field in U.S. • Columbia University 1880 • First political science department • American Political Science Association • Formed in 1903
Subfields• Comparative Politics• American Politics• International Relations• Public Policy• Political Research Methods• Political theory• Specialized Groups
Focus of Research• Normative issues • Issues involving value judgments and ethics• Empirical investigations • Observable and factual• Both Normative and Empirical
TraditionalismThe analysis of the formal, legal, and official side of political life.• Try to understand politics by examining • Laws • Governmental offices • Constitutions • Other official offices associated with politics
BehavioralismThe empirical analysis of the actual behavior of politically involved individuals and groups• Developed after WWII Charles Merriam 1874-1953 • Based on the works of Charles Merriam in the 1920s• Stresses the importance of empirical analysis • Collection of data based on observation • What is, rather than what should be
Postbehavioralism Political Science should be relevant, as well as empirically reliable David Easton• An alternative to both traditionalism and behavioralism (1969)• Information produced by political science has ethical implications.
Methodology• Scientific Method • The collection of data • Analysis of data • Testing of assertions• Science’s explanations are necessarily incomplete and tentative • Always subject to falsification
Steps Involved• Formulate an hypothesis• Operationalize concepts• Identify independent and dependent variables• Clarify measurement criteria• Distinguish between causation and correlation• Develop scientific theories
Formulating theHypothesisA statement proposing a specific relationship between phenomena. • “Is voting in U.S. elections related to age?” • “U.S. citizens 18-24 years of age will vote in lower numbers than will U.S. citizens 45-55 years of age.”
OperationalizeConceptsConcepts must be defined precisely to allow for empirical testing. • “Young people will vote less than older people in the U.S.” • “U.S. citizens 18-24 years of age will vote in lower numbers than will U.S. citizens 45-55 years of age.”
Identify VariablesThe phenomena linked together in a hypothesis.• Independent variables • Those that affect something • Example: Age• Dependent variables • Those that are being affected • Example: Voting
ClarifyingMeasurement CriteriaSpecifying what is taken as an indicator of the variable.• An indicator is evidence• How would we obtain evidence regarding our variable of voting?
Causation and Correlation• Causation: • One variable absolutely causing or creating the other. • Being age 20 absolutely determines whether someone will vote.• Correlation: • Changes in one variable appear when there are changes in another variable. • Lower voting appears with younger age groups.
Scientific Theories• Seek to offer explanations about why and how correlations occur.• Seek to predict.• Having found a relationship between age and voting, the political scientist might theorize: • Relationship is related to different mobility patterns among groups.• Most interesting aspect of science.
Francis Bacon - 1600s• Science can free us from various “idols” (errors, misconceptions, and distorted views). • Idols of marketplace • Idols of the tribe • Idols of the den • Idols of the theater
Idols of theMarketplace• Errors based on misunderstanding and faulty communication.• Errors related to our inexact use of language.
Idols of the Tribe• Errors related to the flaws of human nature• Errors caused by the human tendency to be: • Quick to judge • Superficial in our assessments
Idols of the Den• Errors caused by our inability to see beyond our own particular surroundings• Errors related to our near-sightedness and tendency to view our way of life as the standard for judging all others.
Idols of theTheater• Errors based on our beliefs in dogmatic teachings.• Errors caused by believing in systems of thought characterized by inflexibility closed off to questioning and critical analysis.
Research Strategies• Case Studies• Survey Research• Experiments and Quasi-Experiments• Indirect Quantitative Analysis
Case StudiesAn investigation of a specific phenomenon or entity.• Strength: • Allows for in-depth study• Weakness: • Information may not apply to other cases
Survey ResearchQuestionnaires and/or interviews to gather data.• Strengths: • Large amounts of information can be gathered and assessed • Information more general than in case studies• Weaknesses: • Wording, sampling, and other problems • Lacks up-close, in-depth details of a case study
ExperimentsInvestigation of a hypothesis by using a test group and a control group.• Strength: • Experimental conditions allow researchers to carefully test hypotheses.• Weaknesses: • Participants may alter behavior • Many questions cannot be tested by experiments
Quasi-Experiments• Field experiments• Like experiments, but unable to have true control group
Indirect Quantitative AnalysisThe analysis of data already compiled by others• Strength: • Researcher builds on findings of others• Weakness: • Often difficult to compare findings for different purposes.
Limitations ofScience• Human bias• Human behavior is often unique• How do we know findings are correct?• Do we ignore important questions?• Science in conflict with ethics?
One Nation, Underprivileged Rank 2: Below the Line
War on Poverty“It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.” Lyndon B. Johnson
Poverty Defined A lack of those necessities that “the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without.” Adam Smith
U.S. Poverty• Age group most at risk is children• U.S. level of poverty is one of the highest in the industrialized world
“It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta