Designing Feasible Research Projects in Political Science

Allyson Lucinda Benton, CIDE


This course introduces students to basic principles in the design of political science research.  The goal is to help guide students in the design research projects that can be feasibly completed in BA, MA, or PhD theses or in an article manuscript.  The course covers three basic topics.  It begins with how to choose a research question or topic and how to set this topic within the relevant scholarly literature.  It then covers the construction of causal arguments and the identification of these arguments’ testable expectations and implications that can be verified empirically.  Included in this section is a discussion of the importance of identifying null hypotheses and alternative arguments.  The course finishes by discussing empirical strategies for testing arguments, including case selection and the different types of qualitative and quantitative data available to researchers.  Included in this section is a discussion of the identification of variables and their appropriate measures, and concept clarification and measurement.  This course does not delve into the analysis of qualitative or quantitative empirical evidence, as this is covered in other courses in the summer program.

DATES: This course runs January 8-12, 2018.

TEACHING FELLOW: Hellen Guicheney


1.      Research Questions: Identifying Research Questions; Indentifying (and Organizing) the Relevant Scholarly Literature

2.      Constructing Arguments: Causality and Causal Mechanisms; Hypotheses and Testable Expectations/Implications of the Argument

3.      Empirical Strategy: Concept Clarification and Measurement; The Use of Counterfactuals; Case Selection

4.      Data Types: Qualitative (Interviews & Archives); Qualitative/Quantitative Observational; Quantitative Experimental (Natural Expermiments/Scientific Expermiments)


Students should be prepared either to develop a new or improve an existing research proposal or to discuss a current research project (usually, article length) that is underway.  Each day, students should be prepared to discuss progress on their own projects in light of the particular topic of the class.  In addition to course readings, students will be expected to read and discuss at least one award-winning conference paper and one award-winning PhD dissertation (a list of possible papers and theses will be given to the students).  To ensure progress on their projects, students will be required to present written and oral advances each day.