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Course Objectives and Scope

This course begins with the premise [paraphrasing Donald Campbell] that the fundamental goal of methodology is to rule out plausible rival hypotheses -- caused by defective research designs -- that make our research findings ambiguous and tentative. Accordingly, this seminar explores the development and application of qualitative research designs and methods for the analysis. We develop practical tools for improving validity, reliability, and inference in research where the number of observations, cases, subjects, etc. is small compared to that commonly encountered in quantitative studies.

This course focuses on methods for ensuring that collected data allow the researcher to answer the questions posed by the research agenda, where mistakes in data collection can lead to false inferences in data analysis.

The goal of the course is two-fold:

  1. To enable students to evaluate and critique studies employing qualitative methods and
  2. To provide students with the skills to create rigorous qualitative designs to guide their own research.

The seminar examines substantive examples from American politics, public policy, comparative politics, and international relations.

Seminar Requirements

  1. The course will be structured as a seminar. This places a substantial burden on students to come to the sessions prepared to discuss the readings and to actually discuss the topics for the day. All readings assignments relevant to a given week's class discussion must be read prior to that class.

    Active and creative participation in class discussion is an essential part of the seminar. Students will be responsible for the assigned readings, for taking part in class discussions, and for leading the class discussion. (40%)

  2. Students will write three 1000 word analytic papers that apply an assigned set of analytic tools to a recently published work of political science (assigned by the instructors). (60%)

Required Texts

The required course readings will come from two basic sources. First, three textbooks should be purchased:

Hedstrom, Peter, and Richard Swedberg. Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN: 0521593190.

King, Gary, Robert Keohane, and Sidney Verba. Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994. ISBN: 0691034702.

Yin, Robert. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. ISBN: 0761925538.

All the other readings for the course (i.e., those not in the three books) are cited in the readings section.)