Political Science 366

Political Science 366
Research Paper Assignment
This assignment will involve use of a data set to formulate a research question, state a set of
hypotheses, analyze data, and prepare a brief research report (4-6 pages of text) describing
your project and interpreting the results. You are encouraged to use data from other sources.
The university maintains a complete GSS dataset as well as other political datasets on network
drives. Government agencies often maintain datasets on their web pages. The United Nations
also makes data available through its web pages. Finally university research centers and nonprofit research organizations often maintain datasets on political matters. Try to find a problem
that intrigues you (the point is to have fun—well, some of my colleagues would argue that social
science ought to produce useful results, and I am more and more persuaded by that
argument—but in my gut I believe this is about playing with data and finding joy in discovering
the tiniest truths). I will be happy to discuss possible questions with you and to work with you on
the appropriate statistical techniques.
Your research report should include the following: (1) problem definition and statement of
research question; (2) description of methods used to select, collect, and analyze data; (3)
presentation of results; and (4) discussion and conclusions. Subheads should precede each
section. Use information from periodicals and books to explain the significance of your problem.
It is not essential to write an exhaustive literature review though you should cite at least three
sources, at least one of which should be an article in a social science journal that reports the
results of empirical research. The problem definition section of your paper should tie your
question to some broader issue in social science, politics, or culture. This section should
conclude with a set of hypotheses that specify the relations you expect to find. Be sure to
explain why you believe the hypotheses might be true. Interpret the results with respect to your
hypotheses. Conclude with a major insight about politics, culture or ideology and/or suggestions
for additional research (scientists always recommend additional research).
Reports will be evaluated with respect to competence and insight in conducting, interpreting,
and presenting the analysis. Papers should be well written and the statistical techniques should
be appropriate to the research question. Do not append computer output; rather create tables
using your word processor. Each table should have a number and title; the title should fully
describe the content of the table. Feel free to use SPSS-generated graphs; print each on a
separate page and include a number and title (e.g. Figure 1. Distribution of Vote Share by
Partisan Identification). Be sure to number the pages of the report.
Start early. The most challenging part of this assignment is to locate an appropriate dataset. Do
not delay in beginning your search. Most of you will cite more than one journal article for your
paper. Use these articles as models for the organization of your papers.
Due: Wednesday 3 December at 2:30 PM