Research Methods in the Social Sciences

The purpose of this course is to train students in how to analyze social phenomena in a rigorous and scientific manner. This knowledge requires an understanding of two different components: research design and statistics.

In the first component, students will learn how to discriminate between theories, pose proper research questions, construct a relevant hypothesis, make valid causal inferences, operationalize concepts, and test their hypotheses. The latter component offers the student a “statistical toolbox” to use as he or she pursues the scientific study of the social sciences. This component covers quantitative topics such as central tendency and dispersion, measures of association, and regression analysis, using both manual computation and computer software.

Above all else, it is my hope that this course will whet your appetite for the study of politics and sociology as a science, and thus prepare you to better understand the content of future classes in the social sciences and perform your own inquiries into political and social phenomena.

To succeed in this class, you should have already completed the college’s requirement of six hours in college-level mathematics, including at least one course in college algebra.

Student Learning Objectives: Ideally, at the conclusion of this course, you will have a greater understanding of

the scientific foundations of social inquiry.

the problems associated with measuring social phenomena.

how to translate abstract concepts into measurable variables.

how to test hypotheses about the relationships between variables.

the appropriate tests for relationships among variables.

how to consume and produce social scientific research.

how to select appropriate research topics.

how to produce a literature review of existing research.




W. Phillips Shively. 2009. The Craft of Political Research, 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-602948-9.

 Stephen P. Schacht and Jeffery E. Aspelmeier. 2005. Social and Behavioral Statistics: A User-Friendly Approach, 2nd ed. Boulder, Col.: Westview. ISBN 978-0-8133-4168-2


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