Last Updated: 1/12/2016

Assignment 1 (Prep for Introduction)

Prep Phase 1: Paper topic and bibliography


[Note: The following instructions are written to help you complete the assignment. However, they are still not enough to replace the entire lecture. If you missed the lecture, you would probablly have many problems understanding the instructions. If you face problems, try to complete the assignment as much as you can before you come to class and ask the instructors some specific questions. Reading the required reading may also help you complete the assignment.]


Before you start:

In this assignment you will be asked to open SPSS datasets. Before you start, make sure that you are using a computer with SPSS. (See the syllabus for how to purchase SPSS.) We will be mainly using the datasets that are provided by your text book. Read "Getting Started" in SPSS Companion and download a dataset. (Visit also for more resources.). Use one of the following datasets:





Remember that you will not be able to open these datasets without SPSS. If your computer does not work, please go to the library or other labs to open SPSS datasets. After opening a dataset, click on the "variable view" box at the bottom of the window and find the descriptions of variables. Please remember that you will not be able to gather your own data. You will not have enough time to complete your paper, if you are gathering your own data. (If you are using the datasets from the 4th edition of the text book, you can also find the descriptions of variables in "an SPSS Companion to Political Analysis (4th edition)." See Appendix pp245-259 and pp260-268). If you are interested in American Politics, open one of the GSS, NES, or STATES datasets. If you are interested in International Relations or Comparative Politics, open the World datasets.


1. Specify a research question. (Find variation in a political phenomenon across individuals, states, or countries and formulate a "why" question.)


a) Suppose that you are interested in variation in economic performance across different countries, you may write a question such as below:

    “Why do some countries have a higher level of economic performance than do others?”

    Notice that the units are countries in this question. The outcome variable is economic performance.

b) “Why do some people vote for one candidate and others vote for a different one?”

    In this question, the outcome variable is candidate choices. The unites are individuals.

            c) “Why do some nations have democratic political systems and others have authoritarian systems?”

2. Open one of the SPSS datasets and find a variable that matches with your research interest. In quantitative studies, it is important to check if data are available. If you are interested in studying variation in economic performance across different countries, you may use GDPcap to represent the concept "economic performance." Check to see if GDPcap exists in a dataset. If you find GDPcap, you can pursue this research topic. If you do not, you have to either find another variable that represents "economic performance" or find another topic.

3. Notice that the examples above focus on one factor. Your "why" statement should only involve one variable (i.e. factor).

4. You will be searching for causal factors (X) in your study. For example,

            Regime types (X) influence economic performance (Y). (The causal factor is regime types.)

            Education (X) causes political participation (Y). (The causal factor is education.)

            X causes Y.  (The causal factor is X).

However, you will be focusing only on the outcomes (Y) in this phase. So, if you are studying the impact of regime types on economic performance, your research question should only involve economic performance. You will be introducing the causal factors (Xs) in Phase 2. 

5. You cannot ask a factual question.

        e.g. a) Who is the president of Chile?

              b) What is the population of China?

6. Your question cannot be subjective. Avoid using a word, such as "should." For example, avoid the following type of questions: Should countries be ______? Should Americans do_______?

7. Your research question should be general. In other words, your research question cannot just focus on some individuals, some states, or some countries.

        e.g. a) Why does Michigan have _____ more than California?

              b) Why is Qatar more liberal than Saudi Arabia?

Your research question should involve all individuals, states, or countries.

8. You will not be able to examine changes over time, since this will require more advanced statistical skills.

9. Find two refereed academic articles or two academic books written by scholars and complete your bibliography. (See below for the format.) You can visit and find Web of Science under "Databases". (When you use Web of Science, sort by "Times Cited--highest to lowest" to find important articles.) You can use other search engines, such as JSTOR, but make sure that you choose peer reviewed academic journals.

10. Do NOT submit your assignment to Blackboard, before you show it to the instructor. (Do NOT submit it to Phase1. Instead, submit it to Assignment 1. Read the instruction below.)

11. Format of Bibliography

Riker, William. 1982. “The Two Party System and Duverger’s Law: An Essay on the       

        History of   Political Science.”  American Political Science Review 76: 753-766

Sheingate, Adam. 2001. The Rise of the Agricultural Welfare State. Princeton, NJ;

        Princeton University Press

            Example of the article written in the APSA format


Citing References

            Please follow the APSR format by referring to the most recent issue of the APSR. You may also consult the Chicago Manual of Style.

            Click the following to find The American Political Science Review or visit JSTOR


General Rules

1. Save your work frequently in multiple locations. You will be responsible for a lost file.

2. Show your assignment to the instructor. If you make any mistakes, the instructor will let you know how to improve your assignment. You can redo your assignment and show the instructor an improved version. Repeat the process until everything is correctly done. Sign the sheet for Assignment 1 after you complete the assignment. Save your file and deposit the final version that the instructor approved in Blackboard. Visit  and go to POLS210. Go to "Content" and find Assignment 1 and double click and upload your file as a WORD file. You will receive 100%. Blackboard allows you to deposit only once. If you did not complete the assignment during the lab hours, you must deposit your assignment to Blackboard by 5pm next day. In this case, the instructor will grade your assignment. You will not be able to redo the assignment, even though your score may belower than 100%.