Last updated: Nov 11, 2016


Political Theory and Research Design (POLS625)

Ball State University

Fall 2016


Dr. Misa Nishikawa

Location: NQ139

Office: NQ262



Office hours: TTh 8:50am-9:30am, W:5:30-6:20pm, and by appointment   


Course Description

The course is designed to introduce students to the scientific study of politics with special emphasis given to the way in which professional political and social scientists undertake their work. In particular, the course examines how to conduct social science research. The greatest focus will be on the use of statistics and computers to perform data analysis for the systematic testing of hypotheses.


Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

            recognize the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative and qualitative analyses,

            design quantitative research,

conduct basic statistical analyses using statistical software,

use spreadsheet software,

analyze political phenomena at the multivariate level,

evaluate political claims critically,

and appreciate the scientific approach in studying politics.


Required Texts and Reading:

1.      Philip Pollock. 2015. The Essentials of Political Analysis. 5th edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press

2.      Philip Pollock. 2015. An SPSS Companion to Political Analysis. 5th edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Pres

3.      SPSS software

Rental version (Recommended). Visit and purchase IBM® SPSS® Statistics GradPack Base for Windows or Mac (06-Mo Rental). (Visit, Click on "IBM SPSS Statistics 24." Click on "Buy Now." Choose "GradPack Base". Or visit the following web and find more options: ) The software is also available in some of the computer labs on campus.   (If you like, you can try a trial version. Google "IBM SPSS Statistics Base.")  This software is necessary to open the datasets that are provided by An SPSS Companion to Political Analysis. Contact the Help Desk (285-1517) or SPSS for technical issues.                  

4.      USB flash memory, ilocker, etc.

5.      Supplementary reading in the form of additional handouts and Internet resources



There will be three online exams. You can drop one of the three exams. Make-up exams will not be given except in the case of extreme circumstances. You must be able to provide documentation that the absence is unavoidable (e.g., illness, death in the family, observance of a religious holiday) and make arrangements with me prior to the scheduled exam date. If you do not take the test by due date, your exam score will be downgraded. Ten points will be subtracted from your grade for each day. You are not allowed to take the test beyond three days from the due date. Exams will be based on material covered in lectures or class discussions and from the required readings.


Paper /Assignments

Students will be expected to write a paper on research design. Students will also need to find their own research question and describe how they will carry out their research. The use of some basic statistics will also be required. Students will also be given additional assignments. Please do not send your assignments by using e-mail. Late work will be downgraded by 10 points each day it is late. The paper/assignments will not be accepted beyond 3 business days from the due date. Poorly performing technology cannot be used as an excuse.


The grade is allocated in the following way:

Exam 1 and 2

(30, 30) 60%





Paper assignments (Topic, Intro, Theory, Operationalization, Descriptive Stats, Final paper presentation)

Final paper

 (3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3) 18%








Grading Scale: For all items in this class for which grades are assigned, the following grading scale will be used:
























0 - 59.9%



Class Discussion/Participation

Participation in class discussions is strongly encouraged. Of course, participation should be constructive, and all comments should be relevant to the material being covered in class. Students must do all of the readings prior to the class! Respect should be shown for all other class members at all times.



There will be no attendance points, but students are required to attend class regularly.


General Expectations

Students are expected to have a collegial demeanor. For the lab hours, students are expected to use only appropriate software, which typically does not include the internet or e-mail programs.†††


Students will be responsible for knowing any changes made to the syllabus during class time whether they were in attendance or not. The instructorís lecture notes are not available to students; it is the studentís responsibility to obtain class notes from a classmate, should class be missed.††


If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.


Academic Honesty

Honesty, trust, and personal responsibility are fundamental attributes of the university community. Academic dishonesty by a student will not be tolerated, for it threatens the foundation of an institution dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. To maintain its credibility and reputation, and to equitably assign evaluations of scholastic and creative performance, Ball State University is committed to maintaining a climate that upholds and values the highest standards of academic integrity.


Learning Center:

The Learning Center offers free tutoring for all courses in the core curriculum, for a variety of math, economics, accounting, and physics courses, for any writing task, and for general study strategies such as time management, test taking, speed reading, and effective textbook reading and note taking. It also tutors for many courses outside of the core curriculum. Call 285-1006 or visit NQ 323 to make an appointment to meet with a tutor.







Week 1


The Science in Social Science

Statistics: Gathering Data

SPSS: Introduction

Research Paper: Overview; Research Question and Lit. Review

Essentials: Introduction

SPSS: Getting Started, Ch1 (Introduction)

Week 2



Stats: Frequency 

Ethics ††

Assignment 1 Due (In class/Group assignment)

Paper: Topic and Bibliography Due

Assignment 2 In class (Frequency)

Babbie: Ch 3 (The Ethics and Politics of Social Research)*


Week 3


Measurement (Concepts, Reliability and Validity, Measurement error), Levels of measurement

SPSS: Recoding

Assignment 3 Due (Frequency)

Assignment 4 In class (Recoding)

Essentials: Ch1(pp6-22) Ch2(pp26-31)

SPSS: Ch3 (pp41-49)

Week 4


Theory and Hypotheses, Measuring and Describing Variables

Stats: Descriptive Stats (Frequency III, Measures of central tendency and variability)

Assignment 5 In class (Prisonerís Dilemma)

Assignment 6 Due (Levels of measurement)

Assignment 7 Quiz using Blackboard (Assignment 14: Bring data. Be prepared to discuss your research.)

Essentials: Ch3 (pp48-58), Ch6 (pp122-128)


Week 5


Logic of Control, Experimental Studies


Assignment 8 Due (Standard deviation)

Assignment 9 Due (SPSS, Excel: St. Dev)


Paper: Introduction Due

Essentials: Ch4 (pp78-90), Ch6 (Pp122-127), Ch6(pp122-127)

Week 6


Exam 1


Week 7


Understanding what to avoid

Statistics: Normal distribution, Crosstab 


Essentials: Ch4 (Pp78-90)  Ch3 (Pp58-61), Ch5 (pp102-108), Ch6 (136-140)

SPSS: Ch4 (61-63) Ch5 (pp93-98)

Week 8


Examples of Statistical, Experimental, and Case Studies

Assignment: Read the assigned articles and be prepared to discuss the articles in class.

Assignment 10 Due (Normal curve)

Assignment 11 In class (Crosstab 1)

Assignment 12 In class (Crosstab 2) Assignment 13 In class (Crosstab 3) Assignment 14 In class (Data for research paper )

Visit the course web page and find the two assigned articles under Week 8.

Week 9


Statistics: Hypothesis testing (Z, t, Chi-square)

Paper: Theory/Hypothesis Due

Assignment 14 Due (Data for research paper)

Essentials: Ch6 (pp136-140) Table 6-3, Table 6-4, Ch7 (Chi-square)

SPSS: Ch6 (One-sample t-test) Ch7 (Chi-square)

Week 10


Statistics: Measures of Association (including Corrrelation)

Assignment 15 In class (Z, t)

Assignment 16 In class (Chi Square)


Essentials: Ch7 (Measures of Association)

SPSS: Ch7 (Measures of Association)

Week 11


Statistics: Correlation and Regression Analysis

Assignment 17 In class (Measures of Assoc)Paper: Operationalization (Methods) Due

Essentials: Ch8 (Correlation and Regression)

SPSS: Ch 8 (Correlation and Regression)

Week 12


Assignment 18 In class (Correlation)

Assignment 19 In class (Regression) Assignment 20 In class (Pre-results for research paper)

Extra Credit In class

Week 13


Review Exam 2

Assignment 21 In class (Preparation for presentation)

Paper: Descriptive Stats Due


Week 14


Thanksgiving recess


Week 15


Exam 2


Week 16


Paper Due on Friday at 4:55pm (Bring a hard copy to the main office.)


Extra Credit Due


Week 17

Final Exam12/13-18  

Exam 3