Research Topic and Bibliography


1. You should at least find 10-15 articles or books that relate to your research. (Use Web of Science. Sort by "Times Cited--highest to lowest" to find important articles.)  Focus on academic sources. Try to identify the outcome and the causal factors of your research.

2. Look for data, while you are collecting articles and books. The literature often helps you locate good data sources. Try to use existing data. Search engines are also useful. Check my web pages. You may find some data that are related to your topic.

3. Read the articles and find out

            a. how scholars write research papers (especially quantitative papers).

            b. how scholars convince you that their works are original.  (This is very important)

            c. how long their bibliographies are.

            d. how they cite sources

            e. what you can do in your research to contribute to our knowledge. (Bonus points)

            f. what scholars are trying to explain. For example, they may be interested in the impact of electoral rules on party systems. In this example, they are trying to explain cross-national variations of party systems by electoral rules.

Other examples

            a. The impact of economic growth (Independent Variable) on democratization (Dependent Variable)

            b. The impact of gender (IV) on party support (DV)

            c. The impact of race (IV) on voting behavior (DV)

            d. The impact of guns (IV) on crime rates (DV)

4. Write your resarch question. (Find variation in a political phenomenon across individuals, states, or countries and formulate a "why" question.) Your "why" statement should only involve one variable (i.e. factor).


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 unites 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?”

5. Think about how you build an SPSS dataset. What are the units? What are the variables?

6. 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).

7. You cannot ask a factual question.

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

              b) What is the population of China?

8. 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_______?

9. 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.

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

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


12. Start to write the introduction of your paper and try to convince me that your work is original. In other words, if your bibliography contains only ten articles, I will not be convinced that your work is original since you have not checked the literature thoroughly.

13. Do not turn in your topic and bibliography to Blackboard, yet. I will check how you are doing in the second week of class. You should submit after the meeting.  

14. Remember that you do not have to give me a complete list at this point. You will keep adding articles and books as you study more about your research topic.

15. Plagiarism will give you an F, and you will be reported to the Department. This will be true for any phases of writing the paper.

16. Save your file and submit the following to Blackboard. You can submit it only once.

           Research question (topic)


           Data sources