Spring 2017 (POS 3703) Scope and Methods of Political Science

Instructor: Clayton Besaw


Contemporary social science, political science included, has sought to better explain human behavior through a number of strategies. In this endeavor, the field of political science has increasingly focused on integrating concepts such as the scientific method, hypothesis testing, and data analysis. This course seeks to introduce you to these concepts and how they can be applied to political questions. For example, analysts such as Nate Silver (http://fivethirtyeight.com/) and Andrew Tanenbaum (http://www.electoral-vote.com/) have utilized basic and advanced statistical methods in an effort to predict the outcomes of elections. In the realm of security and conflict, groups such as the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (http://www.start.umd.edu/) have collected data on global terrorism events to help both researchers and policy makers to better understand the patterns of terrorist violence.

This course will introduce students to an extensive study of the underlying concepts and skills that form the basis of the scientific analysis of political events. This will include topics such as research design, logic of comparison, hypothesis testing, statistics, creative analysis, and programming with R. This course uses the R statistical programming language. Unlike other packages, R is free to the user to download and use (for the most part) as they please. Becoming competent in R will take practice and experience, but the knowledge and skills that you will gain are far greater than the effort needed to complete this course. We live in a world of increasingly bigger and more accessible data on human behavior. Having even a basic competence in both research methods and R programming will only make you more competitive in whichever career path you choose to take.

Course Syllabus