Introduction to Political Research: Research Design (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Phd, 2015)

Ph.D. in Politics, Human Rights and Sustainability

Ph.D. in Political Science, European Politics and International Relations

Introduction to Political Research: Research Design

 October 2015, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna

 Dr. Federico Russo

Course description
This course is intended as an introduction to the logic of doing social and political research. It is designed for students who have never been exposed to methodological courses and it requires no previous knowledge of quantitative or qualitative research methods. Whenever possible examples of actual researches will be discussed in class to help students making sense of the concepts presented during the couse.
The course starts by considering the philosophical foundations on which contemporary social research is rooted, illustrating the main aspects of the neo-positivist/post-positivist debate. Understanding the radically different approach to reality adopted by scholars belonging to these two traditions students can fully understand the spirit animating the inferential approach to social phenomena. After this point of departure the logic of social and political research is analyzed by introducing the main steps through which researchers address their research questions. The road connecting theory, hypotheses and operationalization will be discussed. Next, students will be exposed to the fundamental difference between experimental and observational research designs. As this course is also an introduction to more advanced courses on data analysis particular attention is devoted to the strengths and limitations of statistical designs. Finally, the main methods of data collection will be presented.
The students of the Ph.D. in Politics, Human Rights and Sustainability will have the opportunity to present their own research projects in class in order to receive critical feedback.
Schedule of Classes

Monday 12th October, 16.30 – 18.30
Paradigms of political research
Neo-positivism vs. post-positivism


Wednesday 14th October, 9.00 – 13.00
The typical structure of inferential research
Research question, Theory, Hypotheses, Concepts and Variables


Thursday 15th October 14.30 – 16.30
Assessing causality: observational and experimental designs
Experimental designs as the gold standard in causal inference
Observational studies: the comparative method & statistical designs
Some common pitfalls of statistical designs (caution!)

Friday 16th October 14.30 – 16.30
Data collection methods
The basics: surveys, official data, content analysis
Content analysis: the Comparative Agendas Project

Monday 2nd November 9.00 – 11.00
Student presentations: I

Friday 6th November 9.00 – 11.00
Student presentations: II
Reference texts
Brady, H. E., & Collier, D. (Eds.). (2010). Rethinking Social Inquiry. Diverse Tools, Shared Standards. Lanham; Boulder; New York; Toronto; Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, inc.
Corbetta, P. (2003). Social Research: Theory, Methods and Techniques. (B. Patrick, Trans.). London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Pubns Ltd.
King, G., Keohane, R. O., & Verba, S. (1994). Designing Social Inquiry. Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Other more specific texts will be recommended in class



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