[ last updated February 4, 2020 ]
Research Strategies in Public Policy (Spring 2020)
Lecture: Tues., 6:05–8:35pm, James Hall 3613
Lab: Thurs., 6:05–8:05pm, West End Building 130
Instructor: Asher Wycoff • awycoff (at) gc (dot) cuny (dot) edu
Office Hours: Tuesday, 5:00–6:00pm • James Hall 3416
Course Overview and Objectives: How do you tell if a policy has achieved the desired effect? What explains public support for some policies and not others? What factors lead to different policy outcomes between countries? Reviewing research on these and related questions, this course will provide a foundation in methodological approaches to political science. Students will examine and apply conventional quantitative and qualitative tools, from logistic regression to coding interview data, through a combination of reading discussions and lab exercises. This course also covers brass-tacks skills like defining concepts, formulating research questions, and formatting bibliographies. The course culminates in a short-form literature review assignment, which gives students the opportunity to apply these research skills and familiarize themselves with a body of literature in which they are interested.
Texts: You do not need to purchase books for this course. All readings are available digitally, either on Blackboard or through the CUNY library system. If you have trouble accessing or obtaining the reading materials, please let me know as soon as possible.
Requirements: This course consists of a lecture section each Tuesday and a laboratory section each Thursday. The laboratory sessions will consist of team exercises in the first half of the semester and guided independent work in the second half. Lecture sessions will involve some direct lecture, but will also include seminar-style discussions on assigned texts. It is important that you come to Tuesday classes having read and prepared to discuss the assigned texts. Formal requirements are as follows:
- You will be graded on participation. Grading on participation is not black and white, but if you do not consistently come to class prepared with the assigned readings, pull your own weight in team exercises, or stay on task during open labs, your participation grade will suffer. Your participation grade will also suffer if you routinely have your phone out, or if you are generally disruptive in discussion. Your overall participation grade, out of ten points, is awarded at the end of the semester.
- You will be expected to complete eight lab exercises. For the first two units, the Thursday session will be dedicated to a combination of independent and team-based exercises. The exercises vary in content, but are all geared toward fundamental research skills. Each exercise is graded out of five points, for a total of forty points for all eight. If you are going to miss a Thursday class, please let me know in advance, and I can provide a take-home version of the exercise.
- You will be expected to give a group presentation on a course reading. In the first two weeks of the semester, students will be sorted into groups of three. Each group will be asked to select a reading from the syllabus to present to the class. The presentation should emphasize three elements of the article: the research question, the literature review, and the data and methods by which they are collected. An assignment sheet is available on Blackboard.
- You will be expected to complete a short literature review. The final project for the semester is a response paper of 7–10 pages concerning a methodological controversy in Political Science. Some sample topics are provided on the literature review assignment sheet, but you will be permitted to pursue your own with instructor approval. The goal is to help you scope and synthesize current literature on a contemporary topic of debate. You will be asked to turn in a 1–2 page proposal, including a short prospective bibliography, on April 2. The proposal will be graded out of 5 points. A rough draft of the paper (around 4–6 pages) is due by April 23 and will be graded out of fifteen points. The final draft will be due at the final workshop meeting, May 14, and graded out of twenty points.
Here's a breakdown of how the course is graded overall:
|Lab Exercises (eight)||40 points (5 points each)|
|Reading Presentation||10 points|
|Paper Proposal||5 points|
|Literature Review Rough Draft||15 points|
|Literature Review Final Draft||20 points|
|Total || 100 points possible|
Since the course as a whole is graded out of 100 points, your raw score is also your percentage grade for the semester. I award letter grades according to the usual scale, so 93-100 points earn you an A; 90-92 points earn you an A-minus; 87-89 points earn you a B-plus; 83-86 points earn you a B; 80-82 points earn you a B-minus; etc.
Conduct Guidelines: Although I do not grade on attendance directly, students are still expected to attend class regularly having completed and prepared to discuss the required reading. As not just quantity but also quality of participation is important, I strongly recommend that you stay on topic during class discussions.
I do not permit cellphone use during class, and I also encourage you to avoid using other electronics whenever possible. While I conditionally permit laptops and tablets, I reserve the right to change my mind if they become too distracting. If you use a laptop or tablet in class, please only use it for purposes directly related to the course (consulting readings, note-taking, e.g.). You are encouraged to print out PDF readings for in-class use.
Academic Integrity: In written assignments (and this includes short answer questions on tests), it would be really great if you didn't plagiarize. Plagiarism is the act of presenting someone else's ideas or language as your own. The faculty and administration of Lehman College strive to foster an environment free of cheating and plagiarism. Each student is individually responsible for knowing what constitutes cheating and plagiarism and avoiding both. If you are unsure, the full text of the CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and the Brooklyn College procedure for its implementation can be found at brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/policies. If a faculty member confirms a violation of academic integrity, and/or if the student admits the violation, the faculty member is contractually obligated to report the violation to administration. That's a headache for all involved, so please familiarize yourself with CUNY's policy on academic integrity and avoid violating it.
Accessibility: In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations students must first be registered with the Center for Student Disability Services (CSDS). Students with a documented disability, or who suspect they may have one, are encouraged to set up an appointment with the Director of Student Disability Services by calling (718) 951-5538. If you have already registered with the CSDS, please provide me with the appropriate documentation and discuss your specific needs with me, and I will do my best provide the necessary accommodations.
- Tues., 1/28 — Introductions, syllabus overview
- Thurs., 1/30 — Lab Exercise #1: Resource Scavenger Hunt
- Tues., 2/4 — Discussion: Foundations of Empirical Social Science
- Max Weber, "'Objectivity' in Social Science and Social Policy"
Unit 1: Quantitative Methods
- Thurs., 2/6 — Lab Exercise #2: Descriptive Statistics
- Tues., 2/11 — Discussion: Time-Series Data
- Donald Campbell and H. Laurence Ross, "The Connecticut Crackdown on Speeding"
- Thurs., 2/13 — Lab Exercise #3: Bivariate Regression
- Tues., 2/18 — Discussion: Linear and Logistic Regression
- Colin & Michael Lewis-Beck, "Bivariate Regression: Fitting a Straight Line"
- Joshua Dyck, Shanna Person-Merkowitz, and Michael Coates, "Primary Distrust: Political Distrust and Support for the Insurgent Candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders"
- Thurs., 2/20 — Lab Exercise #4: Coding Variables
- Tues., 2/25 — Discussion: Interpreting Quantitative Data
- Roberto Foa & Yascha Mounk, "The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect"
- Erik Voeten, "Are people really turning away from democracy?"
- Thurs., 2/27 — Lab Exercise #5: Writing a Survey
- Tues., 3/3 — Discussion: Replicating Quantitative Data
- Gøsta Esping-Andersen, "Decommodification in Social Policy"
- Lyle Scruggs & James Allan, "Welfare state decommodification in 18 OECD countries: A replication and revision"
Unit 2: Qualitative Methods
- Thurs., 3/5 — Lab Exercise #6: Writing an Interview
- Tues., 3/10 — Discussion: Beyond Correlation
- Ellen Immergut, "The rules of the game: The logic of health policy-making in France, Switzerland, and Sweden"
- Thurs., 3/12 — Lab Exercise #7: Coding Interview Data
- Tues., 3/17 — Discussion: Interview Data
- Ziad Munson, "United We Stand? Tensions in the Pro-Life Moral Universe"
- Thurs., 3/19 — Lab Exercise #8: Citation Formatting
- Tues., 3/24 — Discussion: Document Analysis
- Patrick Coy, Lynne Woehrle, and Gregory Maney, "Discursive Legacies: The US Peace Movement and 'Support the Troops'"
- Thurs., 3/26 — Writing Workshop: Getting Started
- Tues., 3/31 — Discussion: Concept formation
- Giovanni Sartori, "Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics"
- Recommended: Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, "Beyond Identity"
- Thurs., 4/2 — Writing Workshop: Synthesizing Existing Research
Paper proposal due
- Tues., 4/7 — Wednesday schedule (no class)
- April 8–16: Spring Recess
Unit 3: Critical Perspectives on Social Science
- Tues., 4/21 — Discussion: Ordering the Political
- Cedric Robinson, "The Order of Politicality"
- Thurs., 4/23 — Writing Workshop: Peer Review
Rough draft due
- Tues., 4/28 — Discussion: Abstraction and Reification
- Thurs., 4/30 — Writing Workshop: Evaluating Suggestions
- Tues., 5/5 — Discussion: Rational Actors
- Carol Cohn, "Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals"
- Thurs., 5/7 — Writing Workshop: Revision and Expansion
- Tues., 5/12 — Discussion: Normative Political Theory
- Sheldon Wolin, "Political Theory as a Vocation"
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- Thurs., 5/14 — Writing Workshop: Final Paper Roundtable
Final draft due