INST 381: Quantitative Research Methods for International Governance and Politics

The University of Mississippi
Fall 2014, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 16:00-17:15, 107 Croft Institute
Instructor: Dr. Gang Guo * Office: 128 Deupree Hall * Telephone: (662) 915-5419 * e-mail: gg at olemiss dot edu
Office hours: by appointment

Course Overview

This undergraduate lecture course is a general introduction to the basic features of the research methods used in the scientific study of politics and policy around the world. The course starts with a broad overview of the social science approach to the study of global politics and policy, noting especially the distinctions between qualitative and quantitative research and between normative and positive theories. After the brief overview, the course will specifically focus on quantitative research methods. It combines abstract discussions of the important concepts, strategies, and processes of research design with hands-on experiences of searching for, collecting, cleaning, processing, and analyzing real-world data on global politics and policy. It concludes with students completing independently a small research project from beginning to end on a topic in global politics and policy of his or her own choosing, based on what has been learned during the semester.

This course is especially suitable for students at the Croft Institute for International Studies because:

  1. The course has a substantive emphasis on contemporary real-world issues in global politics and policy. The concepts, strategies, processes, and techniques are illustrated by actual examples and real data, and the underlying theories and substantive issues are those that international studies majors are interested in and care about.
  2. Students can easily apply the concepts and methods learned in this course to other social science research projects that international studies majors often deal with in their course work or senior theses.

Course Objectives

By the end of the semester, students should be able to conduct their own independent research on a topic in global politics and policy by using appropriate scientific research methods. This includes designing a research project, reviewing relevant literature, developing a theory, formulating hypotheses, collecting data, conducting analyses using basic statistical techniques such as cross-tabulation and regression, interpreting the outputs, and critically evaluating the research (including that conducted by others).

Course Structure

The class will meet two times a week, each lasting for 75 minutes. It is essential for students to complete the required reading before each class and attend all class sessions. The lecture is designed to highlight subjects of particular interest or difficulty in an interactive manner rather than for the instructor to lecture on the information presented in the textbook and other course materials. Moreover, much learning will take place outside the classroom setting, especially during group study sessions and in computer laboratories.

Course Materials

We will be using the following textbook for this course:

Additional reading assignments may be added throughout the semester. Most of them are contemporary examples of social science research on important topics in global politics and policy. We will discuss those examples of research in class to illustrate class lessons. Students are also encouraged to suggest readings on issues that are related to their geographic concentration so that the course may set the stage for their senior thesis.

Course Grades

Grades for this course are distributed as follows: class participation 5%; quizzes 10%; weekly assignments 65%; in-class presentation 5%; final research paper 15%. Besides, you are also required to complete the Training on the Protection of Human Subjects and to take the Human Subjects Research Ethics Quiz by the end of the semester.

The weekly assignments are printed in the textbook at the end of each chapter. They normally contain a mixture of multiple-choice and open-ended questions. Later in the semester the assignments will include computer exercises as well. Students are required to complete the assignment every week for the corresponding chapter and turn it in at the end of class on Thursday. Assignments that are turned in late without a reasonable excuse or assignments that show signs of cheating will be graded zero. Students are encouraged to meet regularly outside of class to study together and to read and review course material. However, the completed assignment every week should demonstrate independent effort, *not* teamwork. The assignment for week No. 14 requires students to go through the overall process for a research project. This will serve as the final exam and is due at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, December 10th.

Course Schedule

MonthDateDayTopicRequired Reading
August26thTuesdayIntroduction & Administration
28thThursdayOverview of Research MethodsLe Roy 2009
September2ndTuesdayImportant ConceptsTrochim 2006
4thThursdayFinding Data for AnalysisUM Library; ICPSR
9thTuesdayIntroduction to SPSSChapter 1
16thTuesdayDescriptive StatisticsChapter 2
18thThursdaySampling & S.D.
23rdTuesdayTransforming VariablesChapter 3
30thTuesdayMaking ComparisonsChapter 4
October2ndThursdayPew Global 2012 Spring
7thTuesdayMaking Controlled ComparisonsChapter 5
14thTuesdayMaking Inferences about Sample MeansChapter 6
21stTuesdayChi-square and Measures of Association Chapter 7
28thTuesdayCorrelation and Linear RegressionChapter 8
November4thTuesdayDummy Variables and Interaction EffectsChapter 9
11thTuesdayLogistic RegressionChapter 10
18thTuesdayDoing Your Own Political AnalysisChapter 11
December2ndTuesday(one-on-one meetings with instructor)
4thThursdayStudent presentations
10thWednesdayFinal research paper due at 4 p.m.