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The (social science) research process

A brief overview of the steps involved in (social science) research. Used as an overview for a research methods class.
by

Andreas Broscheid

on 20 September 2010

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Transcript of The (social science) research process

Research subject
Literature
research
Research topic/
question
Use your
imagination

Hypothesis
Find data
Evaluate data
Hypothesis test
Write research paper
Move around
Go back and forth
Think of courses you've taken so far.
Look at political magazines and political (science) blogs.
Think of political questions that excite you.
Think of questions that change the world.
Think of questions that are ethically important.
Think of questions connected to you.
25 in 10 exercise.
Look for gaps in existing studies.
Re-study "old" research question - with new data?
Take a look at existing data sets: What interesting questions do they let you address?
Consider revisiting literature research
Write
literature review
What is the unit of analysis?
What are the dependent and independent variables?
Why do you expect the hypothesis to be correct?
What is the underlying theoretical framework?
Do the data measure the right concepts (independent and dependent variables)?
How much measurement error is in the data?
Do the data have the same unit of analysis as the hypothesis?
Data sets provided in class
ICPSR
Google
http://delicious.com/abrosche/data
Change hypothesis if you don't find good data.
Or first look for data, then create hypothesis that can be test with the data.
Univariate descriptive statistics
Mean
Median
Standard deviation
Frequency distributions
Multivariate statistics:
Crosstabs
Compare means tests
Bar/line charts
Correlation analysis
Regression analysis
Significance tests
Are the results due to random error or not?
T-test
Chi-Square test
What alternative explanations are there?
What control variables should be used?
Introduction and conclusion come last.
Write bits an pieces as you work on your project.
Be ready to rewrite as your project changes.
Be simple and clear.
Introduction
Literature review
Hypothesis and theory
Data
Methods used
Results
Conclusion
Carefully format and label all graphs.
Retype tables.
Proof-read!!!
Research Process
Use databases to find literature.

Talk to librarian.

Download references into bibliographical program (RefWorks, Zotero, Endnote,...).

Inspect lists of references for clues about "classic" works.

Read literature reviews to identify main "themes" in the literature.

Format list of references.
Why?

Your research is part of scientific discourse. You've got to know the discourse.
Know the debates that you should engage in your paper.
Find out what has been done and what has not yet been done. Find the gaps in the literature!
Get more information on your topic.
Find arguments that help you construct your own theoretical argument.
Get ideas about where to find data.
Get ideas about methods that can be used.
Research questions have to be:
non-normative ("is", not "should" or "ought")
general (apply to a class of phenomena, not just an individual case)
empirical ("falsifiable")
causal/explanatory ("why", not just "who", "what", "how")
theoretical (based on existing knowledge, leading to new hypotheses)
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