Political Science 500. Social Scientific Thinking I.

Fall, 2008

M 2:00 - 5:00, BB 283

Professor Richard Stoll

BB 202, x3362; stoll at rice dot edu

Office Hours:

  • Tu 1:30 - 2:30
  • Th 10:30 - 11:30
  • Fr 2:00 - 3:00
  • You may also make an appointment to see me or contact me by e-mail. But you are welcome to stop by my office anytime the door is open. I am always happy to talk to you about the class, graduate school, or things related to political science. As a general rule, if you have a question, concern, or even if you are "just curious," contacting me sooner is better than contacting me later.

    Course Description.

    In this course and the research practicum offered next semester you will begin to learn how to conduct basic research in social science. We will focus on the issues of theory construction, research design, and measurement, as well as how best to communicate your research to the scholarly community. The department's goal is that by the end of the year you should be able to design and conduct a variety of research projects, to read the professional literature competently, and to pass the "basic tools" exam.

    An overview of Your Obligations

    Components of Your Final Grade.

    Class participation 20%
    Written assignments 30%
    Presentations 20%
    Final Project 30%

    Special Needs.

    Any student with a documented disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to contact me as soon as possible, preferably during the first two weeks of class. All discussions will remain confidential. Students with disabilities need to also also contact Rice Disability Support Services in room 122 of the Ley Student Center [713-348-]5841; adarice at rice dot edu). Fax: (713) 348 - 5199. If calling from a TTY/TDD, dial 711 or 800-735-2989 to be connected through a relay operator.


    I have ordered the following two books. We will read extensively from King, Keohane, and Verba; Becker is more of a reference that you will find useful when you are writing.

    Reading Assignments.

    The course syllabus is a work in progress. Please note that I reserve the right to add or delete readings as the semester progresses. Readings that are not otherwise easily available (e.g., via the library's online resources) will be in a box on a bookshelf by my office. You are responsible for finding and retrieving materials that are online.

    Cooperating on Assignments.

    In this class there will be group assignments in which you may divide up the tasks in the assignment in any way you wish. All members of the group will receive the same grade on these assignments. On all other assignments I expect each student to work independently.

    Honor Code.

    Rice has an Honor System. The Honor System places a great deal of trust -- but also responsibility -- on the student. All graded work in this course is covered by the Honor System. In each case I will explain what limitations and restrictions you should observe in order to comply with the Honor System. But there may be times when my explanations are incomplete or you do not understand what I have said. The best way to avoid any potential problems with the Honor System is this: if you ever have any questions about how the Honor Code applies to anything in this course, contact me.

    Course Plan.

    25-Aug. Introduction: Scientific Contributions.

    1-Sep. Labor Day; no class.

    8-Sep. Social Science Theory.

    15-Sep. Clarifying Causal Mechanisms.

    22-Sep. Library Tour.

    29-Sep. Hypotheses.

    6-Oct. Varieties of Social Science Theories

    13-Oct. Midterm Recess. No class.

    20-Oct. Basics of Research Design

    27-Oct. Motivating a Paper.

    3-Nov. Motivating a Paper and Providing a Literature Review.

    10-Nov. Case Selection.

    17-Nov. Measurement Issues.

    24-Nov. Data Collection.

    1-Dec. Summary.

    Information on Designing Posters.