POLS 209: Introduction to Political Science Research

Professor: B. Dan Wood; Office: 2098 Allen Building; Phone: 845-1610; EMAIL:

Class: Section 904, 4
:45-6:00 pm MW, 1005 Allen Building

Lab sessions: as announced in class and listed on the course schedule—will meet in the COMPUTER LAB (2003 Allen Building).

Office Hours: 4:10-4:40 TR; or by appointment



This course is about the “science” in political science. It provides an introduction to the scientific method, scientific research design and the use of quantitative methods in political science. You will learn how to formulate scientific research questions, develop theories, and then test them in a rigorous manner. An important part of this process is statistics. Thus, this course will also combine teaching the principles of statistics with some hands-on data analysis.

I have two goals for you in this class. The first is to prepare you for future political science classes which will present rigorous scientific research. The second and more important goal is to prepare you for a possible career in political science and/or a related profession (e.g., law, public administration, policy analysis). As you probably know, this course is required for all political science majors. There is a reason it is required. Specifically, the ability to evaluate causal arguments and use statistics to analyze data is often essential to professional work. Further, the research methods you will learn in this course will help you understand the political world from a more objective perspective, and become an informed participant in political debates and discussion.



We will split time in this class between the classroom and computer lab. Classroom sessions will involve instruction in the scientific method and various topics associated with doing rigorous political science research. Lab time will be spent doing computer exercises related to the core texts and training you in the use of a statistical package.


Again, much of the instruction in this course will be computer-based, and the class will frequently be held in the computer lab so that you can follow along and replicate on your own computers what I am doing on the big computer screen in the lab. The main software will be the STATA statistical program. Note that STATA is a local company, but with world-wide usage. Students can purchase the STATA package for installation on their laptops at a substantial discount. While this is not necessary to do well in the class, it might be convenient to do so. No prior computer experience is assumed.


IMPORTANT: To complete your computer assignments and do the work for your final paper, you will need to set some time aside in your weekly schedule when you can go to the computer lab outside of class time.


This is a “W” course. As a result, you will have ample opportunity for writing practice. A full, 70% of your final grade will be based on four written assignments. Note that this class has a writing assistant (WA) assigned to help evaluate and improve your writing. The WA and I will give feedback on your written work with the goal of improving your writing skills. For more details about “W” courses, go to:


IMPORTANT: You will need to meet with the WA to discuss your performance on the first three papers, which are preliminary to your final paper. You will also need to meet with the WA to discuss a polished draft of your final paper before turning it in.


IMPORTANT: You are also required to meet with me before March 14th to discuss the topic and content for your final research paper.


As noted above, 70% of your final grade in this course will be based on four papers that vary in length and character. The grades on these papers will contribute the following percentages toward your final grade:

10%: Article Review #1 (2-3 pgs)

10%: Article Review #2 (2-3 pgs)

10%: Research Proposal (2-3 pgs)

40%: Final Paper (8-12 pgs)

Command of the course material and conducting the research are the most important determinants of your grade on these writing assignments. However, this course is a writing intensive course, intended to improve your ability to write papers that are appropriate to the discipline of political science. Thus, regardless of how well a paper addresses the substantive material of the assignment, the paper will not earn a passing grade unless the writing in your paper is also graded by the WA to be at a passing level.

The remaining 30% of your final grade in this course will be based on a sequence of in-class quizzes. I will NOT announce the dates for the quizzes in advance. However, all of the questions on the quizzes will be drawn from the exercises at the end of each chapter in the two Pollack books (both the Essentials book and the STATA book). Therefore, one approach to achieving good performance would be to work those exercises in advance of the lectures on the associated topics.

Do not turn in late work! You will lose one letter grade for each day late.

Your grade also depends on your participation in and attendance of class. The
TAMU attendance policy applies to this course, and I will take daily attendance. I will not explicitly penalize you for poor attendance. However, I will reward you for good attendance. If you have perfect attendance, I will add three bonus points to your final grade. If you miss fewer than three unexcused absences I will add one bonus point to your final grade. This could help if you are borderline between letter grades. More important, it will be impossible to do well in the course having missed crucial lecture or lab materials.

While I do not grade on a curve (you earn what you earn, and I hope you all earn "A"s!), the typical class average is around a middle or upper "C". (A=90-100; B=80-89; C=70-79; D=60-69; F=0-59). Simply completing the course requirements will most likely earn you a "C". Earning an "A" requires extraordinary performance.

Let me also mention academic integrity. All students are expected to abide by the University policy on academic integrity. In this regard you should not acquire answers or written work from unauthorized sources, provide answers to others, or engage in plagiarism. As commonly defined, plagiarism consists of passing off someone else's ideas, words, writings, etc. as one’s own. In accordance with the definition, you are committing plagiarism if you copy the work of another person and turn it in as your own, even if you should have the permission of the person. Plagiarism is one of the worst academic sins, for the plagiarist destroys the trust among colleagues without which research cannot be safely communicated. If you have questions regarding the University’s policy on scholastic dishonesty you may consult the following link on scholastic dishonesty.

The handouts used in this course are copyrighted. By “handouts,” I mean all materials generated for this class, which include but are not limited to syllabi, quizzes, exams, lab problems, in-class materials review sheets, and additional problem sets. Because these are copyrighted, you do not have the right to copy the handouts, unless I expressly grant permission.

Students with Disabilities: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protections for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring accommodation, please contact the Department of Student Life, Services for Students with Disabilities in Room 126 of the Koldus Building, or call 845-1637.

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