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Research Questions, Hypotheses, and Variables Choosing a Research Question Specifying an Explanation Hypotheses
The Research Process Define and Refine Research Question Locate Research Collect Important Information Write the Literature Review Make Me Proud
Choosing a Research Question Concerned with the initial steps of an empirical research project First step is to choose a research question
Choosing a Research Question Political scientists investigate diverse phenomena. Research question may focus on The political behavior of individuals, groups, institutions, or political jurisdictions Descriptive, factual, or normative knowledge Two or more variables
Choosing a Research Question Research questions may originate from Personal observation or experience Writings of others Interest in some broader social theory Practical concerns like career objectives
Central Research Question Define Your Research Question -What are you researching? -What do you seek to accomplish? Refine Your Research Question -Is your question too broad? Too vague? -Is there an abundance of information? -Too much information? Too Little?
Specifying an Explanation How are two or more variables related? A variable is a concept with variation. An independent variable is thought to influence, affect, or cause variation in another variable. A dependent variable is thought to depend upon or be caused by variation in an independent variable.
Specifying an Explanation Variables can have many different kinds of relationships: Multiple independent variables usually needed Antecedent variables Intervening variables An arrow diagram can map the relationships
Quantitative Research Variables (Attributes) Independent Variable Dependent Variable Control Variable Hypotheses (not to be proven!) Null Hypotheses
Specifying an Explanation Causal relationships are the most interesting. A causal relationhip has three components: X and Y covary. The change in X precedes the change in Y. Covariation between X and Y is not a coincidence or spurious. We can state relationships in hypotheses.
Hypotheses Six characteristics of a good hypothesis: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Should be an empirical statement that formalizes an educated guess about a phenomenon that exists in the political world Should explain general rather than particular phenomena Logical reason for thinking that the hypothesis might be confirmed by the data Should state the direction of the relationship Terms describing concepts should be consistent with the manner of testing Data should be feasible to obtain and would indicate if the hypothesis is defensible
The Hypothesis Makes a prediction Most research questions, however, formulate more than one hypothesis. Attendance, along with solid study habits and ample rest could also influence course grades. Yet, the focus is typically on the null hypothesis.
Null Hypothesis A hypothesis of no relationship Prove or disprove the null hypothesis to show support or opposition to your actual hypothesis. Why?
Hypotheses must specify a unit of analysis: Individuals, groups, states, organizations, etc… Most research uses hypotheses with one unit of analysis. Need to be able to identify these to be successful
Clarity In Research Be precise in determining unit(s) of analysis. How will you analyze? Why are you choosing to analyze this way? Choose the proper level of analysis.
Ecological Fallacy A higher level of data trying to explain a lower level of behavior. Too much generalizing. Ex: Income level in a community
Reductionism A smaller level of data trying to explain a higher level of behavior. Ex: Steve Bartman caused the Chicago Cubs to miss the World Series in 2003.
Spuriousness A false relationship; a relationship that appears but is not. Other factors often enter Ex: Children who listen to classical music perform better in school.
Hypotheses Definitions of concepts should be Clear Accurate Precise Informative Otherwise, reader will not understand concept correctly. Many of the concepts used in political science are fairly abstract—careful consideration is necessary.
What is a Variable? Simply, something that varies. Specifically, variables represent persons or objects that can be manipulated, controlled, or merely measured for the sake of research. Variation: How much a variable varies. Those with little variation are called constants.
Examples of Variables In the recent GOP sweep of the House and Senate, variables (or factors) that may have played a part would include: Voter Turnout Party Message # of Open Seats Redistricting # of Incumbents Wellstone Funeral
Independent Variables These variables are ones that are more or less controlled. Scientists manipulate these variables as they see fit. They still vary, but the variation is relatively known or taken into account. Often there are many in a given study.
Dependent Variables Dependent variables are not controlled or manipulated in any way, but instead are simply measured or registered. These vary in relation to the independent variables, and while results can be predicted, the data is always measured. There can be any number of dependent variables, but usually there is one to isolate reason for variation.
Independent V. Dependent Intentionally manipulated Controlled Vary at known rate Cause Intentionally left alone Measured Vary at unknown rate Effect
Example: What affects a student’s arrival to class? Variables: Type of School Liberals Arts v. University Type of Student Athlete? Gender? GPA? Time Bedtime, Waking, Arrival Mode of Transportation
Variables The Independent Variable (IV) causes (causal relationship) the Dependent Variable (DV). Example: Students who attend class earn higher course grades. IV: Class attendance DV: Course grades
Example An investigator had 60 subjects watch a videotaped reenactment of a bank robbery. Half of the subjects were asked by a police investigator to recall the event, while the remaining subjects were interviewed by a police investigator while they were hypnotized. Independent Variable: Dependent Variable:
Example 2 To test a new voice feature in a cockpit design a flight simulator was used. The simulator was programmed to give visual readings of flight information, or to give visual and auditory (voice) readings of flight information. All test pilots were put through a simulated emergency landing procedure, but were randomly assigned to the visual, or visual and auditory conditions. Flight experts rated each pilot’s performance in the simulator on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 10 (excellent). Independent Variable: Dependent Variable: