POLSCI 1AB3 Lecture 1: Lecture 1.1 Science of Politics
Monday, January 9, 2017
Lecture 1.1-Science of Politics
- Is there such a thing as a scientiﬁc analysis of the political world?
- Can Political Science be scientiﬁc?
- The type of experimental method used in the natural sciences simply cannot be
replicated for many of the questions that we have in the social sciences
- We can develop a hypothesis
- A statement that one or more variable(s) (independent variable(s)) will cause a particular
outcome (dependent variable)
- x + y = z
However, there is a problem with testing the hypothesis
- We cannot simply isolate and combine social variables (unlike the case for chemistry or
- The variables we are interested in always exist in a larger social context that contains many
many other simultaneously coexisting variables
- How can you be certain that x produced y when variables a-w are also simultaneously
- Any one of the alternative variables, or perhaps some combination of the alternative
variables, could be responsible for the outcome you are interested in understanding
- So if we are interested in developing a science of politics:
- How do we test our hypotheses?
• Some Options using single cases:
• a) Most likely
• b) Least likely case
- One model for conducting a scientiﬁc Political Science:
- Step one – Hypothesis generation
- You need to start with an informed guess about what is causing the phenomenon/event you
are interested in
- Where does this informed guess (hypothesis) come from?
- A) Existing expert literature
- There is likely to be existing literature on your topic of interest
- There may, in fact, be several different and competing explanations
- Identify the existing hypotheses: Which of those explanations seems most persuasive
1 Monday, January 9, 2017
- Perhaps your research study can be organized to test which hypothesis is best supported by
- B) Exploratory Case study
- Find a society (a state, province, city, organization) where the phenomenon (e.g. economic
development) that you want to understand is present
- Why did the phenomenon develop in that society?
- Note that a single case study is not sufﬁcient for proving a general social law (i.e. a law that is
true for all states/societies)