POL322 Lecture #2
How to Study Politics Scientifically
What do we study?
- not just facts and historical cases in Canadian politics, foreign countries or
- but importantly the scientific knowledge of political phenomena, generalizable
beyond specific cases
Science = a systematic method of knowledge creation
- main goal is to develop our knowledge of the causal process behind various
- science is arguable the most successful way to obtain and refine knowledge of the
nature and our society
Theory: a tentative conjecture about the causes of some phenomenon of interest
Hypothesis: a theory based statement about a relationship that we expect to observe
Empirical Test/Analysis: a process in which scientists evaluate collected evidence
systematically to make a judgment of whether the evidence favours their hypothesis
- Dependent variable (Y) — a phenomenon of interest.
o the value of Y will depend on the value X
- Independent variable (X) (or Explanatory Variable) — the cause/factor of the
- Explanation/mechasnism/process that links your independent and dependent
- A hypothesis from the theory is observable in the real world
Null Hypothesis & Falsifiability: we should know in advance what kind of evidence would
defuse our evidence and theory
- we test our hypothesis based on actual observations of the rule world
Process of Producing Scientific Knowledge 09/16/13
Alternative Hypothesis: used by another indicator
- We have tested the theory of economic voting using aggregate data (= Observations
are aggregated at macro level).
- What’s behind the aggregate data is individual voter’s vote choice.
- We can also test the same theory using individual data (=Survey of individual
- Always tentative, no way knowing the truth.
- It is always tentative — we remain open to the possibility that there is still a test out there that
will provide evidence that makes us lose confidence in that theory.
- Our scientific theory is never proven and we should always be willing to consider new evidence
- Our theory should be falsifiable — we should know when (or with what evid