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Lecture 1

GVPT 100 Lecture 1: Theory and Hypothesis

Government and Politics
Course Code
GVPT 100

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Theory and Hypothesis – GVPT100 – 9/25
Theories are explanations which generally make causal statements
oIf X happens, Y will follow as a result
oGenerally probabilistic, not deterministic
oIdentifies a relationship between an independent and dependent variable
Independent variable – variable that represents a causal factor in an explanation
oExpressed as X
Dependent variable – variable that represents the effect in a causal explanation
oExpressed as Y
Ex. Are people with more education more likely to vote?
The Liberal Peace? – Lecture 9/25
oEducation level is the IV
oProbability to vote is the DV
Good theories should be:
oParsimonious – the best theories explain the most with the least
oAccurate – the best theories make accurate predictions
Addresses a problem that is important
Or applies broadly and generally
oGenerally start with an interesting puzzle
oGood theory tries to start with a simple, uncontroversial premises and lead to
interesting and non-obvious conclusions
oTheories can be evaluated in a couple of ways:
Logical consistency – do the conclusions follow logically from the
Empirical accuracy – do the theories help us understand the world
oNever vague or tautological (circular)
Conflict is bad.
Gun control supporters favor strong limits on gun ownership
Steps to Theory Building
oStart with a puzzle
Ex. Why do some countries have more open trade than others
oIdentify actors that matter for your theory
oIdentify assumptions behind your argument
Ex. What do voters care about? What do politicians care about?
Identify premises flowing from these assumptions and show how they
relate to each other.
Theory VS. Hypothesis
oTheory: and argument explaining why x has some effect on y
oHypothesis: an empirical prediction from that argument
Hypotheses tell you several things:
oUnit of analysis
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