Propose a preliminary research design based on one research methodology

Instructions for your proposal  

The goal of the final project is to propose a preliminary research design based on one research methodology that we have examined in the course. Imagine you are competing for a small research grant. If successful, you would be awarded a research stipend of $3,000 and be given three months to conduct your study and report back to the agency funding your research. In other words, you do not have unlimited resources to design and conduct your research.

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Pick a research question of interest to you that fits broadly into the field of political science. Based on existing theory, develop a testable hypothesis that may bring you closer to answering your question.  Once you have decided on a hypothesis, think carefully about the unit of analysis to which it applies (e.g., do you require country-level data, individual-level data, or something else?).


The next step is to think about your sampling strategy and how you will collect your data. What type of data do you need to test your hypothesis and where could you find this data? Think carefully about how you will operationalize your independent and dependent variables. You must also identify one control variable that may plausibly affect the relationship between your independent and dependent variables. In total, you will have three variables: an explanatory (i.e., independent) variable, a control variable, and an outcome (i.e., dependent) variable. You must discuss how you will operationalize these variables, and state exactly which indicators you will use to measure them.


Finally, pick a research design that will allow you to test your hypothesis. If you select a qualitative methodology (interview, focus group, participant observation), you will not collect any data for your final project but will instead describe how you will you execute your study, if you were to be awarded the research grant. If you select a theory-testing case study or a comparative analysis, you will need to include a brief analysis section in your final project that allows you to test your hypothesis by analyzing your cases. If you choose a large-N analysis, your assignment will include a brief data analysis using R.[1]


To complete the proposal, fill in the form below to put together a general framework for your proposed final project. Be concise in your answers – you do not need to write long responses or provide detailed background information (apart from describing your sample and measures). Based on the feedback received, you may need to revise your project in consultation with the instructor. Type your answers into this document and be sure to fill in your name as well as your student ID number in the heading above. Submit your proposal worksheet in the assignment submission folder on MyCourses.


The final paper, which will be submitted after the second exam, is worth 20% of your grade. You will receive your feedback early the week following the deadline and then you can get started putting your final project together. A separate assignment sheet will be posted outlining the exact structure of your final paper. The final paper requires a short literature review to introduce and outline your topic. Please refer to the Library resources posted to MyCourses. You may wish to review the library resources webinar. A recording of this tutorial is available on MyCourses. Take advantage of office hours and e-mail the instructor with any questions you have. For this proposal worksheet, you do not need to provide background research but be sure to provide all the relevant information in the form below.


Proposal Worksheet:


(1) Research question:




(2) Dependent variable:




(3) Independent variable:




(4) Possible control variable[2]:





(5) Theoretical motivation and causal mechanism (1 paragraph):






(6) Testable hypothesis, based on your theory:








(7) Proposed methodology (1 paragraph):

Indicate which methodology you propose for your study. You can choose either a theory-testing case study, a comparative analysis set up as a most-similar or most-different systems comparison, a qualitative method such as interviews, focus groups, or participant observations, or you can include large-N statistical analyses of country-level or individual-level indicators compiled from official statistics or survey data, respectively. Give a brief justification for why you select this particular methodology to answer your research question. 


(8) Proposed source of data (1 to 2 paragraph):

If you are proposing to qualitative study, be sure to include the essential information such as proposed question-wordings or the observations to be recorded in your interview/observation/focus group schedule. Be sure to describe the sample of individuals you will recruit (for interviews, focus groups or survey research), describe the situation you will observe (for participant observations), or the cases you will use in your analysis (for case studies or comparative analyses). If proposing a case study or comparative analysis, briefly describe the indicators for your key variables. If you are proposing a large-N statistical analysis (cross-country comparisons or survey analysis), be sure to identify potential data sources and list the indicators of each variables (i.e., the specific question wording or definitions used in the dataset. Also provide the name of the variable as it appears in the codebook).


[1]                      Remember, all the steps you need for any analyses will be covered in the data tutorials and lab guides prior to the second exam. You will have this code available for you as you prepare your project.

[2]                      Your control variable should capture a plausible alternative explanation for your phenomenon that you wish to rule out. It may be a source of spuriousness, but it could any other factor besides your independent variable, that you think may be related to your dependent variable.


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