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About this book

This is a comprehensive introduction to research design for university students at all levels across the whole range of political science, including international relations and public administration. It covers the key steps in the research process and explains the logic and detail of a variety of classic and cutting-edge methods.

Based on a pluralistic approach, the text endorses both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, and outlines the strengths and limitations of different designs for addressing particular research goals. Giving accessible and practical advice, without use of mathematical formulas or formalized notation, this clear and engaging book features many examples of real political science research, and will enable readers to design their own research projects as well as to critically evaluate existing research in the social sciences.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
This is a guide to designing and evaluating scientific research in the field of political science, broadly defined to include the study of public administration and international relations in addition to the core domains of national and comparative politics.
Dimiter Toshkov

Chapter 2. Types of Research and Research Questions

Abstract
What is good governance? How can the functioning of democracy in Africa be improved? Is supporting democracy in foreign countries just and justifiable? What is the impact of foreign aid on democratic consolidation? Will India remain a democracy 20 years from now? Is South Africa a democracy? Is an ethnically diverse country more likely to have a weak government than an ethnically homogeneous one?
Dimiter Toshkov

Chapter 3. Theory in the Research Process

Abstract
Theory has a bad reputation. It is equally disliked by students who think it is hard, professionals who think it is useless, and some philosophers who think it is unattainable. If we could only cling to the observable facts and forget about theory altogether! Alas, theory is unavoidable. Whether we like it or not, it is theory that provides explanations, allows for the communication and accumulation of scientific knowledge, and even determines what are relevant observable facts in the first place.
Dimiter Toshkov

Chapter 4. Concepts and Operationalization

Abstract
This chapter deals with the nature of concepts and with their translation into operationalized constructs that can be studied empirically. It takes us from the heights of the most abstract discussions about the definition of definitions and the conceptualization of concepts to the most practical, feet-on-the-ground issues of measurement.
Dimiter Toshkov

Chapter 5. Measurement and Description

Abstract
This chapter is about measurement and descriptive research in its various manifestations. It discusses in detail the purpose, types, challenges, and limitations of descriptive research. Description is considered a fundamental goal of science and one that is valuable (if currently under-valued) in its own right rather than merely as a stepping stone towards explanation.
Dimiter Toshkov

Chapter 6. Explanation and Causality

Abstract
The Ancient Greek philosopher Democritus allegedly once said, ‘I would rather discover one causal law than be King of Persia.’ Much of contemporary political science is fuelled by a similar ambition to offer explanations rather than ‘mere’ descriptions, although not necessarily in the form of causal laws. How to test for and discover causes and explanations in empirical data is the subject of Chapters 7–11. But we have one question to answer before that. What exactly is explanation? While we have used the term extensively already (especially in Chapters 2 and 3), so far we left its meaning deliberately vague. In this chapter we go beyond an intuitive understanding of explanation to suggest some possible forms and definitions. We conclude that causal explanation is the most relevant one for political scientists.
Dimiter Toshkov

Chapter 7. Experimental Designs

Abstract
Experiments are probably not the first thing that come to mind when you think about political science research. More likely, experiments evoke visions of white-coated men running around sterile rooms or, in a more social-scientific context, people behind glass windows hurting each other just because they were told to do so by the scientists (I am referring of course to the famous Milgram experiment). Yet experiments have a large role to play in research on politics and governance. There are at least three reasons why you should care about the topic.
Dimiter Toshkov

Chapter 8. Large-N Designs

Abstract
The merits of experimental research notwithstanding, for many questions of primary interest to political scientists an experimental design would too often be infeasible, unethical, or both. We cannot abandon such questions on account of a methodological difficulty. We have to do the best we can in situations where random assignment and experimental manipulation are unavailable. Welcome to the realm of observational research designs.
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Chapter 9. Comparative Designs

Abstract
Comparison is at the heart of all political science research, if not all knowledge. The power of experimental and large-N observational research to uncover causal effects also comes from making comparisons — it is only that these comparisons are often embedded in complex statistical models. In this chapter we focus on comparative research when only a small number of observations are available. These designs require a separate treatment, because they face challenges of a different scale, although not altogether of a different type, from large-N observational research.
Dimiter Toshkov

Chapter 10. Single-Case Study Designs

Abstract
Single-case studies are surrounded by more confusion than any other type of research design in political science. Much of the confusion arises from misunderstanding the label ‘case study’. In a sense, all research projects are case studies. A public opinion survey of 1,500 randomly selected Americans is a case study of American public opinion. A laboratory experiment of altruism with 30 participants from one German town is a case study on altruism in contemporary Germany. A comparison of the East German, Polish, and Romanian political upheavals in 1989 is a case study of regime change in Eastern Europe.
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Chapter 11. Mixed and Nested Designs

Abstract
The previous chapters considered research designs as separate self-contained modules: a randomized experiment, a large-N instrumental variable strategy, a most similar systems case comparison, a most likely case single-case analysis, and so on. This chapter discuses how individual modules can be combined in the practice of political science research. Combining different designs and approaches can alleviate the relative weaknesses of each individual one and can amplify their respective strengths.
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Chapter 12. Communicating Research

Abstract
We have identified an interesting and important research question, developed theory and concepts, decided on a goal and matching research strategy, and we have selected cases and the variables to observe. The preceding chapters should have prepared you well for all these tasks. Imagine now that the research is complete: the data have been gathered and meticulously analysed, the inferences have been made, and the conclusions have been drawn. What now?
Dimiter Toshkov
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