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You might use some of both methods. The object is to frame an important, enduring, and open question about politics and write a plan for exploring information, including historical information that is, information at least ten years old to answer the question. What is the central issue that will motivate your research? Explain precisely what topic you will examine. Explain why it matters it may matter because it is central to scientific theory, because it is a central policy or political issue today, because it was a decisive turning point in political development, or because conventional wisdom about the topic may be wrong.


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There are many ways to get ideas for topics. Several are included in our readings. You can find others in key journals, such as The American Political Science Review or other general political science journals, or more specialized journals such as Studies in American Political Development. Your topic should be interesting to you.

Literature Review. What do we know about this topic? Who has written about it? What are their central arguments and assertions? What are the key concepts? What are the important open questions in the field? Sources include bibliographies, literature reviews, computer-assisted references, and discussions with faculty.

Theoretical Question. Once you have chosen a topic, you have to specify the problem you want to study.


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You will have to try to isolate one precise question about the topic to answer in a discrete research project. Precisely what question will your research try to answer? This may take the form of a relationship between a dependent variable and several independent variables that is, Why did something happen the way it did?

What caused it? Factor A? Factor B? Some combination? It also may take the form of the relationship between two non-recurring events. For example,. What information will you collect to answer the central theoretical question? Define 3 a and 3 b precisely. How do I know them when I see them are they Congressional votes?

If so, precisely which ones? Where can I find them? Specify why historical information is required to answer the question. How will you analyze the question? That is, what is your proposed research strategy answering the question? How will you decide that a relationship between a and b is confirmed or refuted by the evidence?

Will you statistically assess the relationship between variables? If so, how?

If not, what qualitative methods will you use to rigorously assess their relationship? Will you use a mixture of methods? How will you assess the role of other factors 3 d. Validity and Objectivity.

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How do you know that your conclusions will be valid? Are there flaws in your method that could cast doubt on your findings about the relationship of a and b? How do we know that the numbers and documents offer reasonably reliable measures of what you claim they measure? What explicit steps will you take to assure a reader that you are being fair-minded and objective in each step of the process?

What is the projected outline of the final written product? What timetable will you have for the project? Give a realistic estimate of the time it will take to complete each step above. Provide a bibliography. February 18 Monday : Founding. February 25 Monday : The Early Republic. March 25 and March Spring Break - Class does not meet. April 22 Monday : Liberal Ascent. May 6 Monday : Our Inheritance. Comprehensive Course Schedule. Is history important for understanding people you know? What can an understanding of history tell us about contemporary politics that we don't already know?

What is a rule? Why do we have rules? Why do we have the rules we have? What is an institution? Why do we have institutions?

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American Political Development

Is political development the same as progress? Why is it important to ask these questions:. Rhodes, Sarah A. Binder, and Bert A. Rockman, eds. How is religion affecting institution-building today? Be sure draw on Morone, pages Is there evidence of these effects today? They fashion, enable, and constrain political actors as they act within a logic of appropriate action. Institutions are carriers of identities and roles and they are markers of a polity's character, history, and visions.

Now explain why anyone who wants to understand politics should care. So what? Use the current budget debates as an example. How would a path-dependent explanation approach the problem of political polarization? What are the arguments for American federalism? What does the evidence today suggest about the validity of these arguments? What is a durable shift in governing authority and what difference does it make in studying politics?

Why is authority important in this definition? Why is durability important? Are we going through a durable shift in governing authority now? How does religion illustrate these concepts use Morone and Abramowitz as well as Orren and Skowronek? What does Skowronek mean by "the institutional logic of political disruption" p 15? Illustrate with the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barak Obama.

Explain why timing and sequence matters, according to Pierson. Use examples 1 from Morone and 2 contemporary politics. Be specific. How does American federalism illustrate the importance of 1 institutions and path dependence as discussed last week, and 2 timing and sequence, as discussed this week?

American Political Development

What does Pierson teach us about the timing and sequencing of the elements of the Constitution? Was the Virginia Plan doomed from the start? Give both sides. What lessons does James Madison teach us in general about the ability and the problems of achieving political success? Counterfactual: What would have happened had the Constitutional Convention adopted the entire Virginia Plan, and the document was ratified? What would be the consequences for federalism?

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What would be the consequences for the relative power of national institutions? In retrospect, what was the biggest miscalculation the framers made?