UB PSC 505 - PSC505 Course Information (19 pages)

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PSC505 Course Information



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PSC505 Course Information

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Pages:
19
School:
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
Course:
Psc 505 - Seminar in American Politics
Seminar in American Politics Documents
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PSC 505 SEMINAR IN A MERICAN P OLITICS Spring Semester 2008 Mondays 6 8 50 PM 520 Park Hall Prof James E Campbell Office 522 Park Hall Office Hours Wednesdays 2 00 4pm e mail jcampbel buffalo edu Phone 645 2251 ext 522 INTRODUCTION The purpose of this seminar is to provide a broad overview of the state of empirical research on American political institutions behavior and processes This seminar will acquaint students with 1 the structure roles and norms governing American political institutions such as the presidency Congress the bureaucracy political parties and interest groups elections and other topics encompassed by the American politics field and 2 mainstream empirical research into the behavior of various political actors in each of these institutional settings Given the breadth of research in the American politics sub field I have of necessity been selective in both the topics chosen for discussion and the readings assigned This seminar should be viewed as a foundation upon which one may develop further knowledge of American politics through additional readings and course work This is only the beginning just the tip of the iceberg To complete a field in American politics successfully you must read well beyond what is covered in this as well as in other course work This semester a segment of the course will focus on research relating to the American political campaigns This is an issue that has received a good deal of attention in the last couple of years and there are several interesting books that have been published about campaigns recently P HILOSOPHY OF G RADUATE E DUCATION It may be helpful particularly for those of you coming directly from your undergraduate degrees to think about education as being comprised of four related elements Before graduate school education concentrates on the first two of these The acquisition of knowledge is the first element You should know the essential facts and research findings that concern American politics and government The second element is understanding You should not just know the facts but understand how they are believed to be related to one another theoretically their causes and consequences Like undergraduate education graduate education in political science entails these first two elements though you are expected to know and to understand more than what is expected of an undergraduate However this difference in expectation is not the main difference between undergraduate and graduate education Graduate education is not just a few more years of undergraduate education Unlike most of undergraduate education graduate education involves a third and fourth element the development of a critical capacity and the learning of research skills that allow for the assessment and development of new knowledge The third element is the development of a capacity for critical insight into research You should know and understand the facts theories and methods of the field well enough that you can thoughtfully question the basis of research You should be able to distinguish good research from bad and great research from good and explain what makes any piece of research great good or bad Research findings should never be believed just because they have been published Neither should findings be cynically and unthinkingly rejected because they do not fit preconceived ideas or because they are based on methodologies with which you are unfamiliar You should demand and inspect the evidence and how it was analyzed and you should be able to discern adequate and appropriate analyses from inadequate and inappropriate analyses Always ask why should anyone believe this A thorough understanding of political science methodologies is absolutely essential to this critical judgment You should take as many methodology courses and learn about as many statistical techniques as possible You should also always bear in mind that these are tools to be used in the service of but are not substitutes for rigorous scientific thinking At the end of this syllabus is a set of questions that I have prepared that you should use to guide you in critically evaluating the research that you read You should carefully read these questions and go back to them from time to time throughout the course until they become second nature to you in your reading The fourth element of political science education is the development of the ability to contribute to the literature or knowledge base of the field To undertake and execute research that adds to our knowledge and understanding of American politics requires a thorough knowledge and understanding of the existing research and a critical eye to where that knowledge could be refined elaborated revised corrected or extended It also requires an expertise with the methodological tools necessary complete an empirical research project You must be able to identify an important question frame a specific and testable hypothesis collect or identify properly measured pertinent data analyze the data with appropriate techniques draw careful and reasonable inferences from that data and draw out the broader implications of your findings In general you should develop the ability to anticipate why others might not believe your findings and address the basis for their likely concerns The first three elements of education place the student in the role of a consumer of knowledge The fourth element the ability to contribute to the literature is important because the student is in the role of a producer of knowledge The student is not just taking from the field but giving something back This element is important to keeping the field alive and also helps the student gain additional perspective on what is important in a field what research has or has not been done well and what further work needs to be pursued In short good producers are better informed consumers and the dichotomy often drawn between teaching and research is in most respects a false one The four interdependent elements of political science education do not develop in sequence and they do not develop in course work alone Ultimately you are responsible for accumulating the knowledge and developing these learning skills This course and others can help to develop and tests can help to assess in part your success in these areas However in the end it is your job to prepare yourself as fully as you can for your career as a political scientist Some would say that you must be committed as in dedicated if


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