Explorations: Reading and Conducting Empirical Research in Political Science

This chapter concludes your study of research methods in political science by emphasizing how what you have learned will be relevant and applicable in your studies, life, and career beyond this course. This book as a whole has emphasized key points such as theory and causality, measurement, representativeness, research ethics, and the potential for bias, intentional or unintentional. Political scientists emphasize that there is no one best way to conduct research, only different research designs that have different strengths and weaknesses and can be used to expand our knowledge of the political world.

The key to thinking like a political scientist is working to assess the claims made in research, as well as those made in other contexts. The key questions to ask when assessing a claim are: what is the evidence for the claim, who is making the claim and are they likely to be objective, and whether there is a larger body of evidence to support the claim. It is worthwhile to think of the body of literature on any political topic as being a form of mixed method research, where different studies can be compared and used collectively to develop greater insight. Meta analyses and systematic reviews are ways to systematize the knowledge in the body of literature and gain greater insight.