POL51 Notes

POL51 Notes - 18:09 ScientificMethod Createtheories:...

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18:09 Scientific Method Create theories: statements that explain and predict causes and effects Form hypotheses Conduct research Evaluate Do my results match my hypotheses? What does this say about my theory? What is a theory?  A body of statements that organize knowledge and explain  phenomena Theories gain acceptance in the scientific community as the number of tests and  observations supporting them increases.  Criteria for Evaluating Scientific Theories Explanatory Empirical About what is, not what ought to be (normative) Falsifiable Cumulative Causal  Take the form, X causes Y General: applies to many cases Parsimonious “Ockham’s razor”- the best explanations are the simplest and most efficient Novel
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Non-obvious The best scientific theories generate predictions that are unexpected (but true) A word on Theory Development Where do theories come from?  Often, inspired by experiences of the researcher However, we must be careful to not let our data drive our theory development.  We use  data to test theory, not create it.  Example: the lawyer v. the scientist.  The role of the scientist is to be a skeptic, not to  prove a case.  Variables and Casual Explanations Science revolves around theories with casual explanations A casual explanation takes the form of: “variation in X leads to predictable variations in  Y” Identity Variation in the Dependent Variable  Interesting variation occurs along either space or time (or both) From the Specific to the General Political science is not history- what is the difference? Historians tend to look at specific events Political scientist, by contrast, want to develop theories about general phenomena that  have occurred and could occur again. Ex. What caused World War I? vs. Why do countries go to war? “Wealthy people vote for republicans” Indep: wealth, dep: republican Other Independent Variables Antecedent variables: occur prior to all other variables and may affect other independent  variables
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Antecedent -> X -> Y Parents education -> exposure to politics -> political interest Intervening variables: occur closer in time to the dependent variable and itself is  affected by other independent variables.  X ->intervening -> Y Education –> money -> vote republican Hypothesizes should be empirical statements Hypotheses should be general. Should be plausible Have some logical basis  Hypotheses should be consistent with data structure  Hypotheses should be testable  Should be specific  Directional: state how variables are related, not just that they are related Positive: increases in X cause increases in Y People become more conservative with age Negative: increases in X cause decreases in Y
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This note was uploaded on 12/01/2011 for the course POL 51 taught by Professor Ryan,john during the Winter '08 term at UC Davis.

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POL51 Notes - 18:09 ScientificMethod Createtheories:...

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