How is good social science research done, and how do we evaluate it? This course is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the analytical tools of political science research and writing. The foremost goal is a better understanding of how good critical thinking is conducted. Along the way, students will become good consumers of political science research and gain a better understanding of how to properly conduct their own research in the future.
Critical thinking is not about blindly accepting the wisdom of the “talking heads” you see on television or the information you get online. It is about admitting and being comfortable with uncertainty. In the complex arena of politics—where there are almost always multiple and competing assessments of and solutions to problems—this type of analysis is crucial. It includes the ability to break a problem into its component parts, to question assumptions, to recognize and critically assess multiple and competing sources of information, to evaluate alternative perspectives on problems, and finally to design and evaluate solutions to those problems. The value of the study of the social sciences lies in the development of these skills, and it is toward these ends that this course is organized.