• Created by: acornes15
  • Created on: 13-11-18 11:49


Politics belongs to social science discipline

Test thoughts against observations of reality - free from bias, prejudice and confusion

Do not confuse science with technology - it is a process of thinking and asking questions, not knowledge 

Social knowledge should be:

  • Communicable (clear form)
  • Valid (apporpriate evidence)
  • Compelling (fits question)

Systematic thought needs:

  • Reasoned judgement
  • Opinion
  • Objectivity
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Scientific strategy

  • Concepts
  • Variables
  • Hypotheses
  • Measurements
  • Theories
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A label/tag or title for objects - based on language

Meanings of concepts --> human understanding and social control

Concepts are:

  • Tentative 
  • Based on agreement
  • Useful when significant and definable 

Science checks concepts by testing links through observation 

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Something that influences (or is influenced by) something else

Independent: variable that is changed or contolled

Dependent: variable that is measured and what is effected

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Discrete quantification (number of children)

Continuous quantification (age)

The measurement is reliable if it yeilds the same results when others use it

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Formulated sentence that provides organisation and structure to inquiry

Assess validity through hypotheses

  • clearly specified and measureable variables
  • precisely state relationship between variables
  • testable - allow observation, demonstration or falsification
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The role of theory

  • Provides patterns for interpretation of data
  • Links one study to another
  • Provides framework so concepts and variables aquire substantive significance 
  • Interpret larger meaning of findings - see bigger picture 
  • No theory = social science is incoherent and meaningless
  • BUT not all social science can be tied to specific theory
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Quantitative and Qualitative tradition

Quantitaitve - favours statistics to make causal inferences

Qualitative - favours collection of evidence to understand outcomes 

Both are right!!

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Scientific method

1) Identify - variables or object of study

2) Create - hypotheses or assumption about relation

3) Test - measure/observe hypothesized relationship

4) Evaluate - compare results against orignial hypothesis and develop generalisations

5) Suggest - theoretical significance 

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Scientific research in Politics

  • Inference - make descriptive or explanatory inferences on basis of empirical information
  • Public procedures - use explicit, codified and public methods to generate and analyse data
  • Uncertain conclusions - have to estiamte for uncertainty (won't be interpretable)
  • Method as content - adhere to set of rules of inference which validity depends on
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Building vs testing

Theory building - induction

Theory testing - deduction

Important because:

  • sets out framework
  • helps collect empirical evidence 
  • establish relations between variables
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More variables

  • Alternative 
  • Antecdent - comes before the independent variable
  • Intervening - things that may interrupt
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How many hypotheses?

At least 2!

  • Null hypothesis - presume no relationship
  • Alternative hypothesis - what you're trying to study

Need to establish a causal link - changes in one are attributed to variation in another

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  • properties of the variable
  • appropriate meaurement technique
  • levels of measurement that are possible

Nominal - classify

Ordinal - classify and order

Interval - classify, order, set units of distance

Ratio - classify, order, set units of distance, locate absolute zero

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Sampling and probability

How indicative is the sample for the wider population?


Random sampling

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Association vs correlation

Association - establish relation between variables

Correlation - describe direction and strength of association between variables

Ultimate goal - move from correlation to causality

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Ethics and Standards

Factuality - observation of facts

Reality - understanding

Actuality - reflecting on experience

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Inferences and assumptions


Drawing larger conclusions on basis of empricial observations

  • Descriptive - generalising, simplifying
  • Causal - counterfactual question


Causal inference is based on assumptions

Additional observations independent from each other/degree of contingency

Provide logical framework for reasoning 

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  • Must consult nature (Bacon)
  • Directing capacities of reason (Kant) - rational beings
  • Objective thruth through science
  • Knowledge obtained through sense (HUme, Locke)
  • Vienna Circle: neutral observation language (1920s)
  • Distinction between facts and values
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Philosophy relied upon findings of science 

Natural and social sciences share common methodological foundation

2 forms of knowledge - empirical and logical

All ideas come from experience

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Anti-positivist reaction

  • Verstehen - understanding
  • Erklaren - explaining

No neutral language so can't be value-free

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What is a good theory?

Has to be falsifiable - inconsistent with some observation statement

If it is not falsifiable it is not scientific


  • Laws and generalisations go beyond experience
  • Theoretical terms go beyond experience
  • Metaphysical concepts dont refer to experience

Popper rejected unduction and positivism - not logically valid, can't move to universal generalisation

Only deduction is logically valid - ask questions not observations

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Kuhn - structure of scientific revolutions

Sociological factors in scientific change

Theory dependence on observation


  • disciplinary matrix
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