This module introduces the basic concepts and practices for evaluating and making inferences in social and political research. Students will be equipped with the vocabulary and basic logical framework required to critically assess and eventually produce academic social science research. This module serves as the basis for a subsequent module on research methods (PAIR 2004).

In-Class Questions and Answers (10%), throughout semester.
Research Design Proposal (maximum 500 words, 40%), due November 25 at 3pm via Turnitin on Blackboard. Short Research Paper (1500 words, 50%), due January 18 at 3pm via Turnitin on Blackboard.


Title: Introduction to Political Inquiry (PAIR 1005)
Course Website:
Office: Building 58, Room 3083
Lecture 1: Monday 1-2pm in 54/4011
Lecture 2: Thursday 3-4pm in SUSU Cinema
Large Seminar: Friday 1-2pm in Avenue 65/1133
Contact and feedback hours:
Monday 4pm - 5pm
Thursday 4pm - 5pm
Or by appointment:

Main Texts

Barakso, Maryann, Daniel M. Sabet, Brian Schaffner. 2013. Understanding Political Science Research Methods. New York: Routledge.
Kellstedt, Paul M., Guy D. Whitten. 2013.The Fundamentals of Political Science Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baglione, Lisa A. 2016. Writing a Research Paper in Political Science. Los Angeles: Sage.


Week 1. Introductory Sessions

Lecture 1: Introducing the module Lecture 2: Introducing each other

Seminar 1

Week 2. Academic Research

Lecture 3: Induction into the scholarly community Lecture 4: The scientific study of politics
  • "The Scientific Study of Politics" in KW
Seminar 2: Conversation with staff

Week 3. Building Blocks

Lecture 5: The Challenge of Inference
  • "The Challenge of Inference," in BSS
Lecture 6: Hypotheses, Laws, Theories
  • "Hypotheses, Laws, and Theories: A User's Guide" in Van Evera
Seminar 3

Week 4. Descriptive Inference

Lecture 7: Data types, units, levels of analysis
  • "The Challenge of Descriptive Inference" in BSS
Lecture 8: Probability, sampling, error
  • "The Challenge of Descriptive Inference" in BSS
Seminar 4

Week 5. Causal Inference

Lecture 9: Developing a Causal Theory
  • "The Art of Theory Building" in KW
Lecture 10: The Fundamental Problem of Causal Inference
  • "Evaluating Causal Theories" in KW
Seminar 5

Week 6. Research Design

Lecture 11: Types of Research Design
  • "Research Design" in KW
Lecture 12: Beginning an Academic Research Project
  • "So You Have to Write a Research Paper," in Baglione (2016)
  • "Getting Started," in Baglione
Seminar 6: Developing your research proposal

Week 7. Experimental Designs

Lecture 13: Experiments

Week 8. Large-N Observational

Lecture 15: Using statistics to test causal relationships Lecture 16: Practical statistical tools Seminar 8: demonstration/workshop

Week 9. Small-N Observational

Lecture 17: Using case selection to test causal hypotheses
  • "Small-N Observational Studies" in BSS
Lecture 18: Interviews for Case Studies
  • 5 scholarly articles on interviewing, selected by Dr. Chu.
Seminar 9

Week 10. Writing a Research Paper (I)

Lecture 19: Political philosophy as method
Lecture 20: Finding a niche (the literature review)
Seminar 10: Making an annotated bibliography

Week 11. Writing a Research Paper (II)

Lecture 21: Presenting your theory
  • "Effectively Distilling Your Argument" in Baglione
Lecture 22: Planning & writing your research design
  • "Making Your Plan and Protecting Yourself from Criticism" in Baglione
Seminar 11: The basic skeleton for most types of research papers
  • Document for outlining a research paper

Week 12. Writing a Research Paper (III)

Lecture 23: Analysing how your theory fits the data
  • "Evaluating the Argument" in Baglione
Lecture 24: Bringing it all together
  • "The Conclusion, Introduction, and Title" in Baglione
Seminar 12

Contacting the lecturer

Justin Murphy


Find out more about me, my research, and teaching at

I love speaking with students, especially in this order:

1. In class.

For almost all issues, the ideal time and place to raise them is during class. Others will benefit from hearing the question and answer.

2. My weekly contact and feedback hours.

For things you don't wish to speak about in class, I am available for drop-in during two other hours each week (see Office Hours above).

3. Schedule an appointment.

If you cannot make my weekly contact hours, you are welcome to schedule a meeting in my office using my online scheduling system (click here). Note that the system does not accept appointments with less than 48-hour notice and I am not on campus Monday or Tuesday this semester.

4. Email.

You are always welcome to email but please note that an email response from a lecturer may take as long as 48 hours. Especially if you wish to make an appointment, my online scheduling system is by far easier for both of us.