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POLI330N Discussion Questions

This is a graded discussion: 20 points possible


The reading this week discusses the role of political scientists and their attempts to treat the study of politics as a science. In these efforts, they build scholarship based on reason, balance, and supporting evidence, although much of this scholarship is based on theory.

Discuss how political scientists attempt to quantify data, manipulate data statistically, and attempt to validate hypotheses.

Students, as you learned, political science is the scientific study concerning state affairs.

In utilizing the scientific method, political scientists have the ability to collect empirical data, or factual information, which allows them to present conclusions regarding human behavior as it relates to political matters. They do this in an attempt to understand the actions of people as they come into contact with their governmental structures. Unfortunately for them, human behavior is not always predictable, which is why political science is categorized as a social science, rather than a natural science.

Given this background, discuss how political scientists attempt to quantify data, manipulate data statistically, and attempt to validate hypotheses. Provide specific examples. An idea to get started is to locate a political science theory or hypothesis and explain the academic research behind it.

Political scientists conduct studies to prove and forecast occurrences.  They collect, analyze and manipulate data to come up with statistically support generalizations and patterns. If this generalization and pattern become frequent, then the scientists can develop a theory. However, this process is not simple the way it is outlined. Political science majors on governments, political behaviors, and public policies. Therefore, the studies rely heavily on opinions to develop relationships. This is what makes the data collection and manipulation approach in political science to be unique. The way political scientists use data and validate their hypothesis can be explained using the general steps in research method outlined by McNabb (2004).

According to McNabb, the research objectives are the determinants on how the data will be collected and used. After clearly stating the goal, there is the statement of the hypothesis. The hypothesis contains two types of variables that is the dependent and independent variable. The dependent variable is an occurrence which is influenced by another phenomenon which called independent variables. So, the data collection and manipulation approach are determined by the objectives and the hypothesis. The data collected must be relevant to the outlined theory. After the data is collected, an analysis is done using computer software to develop a relationship.

There exists two type of hypothesis, the null, and alternate. After analyzing the data, reference is made to stated hypothesis to see if the two agree. The hypothesis is then accepted or rejected basing on the outcome. However, the political environment is affected by many interrelated issues. Therefore, the scientists are in constant consultation with their colleagues to identify any loopholes in the results. Furthermore, discussions pinpoint new areas to researched. In conclusion, political analysis is very complicated since it studies forces which are greatly interconnected.


McNabb, D. E. (2004). Research Methods for Political Science: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods. New York: M.E. Sharpe

“Some political scientists have attempted to become like natural scientists; they quantify data and manipulate them statistically to validate hypotheses. The quantifiers make some good contributions, but usually they focus on small questions of detail rather than on large questions of meaning.”  (Roskin 2014). When studying political science scientists have to be careful to see the issue as it is and not bring their own passion along to incorporate it in the findings or research. The research has to be precise and not biased. To keep the research in political science this way it is based on scholarship. Scholarship view is intellectual arguments supported by research and evidence.(Roskin, 2014) Scholars base their research on reason, balance, evidence and theory.

Roskin, M., Cord, R. L., Medeiros, J. A., & Jones, W. S. (2014). Political science: an introduction (13th ed.). Pearson.

A political scientist formulates an objective as the main point set forth to be determined through research.  As per Roskin, research can be comprised of small and large questions but needs to be geared toward results that are measurable including public opinion, election returns and congressional voting (Roskin, p. 14), as some examples of measurable data.  Sensible reasoning and perspective is used to formulate hypotheses as educated predictions or assumptions of the results, both intended and otherwise.  If that empirical data obtained shows a pattern in the quantified and qualitative information returned, theories are generated by the political scientists.  If the theories remain stable with evidence through continuous studying, the theories can become law.

An example of a political scientist is Niccolo Machiavelli “who emphasized the role of power in politics” (Roskin, p. 7) and suggesting that “power” is one person’s ability to get another person to do something.  His practice is commonly referred to as “Machiavellianism”, an undesirable term used to include politicians who displayed immoral and dishonest behaviors such as killing innocents and theorizing this practice as an effective form of power.  He was motivated by fortune and spent time denouncing religion.  Machiavelli’s practice, while oppressive in my opinion, seemed carefully plotted and well executed as he had many followers to his ways; perhaps conformists out of fear, but conformists nonetheless. And while there is not much in the ways of quantifiable data to cite speaking to this mode of politics and government, there are explanations for such a practice are often explained with biological, psychological, cultural, rational and irrational descriptions.

Biological: obeying a leader instinctive, and possibly genetic?  This can likely best be summarized as “fear is a motivator” and in this case, into following the rules or pay dire consequences.

 Psychological: People tend to conform to a group, so if the group is following the leader, everyone else will also follow the leader.  This piggybacks the biological explanation with “fear is a motivator”, but more specifically in this example, fear motivates the masses.

Cultural: “Cultural beliefs are learned as opposed to inherited” (Roskin, p. 9) so if conforming to a group out of fear is what has been done all along, that same behavior will be carried forward.

Rational: Obeying the powers at hand and the rules set forth is an easier avenue to take than one of anarchy and revolt.

 Irrational: Emotionally driven leaders pushing theories and beliefs to the masses with the intentions (and results) of the people fanatically believing and agreeing with the myths and propaganda.

Roskin, M., Cord, R. L., Medeiros, J. A., & Jones, W. S. (2014). Political science: an introduction (13th ed.). Pearson.


Professor Terwilliger and Class,

Discuss how political scientists attempt to quantify data, manipulate data statistically, and attempt to validate hypotheses.

As with any scientific inquiry, we must strive to ensure that the data supports the hypothesis in an unbiased manner. Roskin (2014), states that a scholarly work should be reasoned, balanced, supported with evidence, and a bit theoretical. In looking to control each of these elements, we have to use strategy.

Reasoned – Any bias in the structure of the study may be betray the

researcher’s political views. Evidence should remain


Balanced –  Acknowledging the validity of diverging views lends

credibility to the study, allowing for a legitimate and

objective critique of data.

Supported with Evidence – The use of secondary sources is a valid

approach to use of evidence. However,

the use of a primary source adds to the

body of knowledge and brings about new

ways of thinking about the issue.

A Bit Theoretical –   The gathering of evidence to bolster or refute

existing data can add to the body of knowledge.

One can confirm or create doubt with theory.

Raw data rarely provides insight into the forces that have created it and the forces that affect it. All data must be placed into perspective. Once we have defined a perspective on the data gathered, we can begin to draw conclusions. Political science is an imperfect science. At the very least it is Gestalt. For all of the empirical evidence gathered, it may not predict the volition of the masses. However, that doesn’t mean that we abandon the scientific process. Once again, as Roskin (2014), points out, we can at least identify patterns in the data, which allows us to generalize. If, over time, these generalizations stand up to scrutiny, they may indeed be considered a theory. Which begs the question, if political science relies heavily on qualified data, as opposed to quantified data, can we say with confidence that a political theory can ever be elevated to a law …?

Thank You,



Roskin, M, Cord, R, Medeiros, J, & Jones, W. (2014). Political Science:

         An introduction (13th ed). Hoboken, N.J.: Pearson.


Interesting and though provoking post.  Speaking to your question of political theories being elevated to law based on qualified data, I look to Aristotle’s point that “political science is a master science” (Roskin, p.5) and that everything is surrounded by the idea of politics as he is the founder of discipline, and citing a virtuous way of life in relation to happiness.  Using discipline and virtues to guide our choices each day summarizes Aristotle’s moral theory.  So while morals are not laws, making immoral decisions (robbery, sexual assault, just a few examples) leads to breaking laws.  And if we consider Aristotle’s political science theory related to morals and discipline but still choose to break government laws, I’d argue this as a political theory elevated into law.

Roskin, M., Cord, R. L., Medeiros, J. A., & Jones, W. S. (2014). Political science: an introduction (13th ed.). Pearson.


You made a very good point. I too look at Aristotle’s point. Aristotle meant that humans live naturally in herds, like elephants or bison. Biologically they need each other for sustenance and survival. It is also natural for them to array themselves into ranks of leaders and followers. Taking a cue from Aristotle, modern biological explanations, some of them looking for primate behavior, say that forming a political system and obeying its leaders are innate, passed on with ones genes.  Roskin (2014 Ch. 1 pg.7).

Leading to the saying to Err is Human or is it? Are we being Rational or Irrational in our political views.


Hello Gordan and Dana!

First I want to say to Gordan that this is a very good read!  Lots of good information and very well written.  Dana, I agree with you completely.  A very large percentage of our laws are created from what we base “good morals” as being.  Therefor when we break these laws we are making immoral decisions.


Hello Professor and fellow classmates. This topic discusses politics as a science and how it is that political scientists treat this as a science. “All scholarly studies require evidence, ranging from the quantified evidence of the natural sciences to the qualitative evidence of the humanities. Political science utilizes both. Ideally, any statement open to interpretation or controversy should be supported with evidence” (Roskin, 10/2013, p. 15). Political scientists must incorporate many different aspects in order to acquire evidence to support their theories and validate hypotheses. Some aspects include culture, psychology, sociology, history, and economics.

Regarding the aspect of culture, “Cultural theories can also be applied to U.S. politics. Republicans try to win elections by articulating the values of religion, family, and self-reliance, which are deeply ingrained into American culture “ (Roskin, 10/2013, p. 9). This demonstrates how important every aspect can be when it comes to politics and science. Many factors must be considered and included in order to obtain the end result that is sought when it comes to government and political science.


Roskin, M. G., Cord, R. L., Medeiros, J. A., Jones, W. S. (10/2013). Political Science: An Introduction, 13th Edition [VitalSource Bookshelf version]. Retrieved from

Great start everybody!

Let’s discuss qualitative data versus quantitative data. What are the differences between these two types of data? Does qualitative data have a role in the scientific method? Explain your answer.

Professor Terwilliger,

In response to your question, you pose an interesting thought. First let me explain the differences between qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative data is information that can be measured using numbers, such as height, weight, and length. Qualitative data is more about an individuals perspective or opinion. Qualitative data is more subjective rather than objective. Some examples would be what shape is that cloud, how soft is that dog, or even what color is that dress (remember that debacle last year)?

Qualitative data does have a role in the scientific method because some things are just not measurable. According to Roskin, “much of politics—especially dealing with how and why decisions are made—is just too complex and too secret to be quantified” (10/2013, p. 14). There are so many things in research that are not measurable but can be observed and used as data, such as behavior of animals when in the wild or caged, reactions by plants when introduced to a certain substance, or personal feelings that people may have regarding a certain presidential nominee’s actions or behaviors. This is precisely why qualitative data plays a role in the scientific method.


Roskin, M. G., Cord, R. L., Medeiros, J. A., Jones, W. S.  (10/2013). Political Science: An Introduction, 13th Edition [VitalSource Bookshelf version].  Retrieved from


I agree with you in that qualitative data does play a critical role within the scientific method. Many political scientist will manipulate data in order to fulfil quantifiable data to prove a hypothesis. (Roskin, Cord, Medeiros, & Jones, p. 14, 2017) But proving a hypothesis does not have to rely on statistical data. For example, according to Roskin, Cord, Medeiros, and Jones, with qualitative data we can find patterns, and these patterns are what then leads to the formation of generalizations. (p. 14, 2017) Many would say that a generalization cannot create conclusive findings, put when there are patterns to behavior, we can then begin to predict what will happen in different situations. This is the same concept when it comes to using the scientific method. We test hypotheses in order to be able to predict what will happen during a given scenario. Although there may not be a definitive answer, we can figure out what will happen the majority of the time with qualitative information. These answers are what many theorists will then make into laws. This is why it is so important not to forget the importance of qualitative data within researching society and politics.


Roskin, M., Cord, R. L., Medeiros, J. A., & Jones, W. S. (2017). Political Science: An Introduction (13th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.


In your post I agree with that it is very important that both quantitative and qualitative data be out together for the gathered information to be a proven success especially in Politics. How can anyone put into law evidence if not for research through both.


 Hi Marissa and Damaris. I looked into qualitative data a little more and found an interesting description of it. According to Berkwits & Inui from the National Institute of Health, qualitative data “is used to capture expressive information not conveyed in quantitative data about beliefs, values, feelings, and motivations that underlie behaviors” (1998). This demonstrates that this type of data is subjective while quantitative data is objective. However, you do indeed need both to come to a conclusion about a hypothesis, like you stated. It’s sort of like saying that in politics, there is no right or wrong answer. You are given the facts/data about something (possibly a political candidate) and it is up to you to decide how you feel about and interpret this data.


Berkwits, M., & Inui, T. S. (1998, March 13). Making Use of Qualitative Research Techniques. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from


Your citation from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the overall research in healthcare is a great example.  In my current role as an epidemiologist, the role of qualitative data is huge and very important in epidemiological investigations.  Subjective and objective interviews help us collect needed critical data that often is unable to be determined using quantitative methods.


     You pose the questionDoes qualitative data have a role in the scientific method?

I do believe that qualitative data plays a role in the scientific method. Although, there is often the caveat of describing data as arising from clinical research (qualitative methods) vs. scientific research (quantitative methods). Political science can use qualitative data in an efficient and effective manner. For instance, we can look at poll numbers (quantified data) and at the same time gauge the sentiment behind those numbers (qualified data). This is not lost on politicians in attempting assess poll numbers and gauge public sentiment. If politicians can figure out why people are voting the way they are, they are better able to adjust campaign strategies. If, as Aristotle says, that political science is the master science, it is so because it is truly Gestalt. Because the Gestalt is difficult to define and quantify, it lends itself well to qualitative approaches to its study. If power is king within politics, then practicality is its cohort. We’ve all heard the saying (often referring to politicians) that “figures don’t lie, but liars can figure”. In power politics, often the figures mean less that the meaning behind them. If politicians can “figure” the motivation of the masses and manipulate it to their advantage, they have truly mastered the art of the qualitative. The qualitative may be imperfect, but it can be powerfully practical. As Professor Ed Schatz (2010) states, qualitative methods and data should not be considered a second-best to statistical methods or data. However, those who use qualitative approaches require specific training to use them effectively. With the right training and experience, trends can be identified and exploited.

Thank You,



Schatz, E. (2010). Qualitative methods in political research.

Toronto : University of Toronto Press.

Good morning,

Qualitative data is a naturalistic approach to research in which the focus in on the understanding the meaning of an experience from the individual’s prospective.  Quantitative research is a traditional approach to research in which variables are identified and measured in a reliable and valid way.  Yes qualitative data has a role in the scientific method. Part of the scientific method is observation and questioning.  A researcher would formulate questions for the interviewee, to help them better understand the interviewee’s  experience and perception of the experience. Because everyone experience things differently, those experiences affects their politics.  A political science researcher would try to understand how experiences influences a persons way of voting and the political affiliations.

Hi Robyn,

In your post I agree with that qualitative data is very important to a researcher. It provides the basis unto which the researcher can prove his or her findings or how they can back up their speculations. It is therefore apparent that they get qualitative data during research.

   The differences between these two types of data are both relevant in different aspects. Qualitative data is used for  unmeasurable items such as what you can feel, touch and see. Examples as such are the way somebody is dressed, color you see, the way something feels. Quantitative data uses measurable forms of data such as blood lab values, height, weight, attendance to a sporting event this year versus last year. Per a study at NCBI qualitative research is valued for it’s relevance, but is considered lacking in it’s scientific accuracy.( (Links to an external site.))

I think qualitative data has a role in scientific method because the information you are gathering is not always measurable. In healthcare a lot of valuable data is what you see not so much what is measured. It is important to use both effectively to reach the best answer to the question.


Roskin, M. G., Cord, R. L., Medeiros, J. A., Jones, W. S.  (10/2013). Political Science: An Introduction, 13th Edition [VitalSource Bookshelf version].  Retrieved from


     Thank you for your interesting post. I like the fact that you link the gathering of both kinds of data (qualitative and quantitative) to healthcare. In blending politics and healthcare, the gathering of qualitative data becomes crucial. I use as an example the introduction of the patient survey known as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). This is a CMS initiative, part of the ACA, which can limit Medicare and or Medicaid reimbursement to hospital organizations (HO) that score poorly. HCAHPS is concerned about the patient’s “perception” of the quality of care they received while hospitalized. Perception cannot be objectively quantified, so this is an example where qualified data serves the needs of HO. Quantified data is not a part of the HCAHPS score, so this patient survey, acts to collect qualified data, which in turn, helps to determine how much reimbursement a HO receives. If you’re going to work in healthcare, get used to interpreting qualified data

Thanks again, Travis …



U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2017). HCAHPS:

Patients’ Perspectives of Care Survey. Retrieved from

Data is a very important tool that is used to support or disprove various political theories. It is possible to manipulate data to pursue a political purpose, but which is the greater “sin”: manipulating the data for your own purposes, or accepting someone else’s conclusion about that data without analyzing it for yourself?

In utilizing the scientific method, political scientists have the ability to collect empirical data, or factual information, which allows them to present conclusions regarding human behavior as it relates to political matters. They do this in an attempt to understand the actions of people as they come into contact with their governmental structures. Unfortunately for them, human behavior is not always predictable, which is why political science is categorized as a social science, rather than a natural science.

When it comes to the study of politics itself, it is important to understand that political science incorporates sound scientific methods as a means of understanding the political realm. This approach, although providing validity to the research, does not always provide a clear way to predict the future. This is because human nature can never be entirely anticipated even when grounded in pure science. However, the discipline of political science can make seemingly random acts make sense by explaining the patterns and cycles behind state behavior.

Good morning,

Yes it is possible to manipulate.  Some researchers have been guilty of only presenting data that only supports their argument.  For example, the may conduct a survey, but not disclose that they only interviewed a certain population, or they may have only interviewed a demographic that they felt would respond in their favor.

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