GVPT100 Concepts Notes
GVPT100 Concepts Notes GVPT100
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Michal Antonov on Sunday July 24, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to GVPT100 at University of Maryland - College Park taught by Johanna Birnir in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 10 views. For similar materials see Scope and Methods for Political Science Research in Government and Politics at University of Maryland - College Park.
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Date Created: 07/24/16
Concepts and Measuring Concepts Concept: an idea or mental construct that represent phenomena in the real world • In political science, refers to facts, not values • Observable and measurable • Primary goals of political science research are to describe concepts and analyze the relationship between them o Example: Does power matter? • Conceptual question: question expressed using ideas, frequently unclear and difficult to answer empirically o Ex.: does power matter? • Concrete question: question using tangible properties and can be answered empirically o Need to transform concepts into concrete terms o Same concept can refer to variety of concrete terms • Ex.: are women more liberal than men? • Examples o Democracy o War o Partisanship o "political establishment" Measuring concepts • We need some way to know them if we see them • Important that other people can tell how you are measuring these concepts o Can determine if they accept those measures o Can build on your existing research • Step 1: Conceptual Definition o Describes the concept's measurable properties and specifies the units of analysis (people, nation, states, etc.) to which the concept applies. o Must decide what is important to the concept • Example: liberalism § Definition: liberalism is the extent to which individuals support increased government spending for social programs • Clarifies a vague idea • Measurable attribute: support for government spending • Also suggests that measurable attribute varies across people • Someone who supports government spending has "more liberalism" than someone who does not support it o Potential problems • Might think of empirical attributes that refer to a completely different concepts • May include terms that are not measurable • Empirical properties may represent different dimensions of a concept § Multidimensional concept: has to or more distinct groups of empirical characteristics • Example: liberalism- economic (support for government funding of healthcare, education); social issues (abortion, weed) o Unit of analysis: the entity to which the concept applies • Individual • Household • Municipality • Congressional district • Country • International system o Smallest level (individual) vs. collections of individuals (aggregate) • Step 2: operational definition o Describes the instrument to be used in measuring the concept and putting a conceptual definition "into operation" o How you are going to measure it o Example: war • Correlates of War Project's Definition § Two or more members of the interstate system § Each party must commit 1,000 troops or suffer 100 battle deaths § Hostilities must involve at least 1,000 deaths in a 12 month period • What about civil war? § Different defintions of civil war • One conceptual definition • "A violent conflict within a country fought by organized groups that aim to take power at the center or in a region, or to change government policies" (Jim Fearon) • Another definition • The party in revolt must possess part of the national territory • The insurgent civil authority must exercise de facto authority over the population within the determinate portion of the national territory • The insurgents must have some amount of recognition as a belligerent • The government is "obliged to have recourse to the regular military forces against insurgents organized as military" • Operational definition • Violence takes place primarily within one country • At least 1000 people are killed total and at least 25 people per year • Conflict involves the government and at least one organized anti-government group • Conflict is over either control of the government or territory Measuring concepts 1. Make a list of empirical attributes or concrete properties 2. Refine list to exclude any attributes that do not vary 3. Refine list to exclude any attributes that are not measurable 4. Refine list to exclude any attributes that measure a different dimension of the concept Example Liberal Conservative • Has a low income • Has a high income • Is younger • Is older • Supports social justice • Opposes social justice • Opposes the free market • Supports the free market • Supports government funded • Opposes government funded healthcare health care • • Opposes tax cuts Supports tax cuts • Opposes restrictions on abortion • Supports restrictions on abortion • Supports gay marriage • Opposes gay marriage • The concept of [concept labe] is defined as the extent to which [unit of analysis] exhibit the characteristics of [measure]
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