Explanatory Analysis

  • Subject: Political science
  • Style: Chicago/Turabian
  • Number of pages: 5 pages/double spaced (1375 words)
  • PowerPoint slides: 0
  • Number of source/references: 1
  • Extra features: 

Order instructions:1) Identify the central puzzle(s) and the theory(-ies) that resolve the puzzle(s). This treatment
should identify the variables and the causal claim(s) that specifies how the variables are
related. I also want you to explain the causal logic. This is simply the reasoning behind
the causal claim(s). For example, we know that plants need sunshine in order to grow. This
constitutes a causal claim with an independent variable (sunshine) and a dependent variable
(growth). The causal logic tells us how sunshine leads to growth. Within your papers, you
must try to describe how the claim works. (In this example, you would explain the process of
photosynthesis.)

2) Describe and explain the author’s methodology, namely: how does the author test the theory?
Let’s borrow from the prior example to clarify what I mean, here: our author is investigating
the relationship between sunshine and the growth of plants. The author divided a sample of
seedlings into a test and control group, and then exposed the former to the stimulus
(sunshine) while excluding the stimulus from the latter. Then, the author measured the
results over time. This brief explanation covers the main structure of the test.

To take your explanation to the next level, try to explain why the author made the choices
they did, and why these decisions are valuable (i.e. do they enhance validity or eliminate
bias?). You will find that good social science is deliberate. There is a reason behind each and
every methodological choice. Now, you should be able to identify aspects of the reasoning
and qualify the value of choices drawing upon a basic understanding of social science
methodology. That being said, the authors we read will also make clear their reasons, so
successfully completing this section largely involves paying attention. When the author
begins to discuss how a test was conducted, the reasons will not be far behind. This is
standard practice.

In addition to exploring the nature of the test, your treatment should also consider: How do
they measure the variables? What are the sources of data and evidence? What are the
obstacles that the author confronted and how were they overcome? Just as above, none of
this is hidden from view. The authors will describe and explain everything they did. You just
need to train your brains to pick up on it.
Explore how the author locates the book within a larger body of literature (i.e. How does
the text compare with other works within a given subfield? What are the common
themes/arguments? Does this work represent a departure from the norm?). To address this
section, look to the author’s own literature review and commentary. Present specific
scholars alongside their particular ideas while explaining how the author frames their
relevance. This should not be a long section of the paper – maybe 2/3rds of a page; but it
should be precise – packed with names and their relevance.

Two additional points of note:

a) Your formal citations in this section should reference the core subfield book as
opposed to the source material you’re describing. This is because you are detailing
how our subfield author frames the relevance of a paper or article. You are not
otherwise representing your interpretation of the source material.

b) Please adopt the following format when describing literature in the body of the
paper: author’s last name (year of publication). For example, if you are describing a
study by an author with the last name Smith, you would simply write: Smith (2019)
conducted case studies that provide valuable insight into voter responses to negative
campaigning.

Keep in mind that this does not constitute a formal citation. You would still have to
footnote corresponding to the reference in the paper’s narrative.

4) Identify a research question inspired by what you’ve read. Briefly describe a method you
think would help you answer the question, and why answering the question would contribute
positively to political science. Like task #3, this should not be a long section of the paper –
maybe 2/3rds of a page.

Successful papers will cover all of the above, while demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the
assigned reading.

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