The Craft of Political Research  book cover
10th Edition

The Craft of Political Research

ISBN 9781138284371
Published June 14, 2017 by Routledge
202 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Craft of Political Research is a non-technical introduction to research design and analysis in political science, emphasizing the choices we make when we design a research project and analyze its results. The book’s approach centers on asking an interesting research question, and then designing inquiry into the question so as to eliminate as many alternative explanations as possible.

How do we develop theory, and what constitutes a good research question? How do we develop measures and gather evidence to answer a question? How do we analyze our findings? Students will be introduced to such topics as multidimensional concepts, levels of measurement, validity, reliability, random and non-random measurement error, sampling, case selection, causality, experimental and quasi-experimental design, statistical inference, and regression and correlation analysis. Throughout, the emphasis is on understanding the "back story" of analysis — why do we measure in a particular way, why do we choose one design as against another, why do we conduct our analysis as we do.

Emphasizing the internal logic of research methods and the collaborative nature of the research process, the greatest strength of the book is its clarity and the large range of political science examples it provides. It works at a conceptual level, seeking an understanding of the principles that underlie techniques and the reasons that we choose them.

New to this edition:

  • Updated and international examples from the US, UK, Latin America and China amongst others, and international organizations such as the World Bank and the United Nations.


  • New section, "Reading Political Science" reviews sources of published political research, with some broad principles for how to find good sources, and advises students on what to look for in reading a research report


  • New section, "Gathering Accurate Information" reviews published sources of data, such as UNESCO, and offers advice about how to use such sources. It advises students on how to gather data in personal interviews and it acquaints them with publicly available data sets for secondary analysis.


  • Online material featuring revised learning objectives for each chapter, and a new section offering projects and questions for each chapter.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1. Doing Research

Chapter 2. Political Theories and Research Topics

Chapter 3. Importance of Dimensional Thinking

Chapter 4. Problems of Measurement: Accuracy

Chapter 5. Problems of Measurement: Precision

Chapter 6. Causal Thinking and Design of Research

Chapter 7. Selection of Observations for Study

Chapter 8. Introduction to Statistics: Measuring Relationships for Interval Data

Chapter 9. Introduction to Statistics: Further Topics on Measurement of Relationships

Chapter 10. Introduction to Statistics: Inference, or How to Gamble on Your Research


Selected Bibliography


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W. Phillips Shively is Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, and has also served on the faculties of Yale University, the University of Oregon, and Oslo University, Norway. At the University of Minnesota, he has served as Provost for Arts, Sciences and Engineering, and has also been inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers for his work with students.


This book distills the practical wisdom of decades of top-quality research and teaching by Phil Shively. The prose and logic are so crystalline that even a rookie can follow every argument, and the advice is so subtle and sophisticated that even the most grizzled veteran can learn from it. Nothing rivals this book as an introduction to political research.

Robert D. Putnam, Malkin Professor of Public Policy, Harvard University

Shively’s The Craft of Political Research has stood the test of time and launched innumerable research careers inside and outside of academia. The 10th edition continues to innovate with critical topics of evaluating accurate information and sources.

Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier, Vernal Riffe Professor of Political Science, Ohio State University

Most social and behavioral scientists, and perhaps especially political scientists, encounter undergraduates eager to change the world who then face the stark reality that doing the research to know what and how to do so is hard intellectual work. The Craft of Political Research not only provides the tools and understandings to make that transition, but it also does is in such an enjoyable (but technically sound) way that students keep their enthusiasm, tempered with sound judgements about how to make the transition for idealist to sound researcher. Even more, while originally written nearly a half century ago, Shively’s commitment to updating keeps this tenth addition fresh, alive, and current.

John Aldrich, Pfizer-Pratt University Professor, Department of Political Science, Duke University

I was very fortunate to be introduced to The Craft of Political Research in my first semester in college. It has helped to shape the way I think about my own work and others’ for more than 40 years now. With this judiciously updated tenth edition, Shively continues to offer the wisest and most authoritative introduction I know to the logic and practice of political science.

Larry M. Bartels, Vanderbilt University

The Craft of Political Research remains the go-to introductory text on methods in political science. Jargon-free and accessible it teaches students how to design research and use statistics to answer theoretically important questions. The potential of experiments is highlighted, but the book also shows how to make effective use of observational data. With examples from across the discipline, Shively turns a dry topic into an exciting quest to unlock the mysteries of our political world.

Torben Iversen, Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University