Discussion Tips

The readings in this class vary from week to week in terms of content, methodological tools, and empirical findings. However, it is possible to ask a standard set of questions of each reading. Consider the following set of questions:

  1. What is the dependent variable? In other words, what is the puzzle that the author is trying to explain? How does it vary (either cross-nationally or over time)? Is the variation puzzling?
  2. How is the dependent variable measured? Are there alternative measures available? Does the measurement of the dependent variable pose a problem?
  3. What are the independent variables? In other words, which factors or variables are posited to have an impact on the dependent variable?
  4. What is the theoretical argument that links the independent variables to the dependent variable? How compelling is this argument?
  5. Is there an existing literature on the author's puzzle? Is it sufficiently cited? How does the author's argument differ from the existing literature?
  6. How does the author test his/her argument? What methods are used to determine the relationship between the dependent variable and the independent variables? Are there alternative methods available?
  7. Discuss the author's findings. Do you find them compelling? Are there additional tests that the author should undertake?
  8. What can you conclude from the author's findings? What additional research would you undertake to advance the author's research project?