Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration

Fall Semester 2002

Course:          PPA 696, Seminar in Research Methods
Code:            17228, Section 3
Day & Time:  Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:45 p.m.
Room:            ET-103

Instructor:       Dr. Michelle A. Saint-Germain
Office:             ETec-245
Telephone:     (562) 985-5383 or  (message) 985-4178 or -41798
FAX:               (562) 985-4MPA (985-4672)

Office Hours:  Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:30 - 4:00 pm; & other days/times by appointment
Web page:

Required Text: O'Sullivan and Rassel, Research Methods for Public Administrators, Longman (paperback)


This course is an introductory graduate course in the theory and practice of social science research applied to public sector problems. The course focuses on the design, development, and implementation of public sector research projects. The course is centered around the tools and techniques of research and their application to the development of a formal research design. This course introduces the student to some of the uses of computer resources in research methods.

This course is useful for students planning a career in public management, policy analysis, or academic research. By the end of the course, the student should know more about the types of research being conducted by people in the public sector today; about opportunities for further study in research methods; and about careers in the field.

There are no pre-requisites for this course. However, it does involve the use of some statistical and quantitative analytical techniques. Students should be able to perform basic mathematic and statistical operations. Completion of a prior undergraduate course in statistics would be useful.


The objectives of this course are to enable you to be able to:

1. Understand the major theoretical and philosophical approaches to research in public policy and administration.

2. Become familiar with the major techniques in research in public policy and administration and become able to apply them.

3. Develop the skills necessary to find, read, understand, and critique published research.

4. Acquire the ability to select the proper knowledge and skills for application to practical research, and to identify strategies for dealing with problems, obstacles, and ethical concerns.

5. Learn how to discriminate among and interpret commonly used statistics, and to select the appropriate statistical tests for a given research problem.

6. Develop the ability to make written and oral presentations of research results.

7. Complete a prospectus for the PPA 697 Directed Research Project and develop the skills necessary to carry out the project.

8. Produce an element for your student learning outcome portfolio that meets the criteria for demonstrating mastery of research methods concepts and skills.


This course will include weekly meetings, lectures, discussions, assigned readings, homework, in-class and take-home exercises, individual and small group problem-solving exercises, oral and written presentations by students, hands-on use of computers, and other activities. This variety provides opportunities for students to learn in different ways. For example, some students feel they learn best by reading, others by hearing, and still others by doing. By providing multiple activities that address the same subject in diverse ways, students can not only practice the learning style they have used most often in the past, but also try new ways of learning as well.

The course is organized so as to foster the development of a learning community. In such a community, both the students and the instructor are challenged equally to make the learning experience a success. The instructor is not a "sage on the stage" but a "guide on the side." Each and every person draws upon his or her own experiences and talents to help others understand the course materials and accomplish the learning objectives. Through the various activities, all participants help one another to grasp the major concepts and techniques presented and to apply them in realistic settings. Therefore, you are expected to come to class prepared to participate in all activities and to share experiences which are related to the course concepts.

More information about the course, including my lecture notes for all class meetings, the course syllabus, and all handouts, may be found on my web site at Please feel free to use any and all materials on this site, and to contact me by e-mail at at any time.


Grades will be determined by the number of points you accumulate during the semester. You can accumulate points by completing oral and written assignments, by participating in all class activities, and by completing exams. A summary of the course assignments and their possible point value is shown below.

Possible Points
Percent of Grade
Preparation and Participation
Article Critiques (2 @ 25 each)
Midterm exam (in-class)
Final Exam (in-class)
Research Prospectus (Total)
     Preliminary Proposal=5

     Rough Draft=15

     Final Draft=40


A total of 200 points is possible. At least 90% of the total is required for an A, 80% for a B, 70% for a C, and 60% for a D; below 60% is failing. There is no grading on the curve, and no limit to the number of students who can get an A.

The first component of the assignments is preparation and participation; this is worth 20 points. Successful completion of a graduate seminar such as this rests on two fundamental concepts: preparation and participation. Preparation consists in reading the assigned material before class and completing assignments prior to the due date. Attendance is a necessary prerequisite for participation, but mere passive attendance is not in and of itself sufficient. Participation consists in contributing relevant comments to class discussions, working on individual and group problem-solving exercises, engaging in constructive criticism, assisting other class members, and demonstrating solutions to problems. Please note that the assigned readings for each class date on the schedule are to be completed before class, and assignments are due at the beginning of each class period on the due date.

The first written assignment will be an article critique of a research article that you select from the attached list. An article critique is a detailed analysis of a research article; a form will be supplied for you. Each person will have a different article to critique but everyone will present their first critique on September 24, 2002. This critique is worth 25 points.

The second written assignment will be another critique of a research article from the reading list attached to this syllabus. This critique is due on the date for which it is assigned on the reading list. Each person will have a different article to critique, and present it on a different date. Be sure to write down the due date on your syllabus. This critique is worth 25 points.

The midterm and final exams will simulate questions given on the MPA comprehensive exam. You will be asked to address practical research problems and to solve them. This will help you to prepare for the comps. The midterm will be an in-class exam on November 5, 2002.  The final will be an in-class exam, on December 17, 2002.  No books or notes will be permitted for the exams. No exams may be turned in late, and no make-ups will be given for missed exams, unless prior arrangements have been made and approved in advance.

The last assignment is the research prospectus. This prospectus will be a blueprint for the execution of the PPA 697 Directed Research Project. The prospectus will outline all the steps to be taken in the PPA 697 research project, including a statement of the problem, review of the literature, definition of variables and their measurement, proposed hypotheses, proposed research design, data collection instruments, plans for data collection and data analysis, anticipated problems and ethical concerns, and possible conclusions and recommendations. The reference section should consist of an annotated bibliography of at least ten research articles relevant to your subject and/or your research methodology.

The research prospectus is a three-part assignment. The first part is a statement of the prospectus topic and preliminary bibliography. It is a one- or two-page typewritten draft of the purpose and scope of the research, a statement of the research problem, the background, and a list of the literature to be reviewed. This is due September 17, 2002. It will be graded and is worth 5 points toward the total of 60 points for the research prospectus. I will make extensive comments and return it to you promptly.

The second part is the rough draft of the complete prospectus. This is a 10- to 20-page typewritten outline of the entire prospectus. It covers all the steps in the planning and execution of the proposed PPA 697 research project, in draft form. The annotated bibliography should be completed at this point. The rough draft will be graded and is worth 15 points toward the total of 60 points for the research prospectus. Please note that the rough draft is due November 5, 2002. I will make extensive comments and return it to you promptly.

The final version of the prospectus is your revised version of your rough draft. It should be a 20- to 40-page typewritten paper that fully covers all the steps in the research process and includes an annotated bibliography. You should incorporate any pertinent concepts from the last 5 weeks of class which were not included in the rough draft. The final version will be graded and is worth 40 points toward the total of 60 points for the research prospectus. It is due the date of the final exam, on December 17, 2002.

All assignments will be graded on the basis of organization and completeness; quality and originality of ideas; use of proper grammar, spelling, and syntax; ability to choose the relevant concepts or techniques and apply them correctly; and proper citation of the literature.

All written assignments should be typed, double spaced, and follow the conventional rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and notation of references. In the interests of saving trees, please do not use extra-wide margins, large type fonts, or nearly blank pages in your written assignments; you will lose points for stretching or padding. The page lengths suggested here are only that--a suggestion. Please do the most complete job you can but do not feel obligated to produce a minimum number of "pages". Always keep a copy of your written assignments for yourself. 

All assignments must use the style manual of the American Psychological Association, known as the APA Style Manual. Copies are available in the campus bookstore.  There is also a link from the CSULB library web page to a free guide on using APA style.   For written assignments, The Political Science Student Writer's Manual by Scott and Garrison is also a useful reference work.  

Please note that all University policies regarding cheating and plagiarism will be strictly followed. Cheating and plagiarism are subject to grade lowering or other sanctions. This also applies to the preparation of research papers, projects, and prospectus. You may not submit a research or term paper for credit in more than one class. Additionally, all papers must be your own original work. You may not use reproductions, work completed by someone else, or purchased work.

In order to ensure that the learning objectives are attained at a satisfactory level, either the student or the instructor may request that an assignment be re-done, in order to improve its quality and to increase the number of points awarded. This applies to all assignments (including the midterm exam), except for the final exam and the final draft of the research prospectus.

A description of the grading criteria used for the final draft of the research prospectus is attached. These same grading criteria are also used for assessing whether your assignment is acceptable for inclusion in the student learning outcome portfolio.


09/03 Ch 1.  Purposes and benefits of research;
Introduction to the course; Article critiques
O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch.1
09/10 Ch 2.  Research Design I: Designs for Description O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch. 2

09/17 Ch 3.  Research Design II: Designs for Explanation O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch. 3
Prospectus Topic Due
09/24 Review of Research Designs
Students present first article critique
First Article Critique due
10/01 Ch 4. Measuring Variables
Ch 10.  Combining Indicators--Index Construction
O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch.4 & 10
10/08 Ch 5. Sampling
Ch 8.  Ethics
O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch.5 & 8
10/15 review of measurement, sampling, and ethics

10/22 Ch 6. Data Instruments
Ch 7. Data Collection
O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch.6 & 7
10/29 Ch 9.  Secondary data sources ; Electronic data archives
Review for Midterm Exam
  O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch. 9

11/05 Midterm--in class

Research Prospectus Rough Draft Due
11/12 Ch 11.  Simple data analysis; frequency distributions;
measures of dispersion and central tendency
O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch. 11
11/19 Ch 12.  Tests of Statistical Significance

O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch. 12
11/26 Ch 13.  Analysis of Relationships between variables I:
 Contingency Tables

O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch. 13
12/03 Ch 14.  Analysis of Relationships between variables II:
Correlation and regression

O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch. 14
12/10 Ch 15.  Interpreting and communicating research findings

O'Sullivan & Rassel, Ch. 15
12/17 Final Exam--in class

Research Prospectus Final Draft Due