Is Political Science Research Relevant?

3071 words - 13 pages

Political Science research has clearly been relevant and instrumental in understanding the interactions of humans and the world at large. Through analysis and normative change, it has contributed significantly to areas such as political behaviour, comparative politics and international relations. In using qualitative and quantitative tools, political science has increased its relevance through institutions and policies that create change and seek to understand human action. Whilst traditionally this relevance cannot be negated, a deeper analysis into the sub-discipline of gender and politics, highlights inconsistencies with political science research in its current form continuing to be ...view middle of the document...

For this reason political science research can be seen as fundamental in providing essential knowledge about the way we choose to live our lives and how that knowledge can change the choices that are available to us.Brady advocates Lupia's more methodological scientific approach to political science research (Brady, 2000: 47-56). Political science encompasses the vast disciplines of history, philosophy, sociology, psychology and law (Zetlin, 1998:193), and as such political scientists " need observational tools as powerful as those in the physical and biological sciences (Brady, 2000:47). To illustrate how important this is to political science research Brady looks at the quantitative contribution of survey research to political science. This is particularly useful in areas such as comparative politics where countries can be numerically analysed and similarities and differences exposed. Surveys as a tool of political science research force researchers to clarify their theories and provide numerical evidence to reinforce their ideas. This rational approach helps strengthen the relevance of political science research in that discrete facts common to our everyday life are categorised and represented in a clear patterned manner (Laitin 1995:456).There is however a danger with a solely statistical ordered approach to political science research. It is the diversity of political science that makes it unique and important, and by applying rigid methodological procedure to political science are the major complex and epistemological questions that have been the basis of political science for decades being ignored? (Laitin 1995: 454-457). Political science research draws its theories from the actions and interactions of humans with each other and within institutions shaped by humans. It is therefore very important that in an effort to define and compartmentalise the discipline of political science the importance of qualitative research and its humanistic relevance is not forgotten.Ostrom takes this a step further in pointing out the hazard of using axioms as the basis of research (Ostrom 2000: 33-44). In her study local public economies, it is made clear that by starting political science research from the basis of a self-evident truth and forming policy around that does not always provide the most relevant and necessary benefits to the community. In this example Ostrom uses both empirical and qualitative evidence to challenge the existing structure of large bureaucracies running localised preferences. For political science research to remain relevant to political process and the community at large it is essential that qualitative elements are not ignored and seemingly "self evident truths" are continually examined and researched.A qualitative approach can be taken in looking at a core area of political science - why people choose the particular government they do (Laver 2000 21-23). In understanding the motivations behind political action we are able...


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