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The Importance of Teaching Research Methods to Undergrads
Unformatted Document Text:  learning about Methods rather late into their school careers. By this time, students have seen a pattern in their political science courses and have gotten used to thinking about them in one particular way, which encourages resistance when they are suddenly expected to think about politics differently. So, methods courses have no impact because the opportunities for them to develop and exhibit their impact are reduced. Second, according to student surveys, many students come in with the attitude that the class is useless, making it much more difficult to reach them. If they see how the course is relevant to their other courses or to life in general they may be more motivated to engage more deeply with the course. However, many of them start off the course already believing the course is merely a pain required for graduation but utterly unconnected with their other classes, making it much more difficult for instructors to “prove” the course’s worth. Finally, in many cases the course itself may not be designed in a way that shows the students how immediately relevant it is to their school experience or lives in general. To instructors and scholars in the field the course’s utility is patently obvious, still it is necessary to continually assert to the students that this knowledge is crucial for the study of political science. However, from a student’s perspective it is not always clear they should be more conversant in the language of research, even when they read the results of such research in their other courses. It seems that most often they use research instrumentally—to memorize facts about the world and politics—and fail to realize how important it is to be able to critique the research they come across and that what they learn in Methods courses provides them with the tools to do so. Students often fail to see connections between what they learn in Methods and in their other courses, preventing them from using their systematic and critical thinking skills equally in both. At UCSB, different professors have slightly different approaches to teaching methods, 6

Authors: Gjestland, Jade-Celene.
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learning about Methods rather late into their school careers. By this time, students have seen a
pattern in their political science courses and have gotten used to thinking about them in one
particular way, which encourages resistance when they are suddenly expected to think about
politics differently. So, methods courses have no impact because the opportunities for them to
develop and exhibit their impact are reduced.
Second, according to student surveys, many students come in with the attitude that the
class is useless, making it much more difficult to reach them. If they see how the course is
relevant to their other courses or to life in general they may be more motivated to engage more
deeply with the course. However, many of them start off the course already believing the course
is merely a pain required for graduation but utterly unconnected with their other classes, making
it much more difficult for instructors to “prove” the course’s worth.
Finally, in many cases the course itself may not be designed in a way that shows the
students how immediately relevant it is to their school experience or lives in general. To
instructors and scholars in the field the course’s utility is patently obvious, still it is necessary to
continually assert to the students that this knowledge is crucial for the study of political science.
However, from a student’s perspective it is not always clear they should be more conversant in
the language of research, even when they read the results of such research in their other courses.
It seems that most often they use research instrumentally—to memorize facts about the world
and politics—and fail to realize how important it is to be able to critique the research they come
across and that what they learn in Methods courses provides them with the tools to do so.
Students often fail to see connections between what they learn in Methods and in their other
courses, preventing them from using their systematic and critical thinking skills equally in both.
At UCSB, different professors have slightly different approaches to teaching methods,
6


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