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A Model DisciplinePolitical Science and the Logic of Representations$
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Kevin A. Clarke and David M. Primo

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195382198

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195382198.001.0001

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The Science in Political Science

The Science in Political Science

(p.20) 2 The Science in Political Science
A Model Discipline

Kevin A. Clarke

David M. Primo

Oxford University Press

The purpose of this chapter is threefold. First, we demonstrate that political scientists believe in and make use of a three-step method: a theory is proposed, a prediction is derived from the theory, and in the final step, the prediction is checked against data. If the data deem the prediction true, the theory gains credibility. If the data deem the prediction false, the theory loses credibility. Second, we explain some of the technical aspects of the method and discuss the many reasons why the method is problematic. Finally, we trace how political science became enamored of the three-step method by looking at the writings of William Riker, considered by many to be the founder of positive political theory. We also consider more recent work that perpetuates the use of the three-step method, including the Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models (EITM) project, which through its two summer institutes, is responsible for training a generation of graduate students.

Keywords:   hypothetico-deductivism, EITM, William Riker, logical positivism, history of political science, philosophy of science

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