Integrating Sources & DataWriter's Web
By Dave Roberts ('07) with additions from Rachel Hall ('14), UR Writing Consultants
(printable version here)

3.1 Appropriate Sources for Political Science Papers
3.2 Using Statistical and Data Analysis in Papers
3.3 Forming and Testing Hypotheses
3.4 Including Charts, Tables, and Graphs
3.5 Citing Sources

3.1 Appropriate Sources for Political Science Papers
Because Political Science covers a wide range of topics – from Political Theory to regression analysis – the sources appropriate for use will vary between papers. Still, a few general remarks hold true. First, it is rare that your evidence will be based on articles in popular magazines. Rather, sources will usually come from scholarly sources. The library maintains several webpages dedicated to cataloging resources useful for Political Science students:

One exception to avoiding popular sources is when you wish to provide citations for basic background information that may not be considered “common knowledge.” In these cases, direct quotations are almost never necessary unless they provide what Dr. Joe Essid, Richmond's Writing-Center Director, refers to as "The Three Es": Evidence, Eloquence, or Emphasis. Writer’s Web has several specific articles dedicated to using sources effectively.

3.2 Using Statistical and Data Analysis in Papers
Using statistics to support a point is a common source of evidence in Political Science courses. Statistics and primary data, presented effectively, can indeed convey a point to your audience. Presented unclearly, however, statistics and primary data may only confound your readers. Still worse, a writer clever in statistics could use data selectively to give a misleading account. A fuller account of integrating statistics can be found at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill’s Writing Center website.

When using statistics to support an argument, you should ask – and be able to answer – these questions:

  • What am I trying to prove?
  • Does using these numbers support this conclusion?
  • Is the source of this data trustworthy?
  • Are these numbers representative? Do they cover an appropriate length of time; is the sample representative of the population; does the graph exaggerate or suppress trends?
  • Does the data really reveal causation, or just correlation? Make sure you are not drawing any faulty inference in causality (

3.3 Forming and Testing Hypotheses
Conducting data analysis in Political Science is a process with six distinct steps:

<Social Science Wheel>

1. Theories and ideas. This is where the process “begins” for you when composing a new contribution to scholarly literature. Theories are models constructed from literature or a similar basis of knowledge. For more information about forming theories, see the Writing Center’s resources on Writing a Literature Review.

2. Forming a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an explanation of the relationship between two variables. This relationship includes the direction of this relationship. See: Forming a Good Hypothesis.

3. Conceptualization and measurement of variables. In this step, you begin to quantify the variables you want to measure. For example, a so-called “feeling thermometer” poll could be used as a measure of approval for a politician.

4. Research design. A research design fits together the pieces of your analysis. It shows how major parts of the analysis – your questions, hypotheses, and analysis – intertwine. In other words, it describes what you want to find out and how you plan to find it out.

5. Data collection. Here, your task is to gather the information you will use to test your hypothesis. If you are using a feeling thermometer to measure the approval of President Obama, for example, you may send out a survey to a sample of your desired population and record the results sent to you.

6. Data analysis and inference. Though collecting and recording data can be considered tedious, the real work of testing your hypothesis begins when you conduct analysis on this data. Here, you run statistical tests with your variables, usually using the statistical program SPSS. While you hope to answer the questions you identify earlier in your paper, in this section you also draw inferences about the next question to study. What questions does your study raise?

The following series of handouts is targeted to students currently in or who have already completed PLSC 372, 373, or 374 and are now working on data analysis components for their research projects. These were composed by Professor Palazzolo, one faculty member who teaches Research Methods:

3.4 Including Charts, Tables, and Graphs
No doubt when you are reading an assigned article or chapter in one of your Political Science classes, you will find a number of tables, figures, charts, and other graphical illustrations of data. When you reach more advanced classes in Political Science, you will often be asked to include similar illustrations in your own papers. Even if you are not required to do so, including such visual representations makes it easier for readers to understand your arguments. What, then, determines when (and when not) to use figures and tables?

In many ways, visual representations are analogous to direct quotations: both substitute an author’s words in order to prove a point, presumably one the author cannot prove as well without the quote or chart. But good authors do not cede the use of their own words for another’s without reason. Accordingly, writers considering using visual representations should have good reason for doing so. Of course, these reasons do exist: to be cliché, sometimes a picture (or graph, or table, or pie chart) is worth a thousand words.

One commonly-used system for determining when to use direct quotations provides a framework for using visual representations. Dr. Joe Essid, Director of Richmond's Writing Center, suggests using rules he calls "The Three Es” for direct quotations: before using one, a writer should believe the quotation is especially Eloquent, provides unique Evidence, or puts particular Emphasis on a certain point or issue.

3.5 Citing Sources
by Daniel Palazzolo, Ph.D. and Rachel Hall

Political Science citation follows the guidelines of the American Political Science Association (APSA), not Chicago/Turabian, MLA, or APA. The Boatwright Library provides an online source guide for APSA citations on its "Subject Specific Styles" page.

You should use the "scientific method" and the corresponding bibliographical format for referencing sources of information. For referencing a book or article, you should place the author's last name and the year of publication in parentheses in the text of your paper, e.g. (Jelen 1994). If your reference includes a direct quotation, you must include the page number for the quotation, e.g. (Jelen 1994, 385).

When do we use footnotes instead of textual references? Use footnotes or endnotes for elaborating on special points that do not fit well in the body of the paper. Footnotes should also be used to cite an on-line computer source. For example, if the article is taken from an article is taken from a "home page" on the World Wide Web, then cite the home page. Example:

Jennifer P. Net. "Homeless on the Internet," (Homeless Homepage, www. Homeless 1998).

The bibliography should be arranged in alphabetical order. I have provided the proper format for citing different types of publications as well as examples for each type. You are required to follow this format on your research paper. If you have any questions please see me before submitting the paper.

Journal Article
Author's name. Year of Publication. Title of Article. Journal Volume: page numbers of article.

Jelen, Ted G. 1994. “Religion and Foreign Policy Attitudes: Exploring the Effects of Denomination and Doctrine.” American Politics Quarterly 22: 381-400.

(Two or more authors)

Marra, Robin F. and Charles W. Ostrom, Jr. 1989. Explaining Seat Change in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1950-86. American Journal of Political Science 33:541-69.

Author's name. Year of Publication. Title of Book. City of Publisher: Name of Publishing House.

Hochschild, Jennifer L. 1981. What’s Fair? American Beliefs About Distributive Justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

(Two or more authors of a book)

Hinich, Melvin J. and Michael C. Munger. 1994. Ideology and the Theory of Political Choice. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Chapter in an Edited Volume
Author's name. Year of Publication. Title of Article. In Title of Book, ed. Name of editor. City: Publisher.

Clyde Wilcox, 1997. The Diverse Paths to Understanding Public Opinion. In Understanding Public Opinion, ed. Barbara Norrander and Clyde Wilcox, Washington: CQ Press.

Newspaper Article
Author. Date. Title of Article. Name of Newspaper: page.

Birnbaum, Jeffrey H. March 11, 1987. Democrats Kill Budget Proposal in Committee. Wall Street Journal: 4.

(If there is no author, then begin with the name of the newspaper, followed by the date, the title and the page.)

Periodicals/ weekly or monthly publications
Author. Date. Title of Article. Name of Publication volume: pages.

Arieff, Irwin B. 1980. House, Senate Chiefs Attempt to Lead a Changed Congress. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 38:2695-2700.

Electronic Sources

Newspaper Article from Newspaper Web site
Author. Year. Title. Source. Date of publication. Retrieval Date. Web link.

Lindlaw, Scott. 2001. “Bush Freezes Suspected Terrorists Assets.” Washington Post, December 4, 2001. Retrieved December 4, 2001. <>

Newspaper Article from Lexis-Nexis
Author. Year. Title. Source. Date of publication. Page. Retrieval Date. Lexis-Nexis Universe

Johnson, Glen. 2001. “America Prepares/Aftermath of Attack Bioweapons; Funding Sought for Law.” Boston Globe, September 21, 2001, A27. Retrieved on December 4, 2001. Lexis-Nexis Universe.

Committee Report or Hearing from Thomas
U.S. Congress. Chamber. Year. Title. Committee. Congress. Session. Retrieved Date. Electronic source.

U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. 2001. “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002,” Report of the Committee on Armed Forces.107th Congress, 1st Session. Retrieved on December 4, 2001 <>

Congressional Record
Congressional Record, 107th Congress, 1st Session. Retrieved on December 4, 2001 <>

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