Research design in political science

Date01 September 2017
AuthorBernd Schlipphak
Published date01 September 2017
Research design in political science
Dimiter Toshkov
Palgrave/Macmillan, 2016, 400 pp., £85 (hb), ISBN: 9781137342836
Research, to me, is freedom and fun. Unfortunately, for many students (and some professionals) of political sci-
ence, research is anything but freedom and fun. It is mostly anxiety and boredom(Toshkov 2016, p. xv). With his
Research Design in Political Science, Dimiter Toshkov proposes tools for designing research that seek to make
research exciting for everybody, and he succeeds in doing so in this insightful, well-structured, and concise book.
The book is characterized by precision in language, clarity in thinking and very vivid (and witty) real-world
examples. Yet, some readers eager to implement state-of-the-art research designs might still be somewhat anxious
when it comes to applying their newly acquired knowledge. I will come to the reasons and an idea for changing it at
the end of this review.
Toshkov's masterful book fills an important gap in the literature on political science methodology. While there
is a plethora of introductory books on statistics and on more specific quantitative and qualitative methodologies,
students have so far found little textbook advice when it comes to doing research more generally and choosing
among different research strategies. In contrast to some of the great textbooks on research methods, Toshkov starts
out from the very beginning. In the introduction, he gives pragmatic answers to big questions such as what is
research?,what is science?, and what is political science?Chapters two to four introduce the reader to different
types of research, to the conceptions of theory in political science more generally and in empirical research more
specifically, as well as to the eminent role of concepts, conceptualization and operationalization. Toshkov under-
takes an especially promising and laudable attempt to provide students with a guideline on how to find and specify
research questions. While this is probably the most important step in designing research, very few textbook authors
before him have devoted systematic attention to developing good research questions.

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