Last week, I talked about the value of replication exercises for undergraduates and why they might be even greater than for graduate students. The opportunity to combine research and analysis skills with writing skills in a single assignment is almost too good to pass up since it kills several birds (or at least, typical course objectives) with one stone. Today I’ll briefly discuss a replication activity I wrote, and some strategies to help you make your own replication assignments successful.
The assignment I’m sharing today comes from Linda Camp Keith’s “The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: Does It Make a Difference in Human Rights Behavior?” (Journal of Peace Research 36,1 (1999): 95-118). This was a unit project, summing up their studies in bivariate analysis. The replication assignment file can be obtained here. We began as any good researcher would, by getting to know our key dependent and independent variables. We then attempt to replicate her published bivariate results, which is one of the reasons I used this article here. I conclude with question 5, which previews the concepts of control that we’re moving into as they work on this assignment. Finally, in a brief follow-up assignment, students actually add the controls and replicate parts of the multivariate findings.
You’ll notice a couple of things about this assignment. First, I’m very explicit about what results or output I want them to submit in their response document. Second, I’ve integrated revisits of other skills such as graphing to keep them fresh. Finally, I provide quite a few hints to help them make decisions about what tools to use. Too often our assignments fall into one of two categories: always tell them precisely what to do, or not tell them and leave them guessing. Neither is a particularly strong way to develop student skills at making decisions about research tools. Guided or supported decision-making helps them learn to evaluate situations and make decisions for themselves.
I am happy to share the data set (if you can’t get it from JPR), editable versions of these assignments, and the answer keys with any faculty member on request. Just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from your school account so I can verify that you’re faculty. (Sorry, got burned once.) I’ve also got a similar assignment that includes additional spiral review for Jonathan Fox and Deborah Flores, “Religions, Constitutions, and the State: A Cross-National Study” (Journal of Politics 71,4 : 1499-1513) if anyone is interested in that.