Tips for Discussion

The readings in this class vary from week to week in terms of content, methodological tools, and empirical findings. However, it is possible to ask a standard set of questions of each reading. Consider the following set of questions:

- What is the dependent variable? In other words, what is the puzzle that the author is trying to explain? How does it vary (either cross-nationally or over time)? Is the variation puzzling?
- How is the dependent variable measured? Are there alternative measures available? Does the measurement of the dependent variable pose a problem?
- What are the independent variables? In other words, which factors or variables are posited to have an impact on the dependent variable?
- What is the theoretical argument that links the independent variables to the dependent variable? How compelling is this argument?
- Is there an existing literature on the author's puzzle? Is it sufficiently cited? How does the author's argument differ from the existing literature?
- How does the author test his/her argument? What methods are used to determine the relationship between the dependent variable and the independent variables? Are there alternative methods available?
- Discuss the author's findings. Do you find them compelling? Are there additional tests that the author should undertake?
- What can you conclude from the author's findings? What additional research would you undertake to advance the author's research project?