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Experimental Political Science and the Study of Causality
From Nature to the Lab

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  • Date Published: August 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521136488

$ 47.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Increasingly, political scientists are describing their empirical research or the reasoning behind their choices in empirical research using the terms “experiment” or “experimental.” One of the primary reasons for doing so is the advantage of experiments in establishing causal inferences. In this book, Rebecca B. Morton and Kenneth C. Williams discuss in detail how experiments and experimental reasoning with observational data can help researchers determine causality. They explore how control and random assignment mechanisms work, examining both the Rubin causal model and the formal theory approaches to causality. They also cover general topics in experimentation such as the history of experimentation in political science; internal and external validity of experimental research; types of experiments – field, laboratory, virtual, and survey – and how to choose, recruit, and motivate subjects in experiments. They investigate ethical issues in experimentation, the process of securing approval from institutional review boards for human subject research, and the use of deception in experimentation.

    • First book on experimental methods in political science, previously only works on this subject have been in economics, psychology, or social psychology
    • First book on the study of causality in political science using both experiments and observational data
    • First book in social science to discuss in detail the ethical issues in experimentation, how to secure approval from institutional review boards
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    • Winner of the 2011 Best Book Award from the Experimental Research section of the American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    “This is a landmark contribution – not only in what it offers for experimentalists but for social science in general. Morton and Williams present a distinctive approach to how to conduct research that is sure to be widely discussed and debated.”
    – James N. Druckman, Northwestern University

    “This path-breaking work is the first political science monograph to cover laboratory, survey, and field experimentation. Using a wealth of examples from a wide array of subfields, Morton and Williams cover topics from causal inference to research ethics in a lively and engaging manner.”
    – Donald Green, Yale University

    “Morton and Williams’s review of experimental methodology and reasoning in political science will be the benchmark reference for experimental methodology in political science for years to come. It is comprehensive in its discussion of methods, scientific reasoning, and ethics, and at the same time it tears down boundaries across subfields of political science and across different approaches to experimental research in the discipline. The authors successfully argue for and carefully lay out discipline-wide standards for experimental methodology in political science. The framework provided can be fruitfully used by those who conduct lab, field, or survey experiments as well as those who use experimental reasoning with observational data.”
    – Thomas Palfrey, California Institute of Technology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521136488
    • length: 608 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 147 x 41 mm
    • weight: 0.91kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus. 5 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Introduction:
    1. The advent of experimental political science
    Part II. Experimental Reasoning about Causality:
    2. Experiments and causal relations
    3. The causal inference problem and the Rubin causal model
    4. Controlling observables and unobservables
    5. Randomization and pseudo-randomization
    6. Formal theory and causality
    Part III. What Makes a Good Experiment?:
    7. Validity and experimental manipulations
    8. Location, artificiality, and related design issues
    9. Choosing subjects
    10. Subjects' motivations
    11. History of codes of ethics and human subjects research
    12. Ethical decision making and political science experiments
    13. Deception in experiments
    14. The future of experimental political science
    15. Appendix: the experimentalist's to do list.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Contemporary Issues in US Politics: Experimental Methods
    • Empirical Methods of Research
    • Experimental & Qualitative Methods
    • Experimental Economics
    • Foundations ll: Experimental Design and Methods
    • Intro to Political Analysis
    • Introduction to Political Research
    • Logic of Political Inquiry
    • Methods of Political Analysis
    • Methods of Political Research llI
    • Nature of Political Inquiry
    • POSC Research Methods
  • Authors

    Rebecca B. Morton, New York University
    Rebecca B. Morton is a Professor in the Wilf Family Department of Politics at New York University. She received her Ph.D. from Tulane University and has held academic positions at Tulane, Texas A & M University, University of Iowa, University of California San Diego, and University of Houston. She was a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Hanse-Wissenschaftkolleg in Delmenhorst, Germany. Her book Learning by Voting: Sequential Choices in Presidential Primaries and Other Elections (with Kenneth Williams, 2001) addresses the effects of voting sequentially, as in presidential primaries in the United States. Her more recent book, Analyzing Elections (2006), is a comprehensive study of the American electoral process. Morton also considered the complexity of empirical evaluation of formal models in her book Methods and Models: A Guide to the Empirical Analysis of Formal Models in Political Science (Cambridge University Press, 1999). Her research has appeared in the American Economic Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Law and Economics, the Review of Economics and Statistics, and the Review of Economic Studies.

    Kenneth C. Williams, Michigan State University
    Kenneth C. Williams is currently a Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and did a postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a Visiting Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and also taught several summer courses at Birkbeck, University of London. He has published articles in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, Experimental Economics, Economics and Politics, the Journal of Theoretical Politics, and Public Choice. He is also co-author of Learning by Voting (with Rebecca Morton, 2001).


    • Winner of the 2011 Best Book Award from the Experimental Research section of the American Political Science Association

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