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Weighting techniques are employed to generalize results from survey experiments to populations of theoretical and substantive interest. Although weighting is often viewed as a second-order methodological issue, these adjustment methods invoke untestable assumptions about the nature of sample selection and potential heterogeneity in the treatment effect. Therefore, although weighting is a useful technique in estimating population quantities, it can introduce bias and also be used as a researcher degree of freedom. We review survey experiments published in three major journals from 2000–2015 and find that there are no standard operating procedures for weighting survey experiments. We argue that all survey experiments should report the sample average treatment effect (SATE). Researchers seeking to generalize to a broader population can weight to estimate the population average treatment effect (PATE), but should discuss the construction and application of weights in a detailed and transparent manner given the possibility that weighting can introduce bias.
Political science researchers have flexibility in how to analyze data, how to report data, and whether to report on data. A review of examples of reporting flexibility from the race and sex discrimination literature illustrates how research design choices can influence estimates and inferences. This reporting flexibility—coupled with the political imbalance among political scientists—creates the potential for political bias in reported political science estimates. These biases can be reduced or eliminated through preregistration and preacceptance, with researchers committing to a research design before completing data collection. Removing the potential for reporting flexibility can raise the credibility of political science research.
Political science graduate students need to develop strong skills in drafting empirical research manuscripts. Yet, many graduate student manuscripts contain similar shortcomings, which require student peers, faculty advisors, and journal referees to produce the same comments for multiple manuscripts. This article lists common comments on empirical research manuscripts, as a reference to help students revise their manuscripts before presentation to others for review, so that reviewers can focus on the more substantive elements of a manuscript, thus producing better manuscripts that are more likely to be published and thus contribute to knowledge about political phenomena.
Large majorities in nearly every country support democracy, according to studies of cross-national surveys. But many of these reports have treated as missing data persons who did not provide a substantive response when asked to offer an opinion about the suitability of democracy as a regime type for their country, which has led to substantial overestimates of expressed support for democracy in some countries. This article discusses the consequences of excluding such nonsubstantive responses and offers suggestions to improve the study of popular support for democracy.
Many political science publications advance knowledge using previously collected data and an innovation or two in theory or methods. To encourage students embarking on a seminar paper project, I review some of these publications to illustrate that the understanding of political phenomena often advances in incremental steps.
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