Research Design Presentation- “Sourcing Sultanism”

4 Comments on Research Design Presentation- “Sourcing Sultanism”

  1. Avatar
    December 13, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Your research plan has you set up for a really interesting project. I find it particularly interesting that you are looking for similarities in the behaviors of Russian leaders across history. I notice that in your case selection you have limited yourself to presidents of Russian Federation, which I imagine is intentional, but I would potentially suggest considering a few cases of leaders from the Soviet era, if nothing else than to act as counterexamples for your hypotheses. If you are looking for causal linkages between the conditions you state, and the resultant “sultanism” you might want to provide an example in which a leader did not have these conditions in place, and therefore was unable to exert this sultanistic power. Apart from that, I think you have a strong research plan, you have a good grasp of the existing research (though I might have liked to see a couple of the scholars cited on the slide- not a huge issue though), and your variable selection sets you up nicely for analysis of situations and lead you towards strong hypotheses. I am looking forward to seeing how your project moves forward from here.

  2. Avatar
    December 13, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Hello Bryce,

    First, nice breakdown of literature review into two schools of thought! I appreciated understanding the background and differences between Structuralists and Individualists, and it’s good that you recognize that you tend to side more with Individualism so that you can adapt your research project accordingly (taking into account reflexivity).

    I agree that small-n neopositivist case analysis is the best way to approach your topic, and your selection of variables is excellent:

    IV1: Military and intelligence
    IV2: Support of elites
    IV3: Constitutional Limits
    IV4: Perceived economic conditions

    However, I think you could have spent more time justifying your case selection. I’m not sure it’s appropriate to address these variables you’ve identified with three cases that all come from the same country; wouldn’t mil/intel, elite support, and constitutional limits remain approximately the same over time in Russia? Why not examine other countries as well (disparate cases with small n)?

    You had a great explanation of the various factors to consider during your research project as well:

    Validity – Narrowed terms to sultanism, ensured validity, defined narrowly what area of authoritarianism to explore (generalizability is lacking in small-n research)
    Reliability – Any researcher can produce the same research results from the structure given, thought process is entirely documented

    I’m not sure how you would determine whether or not all factors were considered for independent variables. Controlling for unknown unknowns is difficult; diversifying your case selection might be a good way to start but I’m not sure.

    Best of luck!

  3. Avatar
    Dr. Boesenecker
    December 13, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Bryce — overall a good job here. You have a clear and easy to follow presentation (good speaking style, good slide design, good organization) along with a clear explanation of your main research design choices. In your final narrative paper you will have the chance to develop some of the details in response to the feedback you received by your group members, so definitely take the comments above into account as you finalize your final narrative paper. One thing that you could include (in either a presentation or in the final narrative paper) would be a simple comparison table like those that we have seen in comparative case study projects (each case gets a row, each column is an IV, and the final column is the DV) and then fill in the values that you know so far (e.g. which cases are/are not sultanistic, etc.). That would help illustrate the most similar case comparison design that you are proposing. Overall I think your methodological choices are appropriate for the project, though clarifying some of the details raised in the comments above and in your group discussion will help in the final narrative paper. Good job! I look forward to seeing how the project develops.

    Also, going forward, I would recommend reading the piece listed below from Elizabeth Saunders, as Saunders is one of the few political scientists focusing on the individual level of analysis (figuring out leaders and their impact, in particular). Her piece is an excellent example of this kind of analysis, so it may be of use to you as a model or in inspiring some thoughts.

    Elizabeth N. Saunders, “Transformative Choices: Leaders and the Origins of Intervention Strategy,” International Security 34, no. 2 (Fall 2009): 119-161.

  4. Avatar
    Dr. Boesenecker
    December 13, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Bryce — one other question for you: could you clarify the second hypothesis that you advance (“The presence of past military or intelligence experience by the regime’s leader, is not a sufficient factor to give rise to a sultanistic regime if the necessary condition of having elite support is also not present.”). I like the way that you’re working with necessary/sufficient conditions and combinations of causes here. However, I’m not sure that sufficiency (which means that the outcome must be present) works when describing the military/intelligence experience. Could you maybe clarify in plain language — which factors have to be present/absent in order to obtain sultanism under H2?


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