The POWERMUTT Project is a cross between an introductory political science research methods textbook and an online resource for teaching and learning such methods. It includes the following.
- Topics that cover a fairly standard set of subjects typically included in the introductory methods course.
- Tools for data analysis that use statistical software. This version of the project includes tools for analyzing data using IBM® SPSS® Statistics (Version 21), a software package widely used in political science and other disciplines. SPSS is not included with POWERMUTT.
- Datasets and codebooks to carry out the exercises.
- Links to other resources.
Type of Material:
Open (Access) Textbook.
The site could be used as a supplement for a research methods or statistics course.
Access to SPSS.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
A broad introduction to research methods and statistical analysis. Although "Political Science" is in the title, it can easily be used for sociology.
Target Student Population:
Upper level undergraduate or graduate students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
This is a self contained course and does not require prerequisites beyond the introductory course for the social science major. Some experience with statistics would be helpful.
This is a self contained text which thoroughly covers the topics of basic research design including data collection, analysis, and reporting. There are many hotlinks for additional web based resources which can more fully describe the topics at hand. It uses SPSS as its main tool for data analysis and has thorough step by step instructions as to how to use it for the operations listed. This is very helpful in that it teaches the students how to use SPSS and has examples which they may use to try out the various data operations.
The text is based on SPSS version 21. There have been several versions since and this may confuse the students as older SPSS versions may not be available. Without statistical knowledge, many of the concepts are not thoroughly explained.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
On the homepage on the topic horizontal line the student will find an introduction to social science research, the various topics of research design, the various types of data and data collection, methods of data collection, directions as to how to enter the data and display. Because it is interactive with the use of SPSS, it will allow the student to try the manipulations of data as the student studies them. The output can also be shown to the instructor for feedback. The learning can then be transferred to the assignments from the text found at the end of each chapter as well as other applications.
This would be highly effective if the text were updated to the most recent version of SPSS. It is unlikely an undergraduate student could use this as an independent resource for understanding statistics and research methods.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
As a presentation tool it allows the instructor to pick and choose what needs to be covered. The website has a site map to link to topics and tools quickly. The text is set up in a familiar way with a series of menus leading to embedded pages with their own menus. This is very easy to follow and intuitive. The design is straightforward and easily embeds related hotlinks for additional information. Codebooks and examples of data entry and analysis are strategically included.
One concern has to do with aesthetics. The font could have been a bit larger for those who need larger print. The site assumes that the student has access to SPSS.
Other Issues and Comments:
Creative Commons license allows people to take parts and use in other applications. the text needs to be updated to keep pace with the latest versions of SPSS.
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