Quantitative Political Methods

"We are drowning in information and starving for knowledge."

 

- Rutherford D. Roger

Course overview

We are on the doorstep of a new era of social science.  Never before have we had access to so much data about the attitudes and actions of individuals.  Data on everything from the votes of members of the U.S. Senate in 1855 and terrorist attacks from around the globe are only a click away. 
 
This class is designed to make you an active participant in this new data rich world.  The goal is to introduce you to the methods and practices by which we can use this data to answer questions that are important to us as political scientists and citizens.
 
What policies are most effective at reducing poverty?  Which campaign ads are most effective at persuading voters?  Can we affect the behavior of our Facebook friends just by sharing our opinions?  
 
The purpose of this class is to teach you how you can use data to answer these kinds of questions.  This class will introduce you to the theoretical concepts you need to test claims about the political world and the practical skills you will need to conduct statistical analyses.
 
Although students will certainly be expected to engage with mathematics, formulas, and data analysis, the goals of the class are primarily conceptual rather than narrowly mathematical. The course will focus on helping students to understand the core concepts behind statistical tests, understand their uses (and limitations), learn to apply them appropriately to substantive problems of interest, and learn how to communicate findings to others.  In addition, a major components of the course include learning how to collect, manage, and analyze data using computer software, and how to effectively communicate results to others.