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Seminars Offered in Spring 2016

PL SC 503

Multivariate Analysis for Political Research

Professor Christopher Zorn

This is the second (full) course in quantitative methods in Penn State's political science Ph.D. program. The course introduces students to regression-type models for the analysis of quantitative data, and provides a basis of knowledge for more advanced statistical methods. The course assumes basic math literacy, including familiarity with probability theory, properties of estimators, rudimentary calculus, and linear algebra. The bulk of the course will focus on general models of the form Y = f(XB) + e, and will include discussions of the mathematical bases for such models, their estimation and interpretation, model assumptions and techniques for addressing violations of those assumptions, and topics related to model specification and functional forms. Under this general framework, we will also provide a very brief overview of regression models for binary, ordered, unordered, and event count variables.

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

236 Pond Lab

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PL SC 511

Professional Norms in Political Science

Professor James Piazza

This course has two main related goals. The first is to help you get the most out of your graduate school experience. The second is to help prepare you for becoming an academic, both by developing a better understanding of the profession and of the job market. We will discuss how best to approach coursework, GA assignments, the MA essay, and other research endeavors so that your job portfolio is as strong as it can be. We will consider ideas and suggestions for developing good research questions, writing an MA essay, and using summers judiciously. Other topics will include strategies for effective conference attendance; the responsible conduct of research; and how the job market works and how to prepare for it.
Students will be expected to attend each and every session, participate in seminar discussions, and complete weekly assignments. Grading for the course will be pass/fail.


Note: You should enroll in this course if you are entering the second semester of your first year. This is a required, 1.5 credit course.

Mondays: 10:30 – 11:45 a.m.

236 Pond Lab

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PL SC 518/SOC 518

Survey Methods I: Survey Design

Professor Eric Plutzer

Survey methodology is concerned with techniques designed to collect data by (a) asking people questions, and (b) aggregating those answers in ways that generate valid and reliable inferences about a population of individuals.  This course, one of two courses that introduce survey methodology to students, is primarily concerned with the science of collecting data (while PLSC/SOC 519 is primarily concerned with analyzing data).  Topics will include: Sample recruitment and panel study retention, Questionnaire design, Essential features of collecting data via face-to-face interviews, by live telephone interviewers, by pencil and paper questionnaires, and by surveys conducted via internet and mobile technologies.

Tuesdays: 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

112 Keller Building

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PLSC 551

Democracy and Democratization

Professor Gretchen Casper

This seminar addresses the literature on democracy and democratization.  Since 1974, over thirty countries around the world started a transition toward democracy. As a result of these dramatic events, comparative scholars have studies these, and earlier, transition cases to understand why some countries become democratic while others do not, and why some new democracies show signs of consolidating while others collapse. This seminar, then, addresses the recent work in the field. First, we will review works that define and measure key concepts, such as authoritarianism, democracy and democratic consolidation. Then, we will consider a range of factors to explain the installation, consolidation, or failure of democracy.  Finally, we will discuss a current controversy in the democratization literature. The goals of the seminar are three-fold. First, you will gain an introduction to democracy and democratization studies.  Second, this background will help you prepare for your comparative politics comprehensive exams. Third, the seminar can give you an early start on a conference paper, master's thesis, or dissertation proposal on democratization.

Wednesdays: 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab

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PLSC 583

Professor John Christman

This course will undertake an examination of the concept of freedom (or “liberty”) as it has been analyzed in philosophy and political theory in recent decades. We will then intersperse this with readings of first- and third-person accounts of subjugation, oppression, and slavery. We will inquire whether or the degree to which such narratives alter or shift dominant understandings of the concept of freedom.

Tuesdays: 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.

015 Tyson Building

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AFR/PLSC 597A

The Politics of African Development

Professor Elizabeth Carlson

In this course, students will identify the characteristics of contemporary African politics that distinguish African politics (or fail to distinguish it) from politics elsewhere. Students will also analyze how the challenges of the African research context affect our conclusions. Substantive topics will include the legacies of colonization; ethnic politics; democratization and elections; clientelism; political parties and ideologies; traditional governance; government capacity; and economic development. Methodological topics will include approaches to data collection; use of mixed methods; lab and field experimental design; and research ethics.

Short description:  Core topics in African politics including colonization; ethnic politics; democratization; clientelism; traditional governance; and economic development.

Wednesdays: 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab

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PLSC 597B

Political Geography

Professor Xun Cao

Students of various social sciences disciplines such as economics, sociology, and political science have long been interested in understanding the role of geography in shaping processes as diverse as economic development, civil conflict, and social movement. Theoretically, studying the impacts of geography implies the introduction of a new dimension to the study of political and economic processes. Many new questions need to be answered, for instance, what is the relationship between geography and collective action? Does geography shape voters’ preferences? What are the mechanisms that underpin specific geographical patterns of economic development, unemployment, and inequality? Whether and how geography affects changes of ethnic conflicts? Such questions require new theoretical models and empirical methodologies, and often geo-coded data that take into account spatial interdependences. This course will lay out some conceptual and methodological foundations drawn from existing studies of political geography. We will focus on the origins of geographical patterns of development and economic growth. We will also analyze the role of geography in shaping individual preferences and incentives to engage in politics, and how such micro-level factors are aggregated to shape macro-level outcomes such as state building and civil war. We will also introduce students to some simple applications of GIS data and methodologies and related software packages that can be used to model spatial processes.

Mondays: 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab

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PLSC 597C

Political Psychology

Professor Peter Hatemi

Political Psychology is not subfield specific and thus will count as a major course for American, International Relations or Comparative Politics. Our interdisciplinary approach will draw on developmental and clinical psychology, cognitive neuroscience, sociology, biology, political science, anthropology, and economics to examine why people do what they do.   Topics will include how elites and the mass publics think and act, the motivation and reasoning processes that come into play when human beings try to make sense of their political world, including emotions such as fear and lust that are an inseparable part of human reasoning. Individual differences in cognition and emotion are often categorized by personalities, and we will explore how these inform political choices as well.  We will uncover the sources of prejudices and hatreds that lead to acts of brutality, including the mind of the terrorist. We will address identity, leadership, cooperation, risk, conflict, sex, competition and intergroup behavior.   For any who have an interest in how humans behave, whether you are focused on domestic or international actors, leaders, the public or individuals, being aware of and integrating the discoveries from psychological research is no longer optional, but required to converse with the greater academy.

Thursdays: 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab

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PLSC 597D

Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict and Civil Wars

Professor Bumba Mukherjee

This course is an introduction to academic research on nationalism, ethnic conflict and civil war. The questions that we will examine in some detail in this seminar are: What is nationalism and where did it emerge from? What is the difference (if any) between ethnic conflict and civil wars? What are the causes of ethnic conflict and civil wars? Are ancient hatreds, ethnic and religious extremism, colonialism, class warfare, resource competition, ideology, and/or state failure the main determinants of civil wars? Finally, why and how do internal wars end and what can the international community do to facilitate peaceful settlement of civil wars?

Mondays: 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab

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PLSC 597E

Social and Political Network Analysis

Professor Bruce Desmarais

A network is a set of relationships among units. The study of networks in political science, the social sciences and beyond has grown rapidly in recent years. This course is a comprehensive introduction to methods for analyzing network data. We will cover network data collection and management, the formulation and expression of network theory, network visualization and description; and methods for statistical inference with networks. The course will make extensive use of real-world applications and students will gain a thorough background in the use of network analytic software. Most of the applications discussed will be drawn from political science and sociology, but this course will be relevant to anyone interested in the study of network data.

Tuesdays: 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

108 Oak Building

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