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Seminars Offered in Spring 2018

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 & Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

104 Oak Building



PL SC 506

Game Theory Part I

Professor Sona Golder

Game theory is a mathematical tool used to study strategic interaction between two or more decision makers that have an effect on each others’ outcomes. Political scientists are increasingly using game theory to analyze strategic interactions across many different political settings. For example, international relations scholars often use game theory to explain when wars are more likely to occur. To study electoral competition, political scientists employ the tools of game theory to analyze how policy platforms selected strategically by political candidates influence electoral outcomes. This course aims to give students an entry-level understanding of the basic concepts of game theory, and how these concepts have been applied to the study of political phenomena. Students should leave the course with a working knowledge of games of complete and incomplete information, to the point where they can state a model correctly, solve it, and elucidate some of the theory's empirical implications.

Mondays, 1:30 – 4:00 p.m.

351 Willard Building



PL SC 511

Professional Norms in Political Science

Professor Michael Nelson

This course has three 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 by improving your understanding of the profession. The third is to prepare you to be an effective and engaged teacher. To accomplish these goals, we will discuss how to make the most of the graduate school experience to make your job portfolio is as strong as it can be. We will learn how to be an effective teacher and mentor inside and outside of the classroom by developing effective syllabi, preparing to teach diverse student populations, and tailoring class sections to meet student needs. Other topics will include diversity in the profession, strategies for effective conference attendance, and the responsible conduct of research.

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 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

303 Boucke Building



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




PLSC 551.001

Comparative Political Institutions: 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, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.

351 Willard Building




PLSC 551.002

Comparative Political Institutions: Comparative Political Parties

Professor Vineeta Yadav

This class aims to provide an introduction to and an overview of the role of political parties in current research in comparative politics. The class is divided into four segments, (i) Definitions, classifications and measurement issues (ii) theories of origins (iii) influence on key actors and institutions and, (iv) influence on specific political and economic outcomes. We will cover both democracies and autocracies among developing and developed countries. The class will begin by examining the definition of political parties and boundaries between parties, interest groups and social movements, examining different classifications of party types in the literature and defining and measuring attributes of parties such as discipline, cohesion, internal democracy, institutionalization, etc. The second part will survey existing literature on the origins of party systems comparing theories for different waves of democracies and for autocracies. Part iii will examine theoretical and empirical work studying the effects of parties on the behaviors of members, coalitions, interest groups and the choice of institutions and on the effects of religious and extremist parties vs secular, moderate parties. Finally, we will spend a good amount of time studying the effects of party types, attributes, behaviors etc. on a set of political and economic outcomes of interest, to be selected by consensus in the class from a list provided by the instructor. This course can count as either American or Comparative Politics credit.

Fridays, 9:05 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

009 Business Building



PLSC 597.001

Modern Measurement

Professor Christopher Zorn

This is a Ph.D.-level course on measurement. Students will complete the course familiar with contemporary statistical approaches to measuring manifest and latent phenomena, with particular emphasis on applications in the social and behavioral sciences. The course will begin with an overview of contemporary measurement theory, and then move on to a series of modules on instrument design, conventional multivariate approaches to measurement and data reduction, and special topics on the analysis of text, audio, and image data. Students will also learn implementations of these techniques via simulations and real-data examples.

Thursdays, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

301 Willard Building


PLSC 597.002

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?

Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

301 Boucke Building



PLSC 597.003

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. This course can count for either International Relations or Comparative credit.

Tuesdays, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

107 Rackley Building



PLSC 597.004

Topics in African Politics

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.

Tuesdays, 2:30 – 5:30 p.m.

218 Thomas Building

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