Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Fall 2014

Fall 2014

PL SC 501

Methods of Political Analysis

Professor Christopher Fariss


This seminar is about research design. In contrast to 502-504, which focus on the analysis of data you have, this seminar focuses on the prior concern of how to collect data worth analyzing.  In 2008, Don Rubin coined a now ubiquitous phrase: “design trumps analysis.” In this course, we’re going to think about what this means, why this is, and what you can do to design your research to provide compelling support for your arguments.  Topics include design in experimental and observational settings, sampling and selection, concepts and measurement, challenges of small-N to large-N to massive-N designs, and approaches to inference.


Tuesdays & Thursdays, 2:30 – 3:45 p.m.

236 Pond Lab









PL SC 502

Statistical Methods for Political Research

Professor Luke Keele

This course provides an introduction to the principles of probability and mathematical statistics. Here you will learn the foundational principles of statistics that will be important for any type of quantitative analysis you will do in the future.  This includes topics such as probability, distributions, estimation, hypothesis testing, cross-tabulations, and bivariate regression. The material taught in this class will be important for understanding later classes in the methods sequence on regression and other topics.

Mondays & Wednesdays, 6:30 – 7:45 p.m.

215 Boucke 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.

Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

112 Osmond Building






PL SC 513

Writing and Professional Development in Political Science

Professor Marie Hojnacki


This course is designed to help graduate students make the transition from coursework and exams to writing a dissertation and engaging in the many activities that constitute life as a professional political scientist.   To this end, we will discuss strategies for preparing manuscripts for publication and responding to reviews; writing manuscript reviews; writing a dissertation prospectus and dissertation; and writing grant proposals.  We will also focus on making effective presentations of your research; identifying strategies for locating sources of funds for your projects; and preparing for and navigating the job market.  Students will devote several weeks of the semester to revising an existing research paper with the aim of submitting it to a journal for possible publication.  All members of the seminar will read and provide constructive comments on one another’s work. 
Students are 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 your third year in the program. This is a required, 1.5 credit course.

Tuesdays, 5:45 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

123 Pond Lab






PL SC 519

Survey Methods II: Analysis of Survey Data

Professor Eric Plutzer

Cross-listed with Sociology


Data collected by surveys have a combination of qualities that represent challenges to valid inference.  These include cluster and stratified sampling, under-representation of some groups due to differential response rates, missing data due to item non-response, and coarse measurement (3-4 categories to capture rich concepts such as religious faith or economic status). We often use surveys to test theories that the original survey designer did not intend to address, raising issues of validity and reliability of measurement.  At the same time, surveys offer a number of opportunities and, when combined with other surveys (pooled cross sections) or merged with contextual data, can address a wide range of theoretical puzzles in the social sciences.  This course provides an introduction to techniques in applied statistics that have been developed specifically to address the special features of survey data: use of design weights, post-stratification weights, accounting for clustering and other features of the research design in analysis, merging surveys with other surveys or auxiliary data, and missing data imputation. The class will emphasize the intuition of the theory underlying the statistical models rather than focusing on proofs and estimation.  This will provide a foundation for frequent hands-on applications in this seminar and for subsequent enrollment in more advanced courses offered by the Statistics department and the various social science departments.

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 8:00 – 9:15 a.m.

008 Life Sciences Building






PL SC 540

Professor Michael Nelson

American Politics: Proseminar

This course introduces graduate students to the core concepts and controversies in the study of American politics.  We will discuss the evolution of research on American political institutions and behavior through discussions of both current and classic readings.  We will consider both how these readings contribute to our knowledge of politics in the United States and how researchers designed and executed their studies.

This course has three central aims: to help students find feasible research questions that they can investigate throughout their graduate careers, to begin to prepare students for the field examination in American politics, and to ready students for more advanced seminars in American political institutions and behavior.

Students in this course are expected to complete the assigned readings, to contribute meaningfully to class discussions, and to complete a variety of formal and informal writing assignments.


Mondays, 9:05 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

236 Pond Lab








PL SC 542

American Political Behavior

Professor Suzanna Linn


This course surveys major themes in theory and research on electoral behavior and political participation generally.  Readings will cover topics in public opinion and elections including: presidential and congressional elections; the role of economics in elections; the nature and extent of political participation; the meaning and stability of party identification; the nature of belief systems within the public; and the evaluation of political leaders.  The primary goal is to immerse students in the substance and research of political behavior and to get students to think about questions and how to answer them.  This means seeing what other people have done and synthesizing it, framing questions, developing methods, and considering measurement.  To that end, students will be required to do extensive reading and writing.  Seminar participants will be expected to write a research proposal over the course of the semester. A final exam will be given.


Wednesdays, 9:05 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

009 Walker Building








PL SC 550

Introduction to Comparative Politics

Professor Matthew Golder


This course is the core seminar for the field of comparative politics in the political science Ph.D. program.  It provides an introduction to the dominant questions, theories, and empirical research in comparative politics.  The substantive topics covered in the class include democracy and dictatorship, democratic performance, political institutions, culture and identity issues, civil war, elections and political parties, representation and accountability, and political economy.  The course has two goals: (i) to prepare students for a research career in comparative politics by providing a general survey of the field and (ii) to help prepare graduate students for the comprehensive examination in comparative politics.


Mondays, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab











PL SC 551

Comparative Political Institutions: Social Movements and Revolutions

Professor Lee Ann Banaszak



This course will explore the nature of contentious collective action, specifically social movements and revolutions.  While the course takes a comparative perspective, a significant amount of the literature focuses on social movements in the United States.  We will look at the major theories that sociologists and political scientists have used to explain the development of grievances, various forms of mobilization, state responses to protest, and the outcomes of social movements.  Additional specific topics include movement tactics, state repression and the role of the state actors generally, the institutionalization of social movements and transnational social movements.  Students will be evaluated based on their class participation, a series of short response papers, a comprehensive style mid-term examination, and a research proposal paper.

Can be taken for either American Politics or Comparative politics credit


Wednesdays, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab







PL SC 560

International Relations: Theory and Methodology

Professor Glenn Palmer



This course is the field seminar in international relations, aimed at providing an introduction to major theories of international relations and exposing students to contemporary research in the field. In this seminar, you will learn to understand and evaluate critically academic literature in international relations, as well as become familiar with major themes in international relations research. We will discuss important theoretical approaches used in the study of international politics and explore the manner in which social scientific research is conducted. The broad overview of theories and research topics in this course should enable you to identify areas of interest that you can further pursue in subsequent graduate courses and in independent research. This course is designed for graduate students who are planning to pursue careers in international relations or political science research; we will not focus on current events or issues in particular world regions.


Wednesdays, 9:05 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

236 Pond Lab







PL SC 597A

Mathematics for Political Scientists

Professor Tamar London



This course is designed to equip you with the basic mathematical skills necessary for coursework and research in political science.  The goal of the course is to give you a strong foundation for the methods sequence, and to allow you to critically read and understand articles for your research.  Among the topics we will go over are: sets, algebra, functions, graphs, matrix algebra, differentiation, integration, and proofs.



Wednesdays & Fridays, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

236 Pond Lab


PL SC 597C

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.


Fridays, 9:05 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

236 Pond Lab









PL SC 597D (504)

Multivariate Analysis for Political Research II

Professor Luke Keele


This course introduces a range of statistical models widely used in empirical political science that generalize from linear-normal regression.   It is the third foundational course in statistical methods in the political science Ph. D. curriculum; students are expected to have completed the prior courses or their equivalents.  The primary focus of the course is on models where the traditional assumptions of ordinary least-squares regression are violated because the dependent variable is non-continuous.  Emphasis is given to maximum likelihood estimation of models of various kinds of limited-dependent and qualitative response variables including binary, multinomial, and ordered logit and probit, as well as Poisson and other models for event counts.  Additional topics include models for survival (time-to event) data; panel and time series analysis; item response theory; and methods for causal inference using observational data.  Students will learn the statistical theory underlying those models, their correct use and interpretation, and the statistical software necessary to estimate the models in practice.  Data analysis homework assignments and a final research paper will be used to evaluate student learning.


Tuesdays, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

120 Thomas Building