Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Fall 2015

Fall 2015

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, 9:30 – 11:00 a.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 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, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab


PL SC 505

Time Series Analysis in Political Science

Professor Suzie Linn


“This course studies statistical techniques used to analyze social processes occurring through time. The course introduces students to time series methods and to the applications of these methods in political science. Among the topics to be covered are: measurement of time series, calculus of finite differences and other estimation techniques, ARMA models, Granger causality and vector autoregression, unit root tests, near-integration, fractional integration, cointegration, error correction models and time series regression. We learn not only how to construct these models but also how to use time series models in social science analyses. The focus of the class will be on doing time series analysis, but we will spend a lot of time on the underlying theoretical basis for applied work. Students are expected to have a firm grounding in probability and regression analysis and to bring to the course some interesting questions about the dynamics of political processes. Students are encouraged to use their own data for homework assignments; it is much more satisfying to work with data related to a research problem that you care about!”

Tuesdays, 11:15 a.m. – 2:15 p.m.

236 Pond Lab







PL SC 507

Game Theory for Political Science II

Professor Bumba Mukherjee


This is an advanced game theory course in the department of political science. The objectives of this course are three-fold. First, we will examine in detail some classic game-theoretic models that have been developed by political scientists in the last 2-3 decades. We will evaluate in depth the main equilibrium solutions in these models and how these solutions were derived by the respective authors. Second, the students will be introduced to the PBE solution concept. We will also examine the solution concepts that game-theorists use in the context of signaling games. Third, the final 3-4 weeks of this course will focus significantly on model-building by the students enrolled in the course. Students who have not taken an introductory course in game theory will not be allowed to enroll in this advanced course.


Mondays, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab


PL SC 513

Writing and Professional Development in Political Science

Professor Jim Piazza


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; Master’s essay; 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 second or third year in the program. This is a required, 1.5 credit course.

Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

067 Willard Building








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 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

008 Life Sciences Building







PL SC 543

Political Representation in American Politics

Professor Marie Hojnacki


The purpose of this seminar is to acquaint you with the significant concepts, ideas, and research questions addressed in recent and classic studies of political representation.  Questions pertaining to the representation of citizens’ interests and to the responsiveness of government to citizen preferences are central to our understanding of American politics.  Indeed, assessments of the nature and quality of democratic governance hinge, at least to some extent, on the degree to which government officials are responsive to citizen concerns and attentive to their interests.  The topics we will survey during the seminar include the different dimensions of representation; biases and inequality in representation; organized interests and political parties as representational intermediaries; and, how normative considerations shape expectations about representation in practice.  Throughout the seminar we will be attentive to how political scientists formulate and execute research on political representation, as well as how the design of this research affects what we know about representation. The seminar is designed to meet the needs of graduate students in political science who hope at some time in the future to do original research, master a doctoral field, or teach in one or more aspects of American politics.

Seminar participants will be required to engage in extensive careful reading and to contribute to weekly discussion. To facilitate both participation in the weekly seminars and critical thinking about the work we cover, seminar participants will be required to prepare short written critical responses to the readings.  Each seminar participant also will be required to lead the seminar on a selected week, and to undertake an original research project that takes up questions relevant to our understanding of representation.

Wednesdays, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

105 Agricultural Science and Industries 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 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab

















PL SC 551

Comparative Political Economy

Professor Vineeta Yadav


This class aims to provide an introduction to and an overview of the role of domestic political institutions in current research in comparative and international political economy. Political economy in its entirety explores how domestic and international political configurations (institutions, structures, etc.) and events (elections, coups, oil shocks, currency crisis, etc.) systematically produce certain specific economic policies, and influence their effects. In this class we will focus onlyon the first of these two broad categories of work – the role of domestic political institutions in initiating, enacting and implementing economic outcomes. The class assumes students have taken the comparative seminar.

The class is divided into three segments, (i) theories of institutional origins (ii) institutional influence on key actors and delegated institutions and, (iii) specific economic outcomes. For section (ii) we will consider the theoretical and empirical body of work which studies how institutions affect political party systems, special interest groups, the bureaucracy and the judiciary. We will then look at some of the most prominent models of policymaking and how they incorporate institutional factors before finally moving on to study specific policy issues. For section (iii), I have provided a list of 6 topics from which we as a class will choose 3 topics to focus on. Please look at these and jot down your preferences before we meet in class for the first time. We will cover both democracies and autocracies among developing and developed countries.

As a class in comparative politics, one of the aims of the discussion in the class will be to test abstract theories of political economy using in-depth knowledge of specific cases, and to further our understanding of cases by applying lessons from theoretical and statistical work. As such, I highly encourage you to choose a couple of countries, preferably one you are familiar with and one you have very little familiarity with, as countries you can study through these frameworks as the class progresses. Comparative varies very widely methodologically and one of our tasks is to assess the appropriateness of the various methods employed in this research. Here again, familiarity with a couple of cases will help you perform these assessments.

Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

108 Oak Building






PL SC 597C

The Politics of Human Rights

Professor Christopher Fariss


This course examines the politics of human rights and repression, focusing on the causes and consequences of state sponsored violence and human rights violations. The core questions considered include: Why do governments choose to repress individuals within their jurisdiction? Are human rights universal? Have levels of repression changed over time?  How do we evaluate human rights systematically? What strategies have international institutions, non-state actors, and individuals used to uncover and reduce the use of repressive actions? 

Finding and evaluating answers for these questions is a challenging endeavor. To answer these questions, we will begin the course with an overview of the reasons for state sponsored violence. That is, why do states develop the capacity to behave violently in the first place? What strategic purpose does violence serve? We will also consider how individuals within a state behave and how the emergence of human rights sometimes occurs in the context of the violent and non-violent interaction between the state and individual. We will then consider various conceptualizations of “rights” and how such conceptualizations are related to the capacity for violence in the state and individual. How do human rights emerge given the propensity for states and individuals to sometimes act violently? This is the core conceptual consideration of the course, which we will use to help answer the motivating questions listed above. As we work on addressing these fundamental questions, students will also begin to learn how to empirically assess differences in the level of respect for human rights across time and place, how human rights practices have changed globally and locally, and how grass roots activism and different types of legal institutions can be successfully leveraged to modify state behaviors.

Thursdays, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab