Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Fall 2016

Fall 2016

PL SC 501

Methods of Political Analysis

Professor Douglas Lemke


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, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.

303 Boucke Building







PL SC 502

Statistical Methods for Political Research

Christopher Zorn

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.


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

236 Pond Lab






















PL SC 504

Multivariate Analysis for Political Research II

Christopher Zorn


This is an elective course in statistical methods designed to meet the particular needs of students in the political science Ph. D. curriculum. PL SC 504 is tailored to focus on the specific issues that arise in the types of data found in political science applications. Students are expected to have completed the three required foundational courses in political methodology or their equivalents. This course examines a range of regression-like models widely used in empirical political science. Its core focus is on maximum likelihood estimation of models for various kinds of limited-dependent and qualitative response variables. Specific models covered are widely used in political science today, including binary logit and probit, multinomial logit and probit, ordered logit and probit, and Poisson regression models. Additional topics include models for time-to-event (survival) data, panel data and time-series cross-sectional analysis, item response theory, multi-level models, and methods for causal inference using observational data. Students will apply these models in a series of homework assignments, a replication project, and a final exam. Empirical political scientists must have familiarity with these models; these techniques represent a minimal level of statistical competence necessary for those seeking to do advanced quantitative analysis in the political science. The material in this course is technical, but students will be given an intuitive rationale for each model. Weekly homework assignments will be based on data from published research in political science.

Tuesdays, 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 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, 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

236 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 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

323 Boucke Building





PL SC 540

American Government and Politics

Professor Michael Nelson

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.


Tuesdays & Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

236 Pond Lab






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, 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

236 Pond Lab










PL SC 555

Comparative Authoritarianism

Professor Joseph Wright


This course examines authoritarian (non-democratic) rule. It will be most beneficial for students who have completed an introductory sequence of graduate statistical methods courses and a course in game theory. The seminar begins with a brief introduction to classical theories of authoritarian rule, and then surveys the current literature on comparative authoritarianism. The course covers: measures and typologies of authoritarian regimes; formal theories of authoritarian rule; political institutions (legislatures, parties, and elections) in authoritarian regimes; the consequences of authoritarian rule for growth and investment; protest in non-democratic settings; and authoritarian regimes in international relations research (conflict). Students are expected to produce original research on a topic related to authoritarian politics.


Thursdays, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab



PL SC 560

International Relations: Theory and Methodology

Professor Errol Henderson


This seminar is an introduction to the study of IR at the graduate level.  We will examine principal problems, issues, and trends in sections that cover the main areas of current research in the field.  We will consider rational-choice and psychologically-based theories; consider major theories of conflict and cooperation; and consider influences on decision makers from the system, dyadic, domestic, and individuals levels of analysis.


Wednesdays, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab












SODA 502

Approaches and Issues in Social Data Analytics

Professor Bruce Desmarais


Addresses the interdisciplinary integration of computational, informational, statistical, visual analytic, and social scientific approaches to learning from data that are both “social” (about, or arising from, human interactions) and “big” (of sufficient scale, variety, or complexity to strain the informational, computational, or cognitive limits of conventional social scientific approaches to data collection or analysis). Includes alternative scientific models for learning from data (Bayesian inference, causal inference, statistical / machine learning, visual analytics, measurement modeling), analytics issues with big data (variable selection, parallel computing, algorithmic scaling, ensemble modeling, validation), analytics issues with particular structures and channels of social data (network data, geospatial data, intensive longitudinal data, text data), and issues of scientific responsibility and ethics in analysis of big social data.


Tuesdays &Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

104 Biobehavioral Health Building




PL SC 597

Seminar on State-Making

Professor Douglas Lemke


State making is the study of how states emerge, develop, and persist.  These topics are relevant to a number of the social sciences, and students will get a good idea of that this semester because the assigned readings are from not only American, Comparative and IR sub-fields of Political Science, but also from economics, history, sociology, geography, and various humanities disciplines as well.  Comparativists seem to care considerably more about state making than do IR scholars, since it so centrally involves questions of national development.  The tendency of IR scholars to take state making for granted, or to ignore it, is particularly puzzling since IR scholars mostly study what states do.  Since states not infrequently make other states, the phenomenon clearly has an international component.  We’ll spend the semester investigating how questions of state emergence, development, and survival inter-relate, and how they influence other aspects of state behavior.  Student performance will be evaluated based on seminar attendance and participation, and two take-home essay exams.

Fridays, 9:05 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

236 Pond Lab