Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Fall 2020

Fall 2020

PLSC 501

Methods of Political Analysis

Professor Burt Monroe

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.

  Wednesdays, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

232 BBH Building


PLSC 502

Statistical Methods for Political Research

Professor Bruce Desmarais

 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.”

Thursdays, 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

103 Ferguson Building


PLSC 504

Topics in Political Methodology

Professor 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 and a replication project. 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.

 Wednesdays, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

305 Boucke Building


PLSC 513

Writing and Professional Development in Political Science

Professor Vineeta Yadav

 The class is a workshop aimed at helping students communicate research orally and in writing. Students will draft the first half of their M.A. thesis and will present their research publicly, both to the class and to the department. Additionally, we will discuss strategies for preparing manuscripts for publication, writing and responding to manuscript reviews, working with the institutional review board, writing grant proposals, preparing for comprehensive examinations, and navigating the job market. All members of the seminar are expected to participate in each and every session, attend departmental talks, and provide constructive comments on one another’s work, both orally and in writing. Grading for the course will be pass/fail.

 Note: You should enroll in this course if you are entering your second year in the program. This course is the second of two required, 1.5 credit professional development courses in the graduate program in political science.  

Tuesdays, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

236 Pond Lab


PLSC 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.

Mondays & Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

113 Keller Building


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.

Thursdays, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

105 Ag. Science Building


PL SC 597

Diplomacy, Signaling, and Coercion

Professor Roseanne McManus

 States or groups facing each other in the context of ongoing or potential military conflict have no incentive to trust each other and strong incentives to lie to each other. Yet credible communication is often key to the peaceful resolution of international disputes. Furthermore, actors who can communicate more credibly than their opponents are likely to have an advantage in coercive bargaining. Therefore, it is important to explore how international actors can signal their intentions credibly, even in an environment characterized by conflict and mistrust. This course will cover the various mechanisms and conditions that can make signals of resolve and other types of signals credible in international conflict. We will cover the concepts of reputation and audience costs, as well as debates over whether either of these things actually exist. We will also cover various domestic political and psychological factors that can affect how signals are perceived. We will analyze a variety of different types of interstate communication and signaling strategies, including private diplomacy, public statements, and sunk cost signals. The course incorporates a variety of theoretical perspectives, ranging from rationalist to psychological. It also considers how theories of international signaling and coercion can be tested empirically. The readings illustrate various research approaches, including formal modeling, statistical analysis with observational data, surveys, experiments, case studies, and various methods of converting text to data. We will also cover some common research design pitfalls that are encountered when studying coercive success as a dependent variable.

Mondays, 1:25 p.m. – 4:25 p.m.

302 Boucke Building


PL SC 597

Contentious Politics

Professor Lee Ann Banaszak

 This course will explore the nature of contentious collective action, particularly in the American and Comparative politics context.  We will look at the major theories that sociologists and political scientists have used to explain the mobilization, development and outcomes of social movements.  Some of the specific topics include why individuals participate in contentious politics, movement tactics, the institutionalization of social movements, state repression and the role of the state generally, and transnational social movements.  Students will be evaluated based on class participation, the leading of a class discussion, papers that analyze the days readings, and a research proposal paper.

 Tuesdays, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

236 Pond Lab


PL SC 597

Racial Politics and American Politics in the USA.

Professor Ray Block

 Politics is about “who gets what, when, and how” (Lasswell 1939). In this course we will consider how race influences who gets what, when, and how. We will begin by surveying the historical issues of racial politics in the United States. In so doing, we will consider why race can be (and often is) political. From this foundation, we will explore how race shapes political attitudes, participation, and representation. We will conclude this course by evaluating whether we are in a post-racial or most-racial society. This course is designed to develop (1) a strong substantive understanding of how race is connected to the American political system, (2) critical thinking skills about contemporary political issues, and (3) written and oral communication skills. We will focus specifically on finding and using evidence to support our arguments in an effort to improve communication about sensitive topics.

 Mondays, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

120 Moore Building


SODA 502

Approaches and Issues in Social Data Analytics

Professor Charles Seguin

 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.

 Thursdays, 1:20 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.

327 Sackett Building