Seminars Offered in Spring 2019

 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.

309 Sparks 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, 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

304 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.

174 Willard Building


PLSC 534

African Oil and Mining

Professor Kidane Mengisteab

 Given the rising global demand for energy and resources, Africa's production of oil and solid minerals has already produced very significant positive as well as negative impacts on the continent's political, economic, and social conditions. This seminar examines the extractive industry-driven changes in Africa's political economy, as well as in the continent's foreign relations. Students will examine the institutional basis under which the expansion of the industry is taking place in Africa. This will involve discussions of the institutional characteristics of Africa, including issues of land tenure and property rights laws, how institutional systems are changing in order to facilitate the industry's expansion, and the repercussions of these changes upon society. The course also interrogates the relevance of international efforts to mitigate some of the adverse impacts of the industry. Among such efforts is the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. Overall this seminar examines the industry's impact on Africa's socioeconomic development and global relations, and concludes with how African countries might deal with the adverse impact of the Oil and Mining industry.

 Wednesdays,11:15 a.m. – 2:15 p.m.

218A Hosler Building


 PLSC 540

American Political Proseminar: 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.

 Mondays, 9:05 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

236 Pond Lab


 PLSC 555

Comparative Regimes: 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.

 Wednesdays, 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

 210E Westgate Building


PLSC 563

International Political Economy

Professor Boliang Zhu

 This is an advanced graduate course on international political economy (IPE). The goals of the course are to (i) review recent research in IPE, (ii) prepare doctoral students for the comprehensive exam in International Relations in general and more specifically, International Political Economy and (iii) encourage students to form original ideas for promising research projects in the area of international political economy. This seminar focuses on key issues in international political economy, such as trade, foreign direct investment, international finance and monetary policy, foreign aid, development, and international institutions and cooperation. We will investigate the role of international institutions in economic relations and the effect of domestic politics on international cooperation in the areas of trade, investment and finance, as well as attempt to identify the “state of the art” in international political economy.

 Mondays, 1:05 p.m. – 4:05 p.m.

236 Pond Lab


PLSC 597.001

Text as Data

Professor Burt Monroe

 This course investigates the use of digitized texts -- news articles, speeches, laws, treaties, press releases, party manifestos, campaign ads, interviews, transcripts, open-ended surveys, Tweets, Reddit posts, Youtube comments, Yelp reviews ... -- as sources of data for social science research. Topics will include gathering text data (e.g., web scraping, pdf scraping), preprocessing text and related NLP tasks (e.g., stemming, tokenizing), representing text as data (e.g., bag-of-words, word embeddings, measures of association), technical practicalities in using text data (e.g., encodings, sparsity), ethical and legal practicalities in using text data (e.g., robots.txt, terms of service, copyright), linguistic and substantive issues in text data (e.g., hand coding of training data, short vs. long texts, transcribed vs. thumb-typed vs. copy-edited texts, multilingual texts), inferential approaches to text as data (e.g., latent measurement modeling, decomposition, supervised learning, deep learning), and -- mostly -- measurement tasks with text (e.g., classification, scaling, topic modeling, sentiment analysis). Across topics there will be a heavy emphasis on social scientific objectives like measurement, validation, and inference. (The course will assume students have a base facility with Python, R, or similar, and some graduate level work in statistical inference, quantitative social science methodology, or machine learning.) 

 Thursdays, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

001B Data Basement - Sparks Building


 PLSC 597.002

Psychology of Terrorism

Professor Peter Hatemi

 This course examines the causes and consequences of terrorism, and the responses to terrorism from a psychological perspective. It draws on research from a variety of disciplines in order to examine terrorist ideologies; the motives, strategies, and behaviors of terrorists and terrorist leaders; how people come to join terrorist groups; methods of recruitment; terrorist tactics; the psychological consequences of terrorism on individuals, communities, and global societies; psychological counterterrorism; reactions to counterterrorism efforts; terrorism prevention; and possibilities for disengagement and deradicalization.

 Tuesdays, 9:05 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

236 Pond Lab