Social Data Analytics (SODA) is an interdisciplinary major designed to prepare students for careers that use “big data” or “social data” to tackle social and political problems. Big data or social data is information about what people do, think, and feel gathered from cell phones, social media and objects fitted with sensors that capture moment to moment changes among people and in the physical world. These data have great potential to improve community organization, public health, and international development and conflict management – to name just a few applications – but using it effectively requires careful research design and particular techniques that form a unique area of study.
The SODA major combines political science courses with courses in statistics, mathematics, information science, and computer science. It develops the skill set necessary to think critically about “big” data in relation to specific real-world problems. This includes understanding what the data is and where it comes from, as well as how to handle it and how to use it to derive and test hypotheses about the social and political world. SODA majors will gain practical experience working with data through a capstone project or participation in faculty research.
The SODA major is a Bachelor of Science degree and thus does not require courses in a language other than English. The degree program is highly structured and students benefit from close work with an advisor, particularly if they wish to study abroad. Ideally, students begin the foundational courses for the SODA major during their freshman year. AP courses in calculus, computer science and American Government are recommended.