Experimental Political Science

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

Experimental approaches, while always popular in psychology and the natural sciences, are also slowly becoming mainstream within political science. When done correctly, they are billed to be able to produce true causal inferences. For this reason they are a popular technique in the world of policy assessment and in testing political science theories. (The foundations of experimental design will be covered extensively in the quantitative introductory courses in the fall.) This class will focus on the various forms of experimental research in political science. We will cover lab experiments, survey experiments, field experiments, natural experiments and hybrid quasi experimental designs. Time will be devoted to a critical assessment of experimental political science research discussing the strengths, limitations and ethics of experimental research. By the end of this course, students can and will be able to conduct independent experimental political science research.

Learning Outcomes: 

The course covers both inductive and deductive form of experimental models. It is designed to advance scholar’s ability to comprehend and critique articles using political science experiments and to apply these approaches in research. Throughout the course students’ use computer software (R) for conducting statistical analysis for their own experiments. Understanding and application of the aforementioned are applied autonomously in a creative way. The course advances the scholar’s ability to contribute to the development of political science in their home countries by applying the learned approaches to analysis of their home countries (or any other place for that matter) by acquiring cutting-edge approaches of experimental research. Since experiments come from outside of political science, the scholars emerged in the course will acquire the ability to expand both their own and their field’s horizons by extending the their inferential understanding beyond the boundaries of the discipline. Inference based on an experimental design is universal in all of empirical sciences and therefore this course will certainly expand the scholar’s view into an interdisciplinary vision of the world. The course will expand the scholar’s ability to design, implement and write up a good quality research in a thorough, rigorous and consistent manner. The experiments covered by the course advance the scholar’s ability even going beyond writing research proposals and formulating research questions. The course will help students conduct actual empirical research. The final paper (article) for the course is designed to advance the student in mastery of academic writing style and argumentation in English: ability to use English grammar, vocabulary and style appropriate for written academic products and ability to construct academic arguments. And in this final paper (and also in other components of the course) we will use graphs and other visual communication of results. In writing and also sharing the findings of the final paper students will advance their ability to synthesize information, determine a focus point, discern the main line of argumentation and orally present these. Their ability to generate logical, plausible and persuasive arguments, connect, compare and contrast, ability to identify logical relations and mistakes of arguments, ability to make appropriate analytical distinctions, (and etc.) will be advanced through the course. Through this both students’ higher order thinking (such as to seeing patterns and generalizing from facts) reasoned judgment will grow. Special emphasis is placed on responsible research conduct and issues of research ethics showing students appropriate and inappropriate academic behavior.


Participation (engagement in class): 10%
Weekly Discussion Notes and Additional Assignments: 25%
Weekly Forum Activity: 15%
Presentation of Experimental Design (March 22, 19:30): 20%
Publishable Article (not required for auditors): 30%

Participation (engagement in class). It is an absolute requirement that you come to class, you stay engaged in class and that you come to class prepared. If you will miss a class or come late for any reason, make sure I am notified before the class. 

Weekly Discussion Notes and Additional Assignments: Weekly assignments include producing discussion points for class. I don’t need a complete essay just a sentence or two for each discussion point. Please produce several for each reading that was assigned. Make them original and interesting. I’ll be looking to see if you have read and thought about the readings. Also, for participation, I will be looking to see if you brought up these points and how good these points were. You need to submit these discussion points by 9am before class. I may assign other things in class. This includes the Course on Research Ethics (CORE) that is mandatory for everyone and due to second week of class. Course can be found here (CEU is a member and CORE is mandatory for anyone doing human subject research.) http://www.ethics.gc.ca/eng/education/tutorialdidacticiel  All assignments are weighted equally. Lowest grade is dropped. 

Weekly Forum Activity: Every week I will assign a podcast to listen to. We will start an online discussion forum for these podcasts. You will need to write your post (150-250 words) before you can see others’. Once you posted, you should discuss with your classmates. Your initial post will always be due on Thursday and you should make comments on other people’s posts by Saturday. Intellectual level of your contribution will be graded (for both your initial post and the discussion). 

Presentation of Experimental Design (March 22, 19:30): Mark your calendar NOW! Everyone will have to present their individual experimental project (design AND preliminary analysis) at this occasion. You cannot skip it. Presentations cannot exceed 8 minutes but have to include all key aspects and preliminary results of your experiment. (I will be strict on time.) Needless to say, you will need to arrange your life in a way that you have completed your experiment and have results by this occasion. Note that from Feb 23 to March 8 you will be workshopping your ideas for this project. But it is a good idea to develop ideas for these occasion before Feb 23. 

Publishable Article (not required for auditors): Your final paper will have to include original research using one of the methodologies covered in class. It has to be of publishable quality adhering to the submission guidelines of Science or Nature. Your pick. The manuscript will have to be appropriately anonymized if this is required by the journal only identifying you via the file name. Since the journal asks for multiple files, ignore this request. Merge the multiple PDFs into one. Your data collection methodology can be either through social media or students in your home country. I will not judge the paper by the quality of the sample or the findings. More on the design and the idea behind the design. This will be a first pilot before we spend money on a better sample, still it has to be written up as if it was the final result.