BASS Politics and Sociology / Course details
Year of entry: 2022
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Course unit details:
Politics by Numbers
|Unit level||Level 2|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Offered by||School of Social Sciences|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
Politics by Numbers is designed to prepare the students who want to engage in secondary data analysis in their final year dissertation, but for whom the existing second semester course in year three comes too late. It also aims to broaden the scope of the existing quantitative methods teaching to datasets that do not revolve around elections and electoral behaviour, by introducing how quantitative data can be used to answer questions from parliamentary studies, public policy and international relations fields of specialism. This will also enable students to follow quantitative research in leading political science journals.
Politics by Numbers is relevant for students on many different degree programmes and students with diverse academic backgrounds and interests. It will teach students how to find relevant data for many diverse types of research questions. It will also explore the limitations and common pitfalls of analysing quantitative data. For all those looking to understand and use data in the study of politics and society, POLI20311 provides an essential step forward in the basic skills of data evaluation and analysis. It is particularly designed to enable students to conduct work more independently, from finding their own data source, to analysing them for an independent research project.
This course will introduce students to a logic of quantitative data analysis and interpretation in multiple substantive areas across the discipline of politics and enable them to engage in active secondary data analysis.
Upon completion of this course, a successful student will:
• Learn about how to find quantitative data to answer questions driving political research, such as: do political institutions shape public attitudes towards democracy, why do nations go to war, are governments responding to the public in their policy-making, who are the people claiming to represent us in parliaments.
• Learn about how academics researching politics gather and use data, with an introduction to some of the most widely used data resources, such as election studies, public attitudes data such as World Value and European Social Surveys, UN and OECD data and many others.
• Learn about which questions can be answered with quantitative data and which cannot.
• Be able to evaluate data from the point of view of quality, design and method of collection;
• Develop a critical awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of gathering data and applying them to political research questions;
• Understand and analyse some of the central questions in politics research that have been addressed with the use of quantitative data;
• Develop a critical awareness of the use of data in political and media debate;
POLI20311 will draw very widely from across the discipline, focusing on fundamental questions which should engage student interest. The goal of the course is to introduce students to the idea of using data to resolve central research questions across the discipline, and to the methods used to gather, analyse and criticise data used in politics research. The topics examined in the course will cover the wide range of politics research, focussing on four broad areas: legislative/parliamentary studies, public policy, political attitudes and international relations.
Lectures and applied workshops are designed to complement each other, without overlap of learning outcomes. The lectures will introduce the substantive research area, main datasets used to explore it, the overview of their research design and quality, and then the workshop will enable students to perform simple guided analysis of one of these datasets. Each substantive area will have two lectures and two applied workshops committed to it. The first of each set will introduce the area and variety of data broadly, and the second will focus on a narrower question and one specific dataset to analyse.
Lecture 1: Introduction: thinking statistically for non-statisticians and those bas at maths
Workshop 1: Introduction to/refresher of a statistical software package and basic analysis techniques such as distribution, mean tendency, cross tabulation
Lectures 2 and 3: International relations (introducing comparison of means T-test and ANOVA)
Workshop 2 and 3: International relations
Lectures 4 and 5: Public policy (introducing correlation and simple linear regression)
Workshops 4 and 5: Public policy
Lectures 6 and 7: Legislative studies (introducing controlled cross-tabs)
Workshops 6 and 7: Legislative studies
Lectures 8 and 9: Political attitudes (introducing multivariate linear regressions)
Workshops 8 and 9: Political attitudes
Lecture 10: Exam preparation and overview
Workshop 10: Trouble shooting and exam preparation
Each of the lectures, in the course of substantive discussion, will also introduce and reinforce key methodological lessons:
- Critical data evaluation and assessment
- Interpretation of data
- Main intermediate methods of quantitative analysis: each of the substantive sessions will introduce or reinforce one to two methods of analysis and introduce their strengths and weaknesses and ways in which they should be applied
Each of the workshops will guide students through the steps of data analysis, and then give them a problem set to work on their own. Students will also practise interpretation of their results. During each of the workshops, students will be asked to record their activities in the statistical software and submit it on blackboard. This will be the basis of their partial formative assessment.
Teaching and learning methods
Weely lectures will be delivered by Prof Sobolewska and any guest lecturers online, and tutorials will be conducted by Prof Sobolewska and a teaching assistant.
Knowledge and understanding
- Learn about how to find quantitative data to answer questions driving political research, such as: do political institutions shape public attitudes towards democracy, why do nations go to war, are governments responding to the public in their policy-making, who are the people claiming to represent us in parliaments.
- Learn about how academics researching politics gather and use data, with an introduction to some of the most widely used data resources, such as election studies, public attitudes data such as World Value and European Social Surveys, UN and OECD data and many others.
- Learn about which questions can be answered with quantitative data and which cannot.
- Evaluate data from the point of view of quality, design and method of collection;
- Develop a critical awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of gathering data and applying them to political research questions;
- Understand and analyse some of the central questions in politics research that have been addressed with the use of quantitative data;
- Develop a critical awareness of the use of data in political and media debate;
- Gain an ability to seek out relevant data sources
Transferable skills and personal qualities
- Improve the ability to interpret and communicate quantitative findings in writing and verbally.
- Gain an exposure to a diverse set of widely used data sources
- Gain an ability to conduct independent simple analysis of data
- Gain a working knowledge of a widely used statistical software
Weekly tutorial computer output 10%
Weekly Blackboard tests 30%
One 2-hour exam: 60%
You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay.
If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.
On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff.
Each of the substantive areas will have its own short reading lists.
The main handbook for analysis will be Statistics with Stata by Lawrence Hamilton (for version 12)
A good (and humorous) guide to statistical thinking for non-statisticians and those without any maths is How To Lie with Statistics by Darell Huff (1993). I recommend to buy this one. Alternatively, a more academic and less funny is Damned Lies and Statistics
Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists, Updated Edition 2012
By Joel Best
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Maria Sobolewska||Unit coordinator|
Tutorials will take place in computer clusters.