The computational analysis of large amounts of written material is becoming increasingly popular in the social sciences. Recent research has used textual analysis to examine, for example, attitudes, culture, and propaganda. This approach, however, raises many questions. What are textual data actually showing us? How representative are textual datasets? Does textual analysis provide insight into social mechanisms and causal processes? This course will address these, and related, questions by providing a foundational introduction to textual analysis for the social sciences.
Original research projects are intellectual fun, but they are also a demanding craft. This course prepares students for the challenge of conducting original research. Through a review of social science research approaches, including a novel ethnographic-inspired framework for conducting computational analyses, the course explores how to formulate an interesting question, design a way to answer it, and communicate the findings. In addition, students will plan, write, and fine-tune a project proposal by debating and critiquing each other’s ideas during presentations, one-on-one meetings, and class-wide workshops. As a whole, the course provides a strong foundation for senior Capstones, as well as future research projects.
We are routinely exposed to politicians, journalists, civil society leaders, social media voices, and our friends and colleagues offering answers to social questions and explanations for social problems. How are we to assess and adjudicate theses answers and explanations, especially when they contradict one another? One way to do so is to examine the empirical foundations of the claims being made. For example, upon what data do the claims rest? How were the data collected? What assumptions and methods drove the analyses of these data? Are the inferences drawn from the data and analyses valid?
To help develop such a critical approach to questions and answers about the social world, this course explores the relationship between social questions and the methods employed to investigate these questions. It does so by examining the major approaches to empirical studies in the social sciences. It offers skills in developing research designs for explorative, descriptive, explanatory, and evaluation research.
Ethnicity and Nationalism
This course introduces students to the sociological study of ethnicity and nationalism. At the end of the course, students will have gained a familiarity with the major arguments and perspectives in the sociological study of ethnicity and nationalism, as well as their intellectual lineages; an awareness of the limitations of these major arguments and perspectives; and the ability to apply these arguments and perspectives in a critical manner so as to gain richer insights into concrete, everyday, and contemporary issues and debates surrounding ethnicity and nationalism.