Fall 2018 - 61080 - PA 397C - Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis

Mixed Methods for Policy Analysis

Description of the course

This course will help you to develop the skills necessary to select, apply, and interpret a range of analytic methods to answer questions of policy interest. To do these things effectively, you first need to understand how to develop a policy research question. You next need to gain conceptual knowledge of a range of qualitative and quantitative approaches, including their strengths and limitations, and also become familiar with what’s going on “under the hood” when implementing these methods. Finally, you need to be able to explain to a non-scholarly audience how these methods work and how to interpret the results they produce. This class is designed to help you develop the knowledge and skills to succeed in doing all of these things.

By the end of the semester you will have had the opportunity to:

1) Practice developing policy research questions.  

2) Examine why public reporting and interpretation of research on policy issues is often inadequate or incorrect.

3) Gain conceptual knowledge of a range of quantitative and qualitative methods that can be employed to answer a range of policy questions. 

4) Practice implementing these methods using statistical software programs.

5) Present an analytic approach to a policy question of your choice.

The course format will be weekly seminars involving a mix of mini-lectures, discussion of assigned readings, software walk-throughs, in-class group exercises.

Please not that this course is not a math class nor an in-depth how-to for any particular software package. Students seeking these things should take a different section of 397C.

Requirements and expectations

Student progress will be evaluated on the basis of performance along three criteria: (1) participation in class discussion and observations on weekly reading throughout the semester; (2) a written critique of a media article reporting the results of a study examining a policy question; (3) a written report and in-class presentation on a policy question of your choice and your proposed analytic approach to its study.


Students are not expected to purchase any texts for this course. All assigned readings will be provided via Canvas. Students should expect to complete approximately 40-50 pages of reading per week. The reading load for this course is intentionally moderate: the emphasis is on thoughtful reflection rather than simply making it to the end of an assigned number of pages. Other media, including videos and websites may also be assigned.

MPAff ONLY until April 19