Fall 2023 - 61330 - PA 397 - Introduction to Empirical Methods (Calculus-Based Section)

Introduction to Empirical Methods (Calculus-Based Section)


 Introduction to Empirical Methods (Calculus-Based Section) 

Scope and Objectives 

IEM covers a wide range of quantitative reasoning processes pertinent to policy analysis and management. This section of IEM is taught with differential calculus—no need to know integral calculus at all. Expected calculus proficiency is at the level of solid conceptual understanding up to multivariate differentiation. Rustiness in mechanics is not a concern. Refresher materials will be available upon registration. 

The primary focus in this section is analytic thinking and articulation skills through rigorous conceptual reasoning in policy decisions. The mathematical and statistical techniques acquired through this thinking-and-articulation process constitute a secondary learning objective—they are beneficial side-products, not the main feature. Students who define quantitative skills as “knowing software for number crunching” will be disappointed. This section does not emphasize use of software. Nor is “calculating the correct answer” important. Structure of Content 

This course begins with views on the philosophy of science, followed by five topics: 

  • • Developing perspectives on the role of quantitative analysis in democratic politics 
  • • Modeling policy choices through constrained optimization 
  • • Making decisions in environments of uncertainty and risk 
  • • Guessing truth with bivariate statistical design 
  • • Modeling reality with multivariate regression models 


Learning Experiences 

This class uses a reverse-classroom format. Class members are expected to do brief readings before each class and complete preparatory problems before half of the classes. Classroom discourses are about discovering insights from readings, based on axiomatic derivations and applications to harder policy examples. Also, class members are asked to develop a daily news-reading habit, along with the following learning experiences: 

  • • Individual-based & time-limited problem-solving twice in the semester 
  • • Final assessment in the form of oral interview 



Abstention from note-taking in class is requested. In exchange the instructor will provide notes after each weekly class session. 

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