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Fall 2011 - 61475 - PA397C - Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis

Qualitative Methods for Social Sciences

Instructor(s): Ward, Peter M.
Unique Number: 61475
Day & Time: T 9:00 - 12:00 pm
Room: SRH 3.124
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Final Exam Information:December 8, 2011 - 2:00pm - 5:00pm SRH 3.122
Course Overview

In addition to the Introduction to Empirical Methods course in the common core, MPAff students are required to take another three-hour course in quantitative analysis, selected from among a set of courses focusing on the application of quantitative theory and techniques to policy analysis. Topics offered vary from year to year but include econometrics, demographic techniques, systems analysis, simulation modeling, and quantitative indicator methods. As the second course in the two-course MPAff quantitative sequence, this course is intended to provide students with an in-depth understanding and hands-on experience with a specific quantitative method useful in policy analysis. This course is usually taken during the second semester of the first year.

Section Description

This graduate class is designed to complement existing courses on research design, methods and quantitative techniques of data collection and analysis that already exist at the LBJ School, as well as in the Sociology and Geography departments. This methods course also forms part of the extended core curriculum of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Prospective students should note that the large class size requires that the class be taught in a lecture rather than seminar format although much of the work will be conducted in small groups. (This worked quite well in fall 2008 & 2009 when there were 35 students.) Specifically, the aim of this course is to develop awareness and expertise in a range of more qualitative survey research methods, approaches and designs, ranging from participant observational techniques through semi-structured interviewing to more formal questionnaire and census-type surveys. The course will address issues of research project design and targeting, sampling, ethnography, case studies, ethics, data and informational handling arising from the different techniques, as well as the preparation of final reports based upon social survey analysis. Participants will undertake IRB training. Among the specific methods in which training will be offered are:

  • Observational Techniques (participant, "mass", focus groups, social monitoring, etc.);
  • Case Studies; Content Analysis; Focus Groups;
  • "Elite"/Key Informant Interviewing;
  • Questionnaire Design and Application;
  • Qualitative Data Analysis; and
  • Presentation/Writing, Behavioral/Psychological testing (TAT Tests, Repertory Grids etc.).

It is designed for two principal constituencies: first, Ph.D. students who are (usually) in the earlier stages of their doctoral programs; and second, Masters students, especially those embarking upon their PR and theses. Each class will require students to work in small groups developing a real research design on a topic that will be used throughout the semester, and which will apply each of the techniques in turn. Thus, a primary element of the course is to develop "hands-on" experience in adapting a range of qualitative research techniques to that group’s research design. The research question identified usually will be a project for which no definitive outcome is expected, other than that of developing the training exercises itself.

Most classes will involve a mixture of formal lecture around pre-circulated notes that are designed to foster class discussion, followed by in-group preparation to apply one or other of the various techniques. Thus, there will be a substantial practical component to this course outside of class hours as each group develops and applies each technique as part of its own mini-research design agenda. Please note that the 2:00-5:00pm time slot has been selected deliberately in order to allow participants to occasionally start their group work during the lunch period or later in the afternoon/early evening. To the extent possible, please allow for that flexibility as you prepare your fall schedules.

All students will need to log onto the Blackboard, since this will be the principal mechanism for information dissemination, and group liaison.

Cross-listed with SOC 387L; LAS 381; GRG 396T