Experiments in the Social Sciences




Experiments are an increasingly popular research method in the Social Sciences. At the same time, experiments are rapidly becoming the most important tool used for policy evaluation by national decision-makers and international organizations such as the World Bank. This is due to the fact that experiments are often seen as a gold standard for research designs because they allow for causal inferences. In this course, we will discuss different types of experiments and how they can be used to study causal relationships. We will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different experimental designs and their use in Political Science and the Social Sciences in general. We will start with a discussion of causality and how experiments are an ideal way to assess causal relationships. Central to this argument is the logic of randomization and the alternative outcomes framework. Over the course of the term, we will discuss laboratory experiments, natural experiments, survey experiments and field experiments.
The core theme of the course is the design of experiments and how these designs can be implemented in the different types of experiments. We will use the discussion of classical experiments to approach the questions. The course will be closed with a brief look at some simple methods to analyse experimental data and draw inferences based on the experimental approaches. The design of the course hinges on a connection of readings, theoretical discussions and a strong active component, which is based on group work. Over the course of the semester, students will develop an experimental design on a topic of their choosing. This will enhance the understanding of the content and encourage the application of the acquired knowledge to different topics.
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