Topics in Quantitative Sociology
Fall 2020 ENSAE
The evaluation for this course is based on three components (two 2-page written commentaries, a 4-page written review and participation in class discussion) in addition to class attendance.
The logic of the course requirements is to ensure that with a minimal but reasonable enough effort you get a sufficient exposure to quantitative sociology. My lecture for each session should give you the necessary background, which is why I do not expect from you to read beyond the two weekly case-studies. However, because I have selected good but tough papers for the case-studies, it is expected that you read through them in order to follow and participate in the class discussion. My in-class presentations of applied papers should help clarify each paper. Aided by their written commentaries, students should be able to further enrich the discussion. All this should also give enough background knowledge to prepare the written review for a given week. All in all, this method aims to oblige you to work in-depth (2 commentaries + review) on the material for three specific weeks and to get working knowledge for the remaining sessions.
All readings are available on the course website. Everyone is responsible for having a general understanding of the background reading and the two weekly case-studies so as to be capable to contribute to the class discussion constructively. For the two case-studies, this entails, at a minimum, to skim through a paper’s introduction, theory section, visuals and conclusion (approximately 60 min per article for a total of 2 hours of work per week). Note that while a good comprehension of the statistical issues in a paper may be useful, the emphasis in this course will be on the logic and design of the paper: most fundamental problems in any piece of research largely occur before any model is ever estimated.
How to write your commentary
Each student is required to submit two 2-page critical commentaries (one page per case-study) on two case-studies from two different weeks, which are different from the one chosen for the review. The purpose of the commentaries, which will be made available on the course website on the day of class, is to provide other students with a critical perspective on the works presented in class. I will also use the commentary to animate the discussion in class and expect authors to participate verbally as well.
The commentary for a given paper must discuss its's contributions to advancing our knowledge on the reseach question at hand, in terms of theory, methodology, and/or empirical evidence; evaluate its shortcomings. I am looking for two basic things here: how well you understand the article; and whether there are sufficient and convinging elements to justify what you identify as main contributions and shortcomings of the article.
The commentary should not exceed one page per article. Note that your commentary does not need to summarize the case-studies; you simply need to address their strengths and weaknesses.
How to write your review
Each student is required to prepare a written 4-page review of an empirical paper. The review must include the following elements:
describe and explain (max 2 pages), in a clear and concise manner, the following elements of the empirical paper of your choice: research question, relevant debate on the subject, working hypotheses, data and measures, methods, results and conclusions;
comment (max 2 pages) on the paper's contributions to advancing our knowledge on the reseach question at hand, in terms of theory, methodology, and/or empirical evidence; evaluate its shortcomings. I am looking for two basic things here: how well you understand the article; and whether there are sufficient and convinging elements to justify what you identify as main contributions and shortcomings of the article.
A list of papers for review are available for each week. The paper for review must be chosen for a week different from the ones on which the student writes his or her two commentaries.
By what deadline to submit your work
Student commentaries are due the night (no later than 23:59) before the class when the case-studies are discussed (example: if you choose to present a case-study from week 3, the presentation is due on the Tuesday night before our class on Wednesday).
Reviews are due at the end of the semester on Wednesday January 26th no later than 23:59. Failure to submit your work on time will result in a 20% penalty of your grade. (The penalty aims to motivate you to finish before midnight and to get a full-night sleep.)
1st Commentary: 20%
2nd Commentary: 20%
Class participation: 10%
How to choose your work assignments
Use this link to complete a survey with your preferences for papers to comment and to review. Based on the survey results and in accordance to the preferences in the class, I will assign each student a paper for review and for two other weeks papers for the two commentaries.
Complete the survey by Sunday October 10 (no later than 23:59) to ensure that I take account of your preferences. Work assignments will be published on the course website by midnight on Tuesday October 12.
Attention in class (no smartphones, tablets or computers)
More important than class attendance, attention in class is crucial for a good working environment. The course material requires your full attention. The use of smartphones, tablets and computers, which are inevitable distractions for you and to the classmates around you, are therefore not allowed. For a clearer statement of my position by a fellow professors, see link and link.
Every non-justified absence counts for 1% less of your final grade.