Topics in Quantitative Sociology
Fall 2020 ENSAE
The evaluation for this course is based, in addition to class attendance, on four components: in class quizzes, one 2-page written commentary, one in class presentation and participation in class discussion.
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 weekly case-study. To ensure good comprehension of the weekly case-study, there will be a short quiz in each session on the paper in question. Finally, in each class session four students will prepare short 8-minute presentations of four additional applied case-studies.
All in all, this evaluation method aims to oblige you to read one case-study per week and to work more in-depth (commentary + presentation) on the material for two different weeks and to get working knowledge on 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 weekly case-study so as to be capable to contribute to the class discussion constructively. For the main case-study, this entails, at a minimum, to skim through a paper’s introduction, theory section, visuals and conclusion (approximately 60 min per article); this should expose you to the main points of the paper and prepare you for the quiz. 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 one 2-page critical commentary on the main case-study of a given week, which is different from the one chosen for the short 5-minute presentation. The purpose of the commentaries, which will be made available on the course website after the day of class, is to provide other students with a critical perspective on the works presented and discussed 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 two pages. Note that your commentary does not need to summarize the case-study; you simply need to address their strengths and weaknesses.
How to prepare your short 8-minute presentation
Each student is required to prepare one short presentation of a case-study. Here are a few mandatory requirements:
Your presentation must not exceed 8 minutes;
It must contain and not exceed 9 slides:
slide 1: paper title, name of the place of publication, names of the authors;
slide 2: main research question and/or puzzle and its contribution to the literature/debate
slide 3: main hypotheses/predictions/arguments
slide 4 or 5 (depending on what makes more sense): methods/research design to test the working hypotheses
slide 5 or 4 (depending on what makes more sense): empirical data used to the analysis
slide 6 & 7: main results with illustration/figures for easy comprehension
slide 8: main conclusions
slide 9: quick points identifying 2 strengths and 2 weaknesses of the paper.
Good presentations are concise (do not clutter slides with too much information) and selective (choose the most meaningful information to present; do not try to be exhaustive).
The paper for presentation must be chosen for a week different from the one on which the student writes his or her commentary.
To help you prepare, you might find the following general instructions helpful:
By what deadline to submit your work
Student commentaries and presentation slides are due on Monday night (no later than 23:59) of the week when the case-study is discussed (example: if you choose to present a case-study from week 3, the presentation is due on the Monday night before our class on Wednesday).
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.
How to submit your work
7 weekly quizzes (each is worth 5%): 35%
Class participation: 5%
How to choose your work assignments
I will distribute on the first week a paper survey to fill with your preferences. Based on the survey results and in accordance to the preferences in the class, I will assign each student a paper for presentation from one week and a paper for the commentary for another week.
Work assignments will be published on the course website by midnight on Thursday October 5.
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.
A student absent from a class session means he/she is not present to do the quiz and loses automatically 5% of the final grade.
If you cannot be present for a given class session and do not want to loose 5% of your grade, you need to submit BEFORE THE CLASS STARTS a written commentary on the main case-study for the session. This follows the same format as the usual commentary but is shorter: only 1 page (see examples under Evaluation). The grade will be worth 5%.
Students who are assigned a commentary or a presentation for a given week are expected to submit their assignments on time and be present in class to discuss/present them. Absent sufficient medical justification, there will be no compensation for the missed quiz.