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Concentration in Methodologies of Political Inquiry

This concentration will provide a foundation in the epistemological, ontological, and philosophical commitments guiding different modes of social scientific inquiry.  In doing so, it will offer an introduction to a range of methodological approaches, including but not limited to: quantitative and qualitative analysis, interpretation, ethnography, feminist methodologies, discourse analysis, critical theory, and historiography. Through in-depth exploration of contrasting approaches, the concentration will lead students to greater awareness of how methodology defines the terrain of knowledge production, the validity of truth claims, and different modes of knowing about the social world. In addition, the concentration will ground students in the history of the discipline itself in order to historicize the methodologies it employs.

Course Requirements

Students will take a sequence of four courses, which will culminate in a comprehensive examination requirement.  The first course, POLISCI 791AB: Political Inquiry, has three broad objectives.  First, it provides a survey of the epistemological, philosophical, and ontological assumptions underpinning different approaches to the study of politics.  Second, it provides a brief survey of the history of the discipline and its entanglement with race and empire in order to illuminate the political stakes of our methodological choices.  Third, it surveys broad debates in the philosophy of science, including but not limited to questions concerning the ethics of social scientific research. 

Students will then select three courses from the following list, which can be amended by the Concentration Coordinator as new courses become available. 

  • PS 797BA Bayesian Statistics
  • PS 797ML Machine Learning for Social & Behavioral Analytics
  • PS 797SR Survey Design
  • PS 791PA Political Ethnography
  • PS 797L Interpretation
  • PS 797BB Qualitative Research Methods
  • PS 652 Experiments
  • PS 755 Intro to Quantitative Analysis
  • PS 753 Networks
  • PS 758 Text as Data
  • PS 791EA Text Analysis
  • PS 797Q History and Political Science Research
  • PS 797LP The Language of Politics
  • PS 793 Critical Theory

Students will also be encouraged to take an additional methodology/methods course outside of the department in order to gain important interdisciplinary perspective; and/or to attend a summer institute that expands their methodological training (e.g. the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research (IQMR), the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), or the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University).

Comprehensive Exam Requirements

The proposed concentration grants the opportunity to all graduate students to take a comprehensive examination in Methodologies of Political Inquiry.  All other rules and requirements of the base graduate program apply to students in this concentration.    

To learn more about the concentration or to discuss your interest, please email the Concentration Coordinator, Amel Ahmed, at aahmed@umass.edu