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Studying Political Methodology at Vanderbilt

As part of the general requirements of the program, students electing Methods as a second field for examination must successfully take three methods courses beyond the two required courses (PSCI 355, Research Design and PSCI 356, Introduction to Statistical Analysis) to qualify to take the comprehensive examination. Students electing Methods as a third field must receive a grade of B or better in two methods courses beyond PSCI 355 and 356.

Mathematics Prerequisite (“Math Camp”)

Students are expected to have a level of mathematics competence beyond algebra. The Department offers a two-week, non-credit Mathematics course prior to the beginning of each fall semester. Course topics include: Notation and Functions, Probability, Calculus (Limits, Derivatives, Integrals), and Linear Algebra. Students who demonstrate that they already have the expected level of mathematics competence are not required to take the Mathematics course. Students can demonstrate their level of competence by passing an exam before the beginning of the course, but we highly recommend that all students participate in the course.

Additional Course Requirements

Beyond taking PSCI 355 and 356, students are expected to take complete at least three additional methods courses. Students may take courses in any of the elective areas, which currently include Statistical Analysis, Formal Modeling, Experimental Methods, and Qualitative Methods. These specialties may be revised from time to time given faculty's interests and availability. While we encourage students to explore as much of the subfield as possible, we expect their elective coursework to culminate in mastery of one of the areas, and students will declare their elective area prior to taking the comprehensive examination.  Students who wish to pursue an area of specialization different from the ones currently listed should submit a proposal in writing for approval by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Courses outside the Department

We strongly encourage students who plan to use and teach research methods at the advanced level to take additional courses in other departments at Vanderbilt. The departments of Economics and Sociology, as well as the Peabody College of Education and Human Development, and the department of Biostatistics in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center all offer potentially relevant courses for political scientists. Students should consult with their advisors as well as the Political Methodology faculty about the courses to take in other departments at Vanderbilt. Students who wish to use courses taught in other Vanderbilt departments for the requirements to take the Comprehensive Examination in Political Methodology should obtain written approval from the Director of Graduate Studies.

Courses outside the University

We also strongly encourage our students to take additional courses in summer programs outside of Vanderbilt such as the ICPSR program at the University of Michigan, the Qualitative and Multi-Method Research program at Syracuse University, and the NSF Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models (EITM) program. Many of our graduate students take advantage of the opportunity to take these summer courses, and the Department provides partial financial support for such experiences. Summer courses taken outside of the University are not substitutes for course offerings available in the University.

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