Pre-Conference Short Courses

Register for a Short Course!

Short courses take place on Wednesday, August 30.  They provide diverse opportunities, either half day or full day, for professional development and offer attendees the chance to connect with scholars from a range of backgrounds. They are sponsored by APSA Organized Sections and other affiliated organizations. Pre-registration for short courses is required and is $25 per short course. Registration for short courses is available on the Annual Meeting registration page, as part of the registration process. All short course participants must also be registered for the conference.

Table of Contents

SC01: Activist, Teacher, Scholar: Transformative Practice in the Era of Trump

Half Day PM (1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Caucus for a New Political Science, this short course seeks to bring together participants from a variety of APSA Organized Sections to discuss the intersection of activism, teaching, and scholarship. The workshop will create a space for students and faculty to discuss how we might engage some of the most critical social justice issues of our time from a multitude of perspectives and a variety of interventions. The discussion will focus on topics including mass incarceration, racial justice movements including Black Lives Matter, union organizing, and environmental justice. The discussion of each topic will center on the provision of examples and idea sharing of how to engage these issues as activists, teachers, and scholars.

SC03: Causal Case Studies (QMMR 6)

Half Day PM (1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

(QMMR 6) After more than two decades after the publication of Designing Social Inquiry (King, Keohane and Verba, 1994), the field of qualitative, case-based research methods has reached a level of maturity where it is no longer necessary to define case study methods purely in terms of how they differ from quantitative, variation-based methods. Increasingly, the debate has shifted towards defining the nature and uses of different causal case study methods on their own terms.
This short course aims to exploring the state-of-the-art, focusing both on debates about the ontological and epistemological foundations of different case-based methods, along with developing a set of more practical guidelines for their use in alignment with different foundational assumptions. Three widely used case-based methods are discussed in this course are: small-n comparative methods, congruence methods, and process-tracing methods.

The goal of this course is twofold: 1) to provide participants with a better understanding of the debate about the logical foundations of different case study methods, in particular the different understandings of the nature of causal relationships that different method aim to analyze; and 2) to provide a set of practical guidelines that will enable scholars to utilize each of the causal case study methods in their own research that also enables their combination in logical consistent ways.

The course exposes how case-based methods are similar and different to each other in ways that have not been widely recognized, both as regards their ontological and epistemological foundations relating to different types of causal relationships (counterfactuals or mechanisms), the research situations in which they can be utilized, and the guidelines and best practices for their use.

SC04: Cities and the World: Interrogating the Promise and Perils of Political Decentralization in Age of Trumpism

Half Day (9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. OR 1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

As recognized for decades, many nation-states have been weakened in the face of ongoing globalizations and a corresponding series of legitimation crises. Often scholarly work has lamented this weakening, usually characterizing it as resulting from the historical development of the neoliberal order over the last half-century. However, of late a number of keen observers – coming from the left, right, and center – have discerned salutary – even emancipatory – possibilities in these trends, especially for a structural change in the scalar basis of political power toward greater decentralization. In particular, the possibilities for enhancing bottom-up community control of subnational units, especially cities and regions, has been suggested as a means both for resisting the directives of increasingly authoritarian and neoliberalizing centralized organs of power, as well as for advancing egalitarian and democratic forms of political-economic reconstruction. Embedded in this promise lie a number of potential perils, however, which need to be understood analytically and normatively in order to develop appropriate prescriptions for both policy and institutional design. Given this context, recent attention has been given to an eclectic array of framings of the broad notion of political decentralization. These include the idea of regional autonomy (within a framework of multilevel governance), secession (in various forms), Lefebvrian autogestion and rights to the city, subsidiarity, David Harvey’s “rebel cities,” Ben Barber’s “vertical separation of powers,” Bruce Katz’s “metropolitan revolution,” Warren Magnusson’s “seeing like a city,” Gar Alperovitz’s “pluralist commonwealth,” Bulkeley et al.’s “enhanced urban autonomy,” Elinor Ostrom’s “polycentrism,” and many, many others. In the US, out of these impulses have come specific struggles and practices including the sanctuary cities movement, participatory budgeting, the Fight for $15, etc., as well as the self-governing and autonomy-enhancing measures taken by state-level governments like California and large cities such as New York. Outside the US, we see innovative democratic institutions at the local level at the same time as growing inequality and economic forces limit the potential for democratic urban development. How cities respond to the challenges of multilevel governance reflect the extent to which decentralization brings about progress for city dwellers across the globe. Presentations will focus on 1. Political Decentralization: Normative Theoretic Analysis of its Promise and Perils, 2. Challenges to Multilevel Governance in the Global South, and 3. Global Urbanism or Urbanisms? Featured Speakers: Warren Magnusson, University of Victoria Loren King, Wilfrid Laurier University David Imbroscio, University of Louisville Jeff Paller, University of San Francisco Maureen Donaghy, Rutgers University, Camden Alison Post, University of California, Berkeley Richard Stren, University of Toronto Ronald Vogel, Ryerson University

SC05: Designing and Conducting Field Research (QMMR 1)

Half Day AM (9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)

Fieldwork can be both daunting and exhilarating. Scholars generally learn it by doing it, yet there is much value in reflecting on the practices of veteran field researchers and talking through each other’s experiences. This course provides high-impact concepts, tips, and guidelines that participants can adapt and apply in their own research. It is based on the premise that designing research, collecting data, and analyzing data are overlapping and inter-dependent processes that begin before a scholar enters the field, continue while she is there, and extend beyond her return. Our approach to fieldwork is relevant to those using qualitative techniques (we give special attention to interviewing, which is near-ubiquitous among political scientists) as well as quantitative techniques such as surveys and experiments, and assume that many scholars will use multiple methods. Throughout, we provide strategies to help anticipate and address challenges such as (1) converting a research design into a “to get” list; (2) accessing elusive data and data sources; (3) evaluating data’s evidentiary value; (4) organizing and managing data; and (5) analyzing data both in and out of the field. Although fieldwork is usually associated with “studying politics abroad,” we discuss techniques that may be applied inside and outside the U.S. The course includes lecture, Q/A, and small-group components. Participants will also be directed to useful document templates, such as spreadsheets for organizing fieldwork, sample correspondence, etc. The course is valuable for students planning dissertation projects, for scholars who would like to develop or improve their fieldwork skills, and for those who teach classes on research methods.

SC06: Designing Natural Experiments (QMMR 4)

Half Day PM (1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

This course provides a practical and example-driven guide to the design and analysis of natural experiments. The course will emphasize the role of qualitative inquiry in the discovery of natural experiments and use of case knowledge in the justification of these designs’ core assumptions. Natural experiments typically depend on a deep qualitative understanding of how causal factors are assigned to units in the population of interest. This qualitative understanding is critical for both discovery and analysis of natural experiments, but how precisely to incorporate this type of data into a concrete research project is often overlooked in standard methodological texts and courses. Questions that will be addressed include:

  • What types of qualitative data are most useful for strengthening natural experiments?
  • What makes the use of qualitative evidence in a given application convincing?
  • How can qualitative evidence be effectively presented in the context of a research article?
  • How can we raise standards for the use of qualitative data in the design and analysis of natural experiments?

The course will begin with a presentation of the basic causal model and assumptions often employed in the design of natural experiments, but the bulk of the course will be structured around a detailed examination of the nuts and bolts of recent political science examples. The course will integrate hands-on analysis of real data with the conceptual material. In addition to the analysis of the quantitative data typically presented research articles, we will also examine the raw qualitative data that is often used in the discovery and justification of natural experiments. These exercises will involve the examination of primary source documents, interview transcripts, and archival sources.

SC07: “In Case of Emergency”: Protecting Political Scientists’ Academic Freedom

A recent spate of targeting academics on social media and in classrooms demonstrates a need to protect instructors’ academic freedoms. Professors are labeled as “promoting a radical agenda” (e.g. Turning Point USA’s Professor Watchlist) or shamed for critiquing political figures. In light of this, there is a need to promote awareness of this issue and resources for political scientists to protect their academic freedoms. This targeting – both in the classroom and online on social media – can cause significant reputational, personal, and professional repercussions. There are a number of possible short- and long-term solutions to combating this targeting, the first of which is initiating a discussion on the matter. This proposal seeks to develop a short course to promote awareness and discussion of issues of academic freedom in light of the aforementioned targeting. This course would be led by professors and practitioners in the fields of law and civil liberties. Workshop leaders will be contacted upon acceptance of this course into the 2017 APSA Annual Conference program. The proposed short course could also interest a number of APSA sections, such as the Constitutional Law and Jurisprudence and Political Science Education sections, and committees, such as the Professional Ethics, Rights, and Freedoms Committee, the Teaching and Learning Committee, as well as each of the Status Committees. Estimated attendance: 20-30 participants

SC08: Interpretive Methodology in a Post-Fact World: The Methods Studio Workshop, followed by “Crit”

Half Day PM (1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

Part I [1.30-3.30] Workshop: Interpretive Methodology in a Post-Fact World

Post-fact America. Climate change denial. Holocaust denial. Relativism. Post-modernism. Are interpretive ways of seeing and thinking in danger? Are interpretive methods likely to be misconstrued more than they already are and branded as contributing to the “truthiness” of events, etc. in a post-fact world? Interpretive methodologies have long insisted on the centrality of multiple ways of experiencing social realities and, at the same time, have emphasized the historically contingent, intersubjectively constructed character of facts. Are these approaches now even more likely to come under attack, in an era in which what counts as evidence is itself being dismissed? These and other questions will be the focus of this workshop, which will be led by

  • Renee Cramer (Law and Society), Drake University
  • Ido Oren (IR), University of Florida
  • Frederic Schaffer (Comparative), University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Joe Soss (Public Policy), University of Minnesota
  • Dvora Yanow (Public Policy, Organizational Studies), Wageningen University (NL), chair

See online program for readings.

Part II [3.50-5.30] “Crit”:  Exploring research projects

This part of the Methods Studio adapts what is known in architectural teaching and practice as a “crit.” Three researchers selected in advance through application will present their projects, focusing on questions about the research methods they are using:

  • Taylor McDonald, Ph.D. student, University of Florida [Canadian parliamentary rhetoric and foreign policy decisions surrounding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq]: questions in re. discourse analysis of debate transcripts, genealogical survey of the history of “rhetorical commonplaces”
  • Osha Smith-Gittelman, Ph.D. student, CUNY Graduate Center [Publicly disseminated claims by nonstate armed groups— e.g., cartels, gangs, and militias—and the role of violence in regulating illicit activity in Mexico]: questions in re. basing knowledge claims on textual and visual materials of unverifiable authorship and drawing inferences about practices from such materials
  • Farah Godrej, Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside [Uses of South Asian yogic/meditative traditions within the context of mass incarceration in the US]: questions in re. dual positionality as scholar and practitioner, researcher and volunteer; and ethical questions concerning access to and research within incarceration contexts

Workshop staff and others from a range of subfields and interpretive methods backgrounds will lead off the responses to the questions, to be joined by others in attendance, such that the discussion serves to educate all:

  • Samantha Majic, CUNY [interviewing, participant observation; sex work, policy, American politics]
  • Sarah Marusek, University of Hawai’i Hilo [visual methods, legal geography, legal semiotics; Law and Society]
  • Timothy Pachirat, University of Massachusetts, Amherst [ethnography; Comparative] [TBC]
  • Denise Walsh, University of Virginia [frame analysis; gender, democracy, Comparative]


SC09: Managing and Sharing Qualitative Data and Qualitative Research Transparency (QMMR 2)

Half Day AM (9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)

This short course has three central goals. First, the course provides guidance to help scholars manage data through the research lifecycle. We show how participants can meet funders’ data-management requirements and improve their own research by creating a data management plan. We discuss strategies for effectively documenting data throughout the research process to enhance their value to those who generated them and to other scholars. We also provide practical advice on keeping data secure to protect against data loss as well as illicit access to sensitive data. Second, we consider the multiple benefits of sharing data, the various uses of shared data (e.g. for evaluating scholarly products, for secondary analysis, and for pedagogical purposes), the challenges involved in sharing qualitative research data (including copyright and human participants-related concerns), and various ways to address those challenges. Finally, we discuss transparency in qualitative research. Production transparency and analytic transparency facilitates the effective interpretation and evaluation of scholarly products. Production transparency is achieved by clearly describing how the information that underpins a study was collected and how data were generated from that information. Analytic transparency is achieved by clearly demonstrating how data and analysis support the empirical claims and inferences in published work in a manner appropriate to that work’s research design. We also introduce participants to ways to achieve production and analytic transparency in qualitative research, paying particular attention to work that uses narrative causal approaches supported by individual data sources.

SC10: Extreme Political Polarization and Legitimacy

Half Day PM (1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

Recent national votes, from BREXIT to the rejection of the Colombian peace accord to the victory of Donald Trump have highlighted the disruptiveness of unexpected outcomes of national consultations on polarizing issues. This workshop aims to advance knowledge about the causes, consequences, and solutions to severe political and societal polarization in democracies around the world.  Highly-polarized societies pose threats to governability, peaceful coexistence, and prosperity.  They derive from contexts in which opposing groups question the moral legitimacy of each other, viewing the opposing camp as an existential threat to their way of life or the nation as a whole.

This workshop brings together Americanists and comparative political scientists with moral, social and political psychologists to examine individual attitudes, perceptions and behavior in polarized contexts.   It is particularly interested in the social psychological underpinnings of polarization in terms of moral decision-making, motivated reasoning, tolerance, and trust; and interventions at the individual and community level that may help to ameliorate the negative consequences of polarization.

Each of the three sessions within the workshop employs a roundtable format with a moderator asking questions of the listed presenters based on their research findings and generating a discussion among them, with time allotted for participation by audience attendees.

SC11: Process Tracing (QMMR 3)

Half Day AM (9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)

This course will cover the underlying logic and best practices of process tracing, which is a within-case method of developing and testing causal explanations of individual cases.

The first session of the course will briefly summarize the philosophy of science behind explanation via reference to hypothesized causal mechanisms. It will then outline the logic of process tracing in terms of Bayesian methods of inference, including the application of “hoop tests,” “smoking gun tests,” “doubly decisive tests,” and “straw in the wind tests.”

The second session of the course will focus on best practices and examples of process tracing, including the more inductive use of process tracing for theory development as well as its deductive use for theory testing. As time allows, and depending on the number of students, the instructors will ask students to outline briefly how they plan to use process tracing in their current research project. This will allow the instructors and fellow students to offer constructive advice on how best to carry out process tracing in each student’s project.

SC12: Set-theoretic Multimethod Research: Principles and implementation (QMMR 5)

Half Day PM (1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

Multimethod Research: Principles and implementation (QMMR 5) Set-theoretic multi-method research (MMR) is a novel approach aiming for the generation of integrated theory. It combines Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) that is mainly operating on the cross-case level with process tracing performed on the within-case level.
In this short course, participants are familiarized with the principles and practices of set-theoretic MMR. Our focus rests on three issues:

  1. It is explained what types of single-case and comparative case studies are viable based on the results of a truth table analysis and what they are good for. The focus is on types of cases that are analyzed for improving the theoretical and causal model underlying the QCA study;
  2. Participants learn how the types of cases in set-theoretic MMR are related to the established inventory of cases and comparisons in qualitative research and nested analysis;
  3. We present formalized criteria for choosing the best available cases for process tracing.

The presentation of fundamentals is combined with the discussion of their implementation and the introduction of the R package SetMethods. This package, among other things, assists empirical researchers in doing reproducible set-theoretic MMR. We use published studies to illustrate the principles of set-theoretic MMR and the operation of the package.

After the course, participants will be equipped with the knowledge necessary to interpret and evaluate published set-theoretic MMR studies and have acquired the basic knowledge to implement their own multi-method analysis.

SC13: Tools & Best Practices for the Integration of Spatial Data

Half Day PM (1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

This short course introduces a set of novel tools and associated best practices for the integration of spatial data. The course will give participants an overview of the foundations for the integration of spatial data, including key conceptual and technical challenges, followed by specific applications. In particular, the course focuses on two important contexts in which integration is valuable. Participants will be introduced to two innovative software tools—geomerge and MELTT—that implement best practices for spatial data integration, receiving practical exposure via hands-on exercises using illustrative datasets and code.

The first context is that integration of spatial data is a common, vital consideration when seeking to employ indicators of an assortment of dependent and independent variables and covariates that have different geographic resolutions. These disparities can be inherent to the measurement of certain indicators. Disparities can also arise when indicators are drawn from distinct sources with varying spatial units of measurement and/or reporting. A major hurdle to overcome, prior to conducting analysis involving multiple indicators, is to ensure that all the original data are matched up properly, reflecting their spatial properties, and placed at an appropriate spatial resolution—potentially a single resolution. Methodologies and tools exist to perform this basic integration task, but have not previously been compiled and made accessible and friendly to a range of users addressing with a variety of research designs. These tasks are handled by an innovative tool, geomerge, which consolidates the methodologies in a streamlined manner.

The second context is that integration of spatial data should also be a consideration when multiple datasets on the same empirical phenomenon are available. Together, these datasets can afford a more comprehensive, precise, and valid measurement of the phenomenon. A single dataset, by contrast, is likely to be less complete, exact, and reliable. To date, however, the typical empirical study that uses spatial data—in particular, geocoded event data—relies on only a single dataset at a time to measure a given phenomenon of interest. Such an approach ignores the potential value of integrating the information available from multiple datasets. These datasets cannot simply be pooled, since they may overlap in coverage. A major hurdle to overcome, therefore, is identification of clear duplicates and disambiguation among potential duplicates. These tasks are handled by another innovative tool, Matching Event Data by Location, Time and Type (MELTT), which facilitates transparent, efficient, and flexible integration of event datasets, addressing the needs for de-duplication and disambiguation.

The course is intended for any researchers who use spatial data. It assumes a general knowledge of spatial data analysis, as well as some familiarity with GIS software and the R programming language.

SC14: “Understanding Complexity: Applications for Political Science and Policy Research & Theory Development”

Half Day PM (1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

Complexity science and the study of complex systems focus on how independent parts interact with the environment, giving rise to aggregate system behavior. Complexity science allows social science researchers to move beyond the myth of isolated systems. Due to advances in computing, researchers can now account for novel and rare events, along with understanding trends and indirect impacts of system parts, whole, and interrelationships.

The goal of this session is to provide you with a basic understanding of systems and how they interact at the local and global level. Concepts like agents and how they interact with the environment in simple, complex, adaptive, and emergent systems will be presented in the form of political science and policy simulations. Sample political science and policy problems will be presented and broken down into theory and assumptions, in order to expand skills required for a successful simulation modeling. Strategies behind identifying appropriate agent types, behaviors, and attributes, along with establishing system rules, will be presented for model inclusion. The role of energy, learning, feedback, information, scaling, and fitness will be discussed in order to add to modeling dynamics.

SC15: Research Development Group: Emerging research from African scholars

Full Day (9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)

This short course will be an opportunity to engage with and support the research of a small group of Africa-based scholars who are alumnae of APSA’s Africa Workshops program, past ASA Presidential Fellows, or past ASA Carnegie Fellows. The full-day course will feature two theme panels (one morning, one afternoon) in which attendees will discuss and offer feedback on current research undertaken by 6 scholars, all of whom are based at African institutions. Papers will not be presented in a formal sense; rather, panel sessions will be organized to allow for intense discussion and feedback on each paper. Discussion will be moderated by two senior faculty from the US, with a goal of identifying key areas for improvement in pursuit of publication in peer-reviewed journals. The course is open to enrollment from any APSA member interested in engaging with these discussions and meeting participating alumni. The course is part of a larger collaboration between the American Political Science Association and the African Studies Association to support and enhance the networks between scholars based in Africa and the USA.

SC16: Youth Participatory Politics Survey Project Data for Secondary Analysis

Half Day (1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

*NOTE: Stipends available for graduate students and early career scholars participating in this data workshop.

The Youth Participatory Politics Survey Project (YPPSP) has collected multiple waves of survey data from nationally representative samples of young people in the United States with oversamples of African American and Latino youth. Roughly 3,000 youth responded to each wave of the survey with 728 participating in both waves.  The survey project is led by Principal Investigators Cathy Cohen  (University of Chicago) and Joseph Kahne (University of California, Riverside). Our surveys include questions that examine the quantity, quality, and equality of youth new media practices, political and civic attitudes and behavior, and engagement in what we have labeled digitally enabled “participatory politics.” These data allow researchers to investigate how youth from a variety of backgrounds participate in and experience public life, online and off.

This workshop provides a unique opportunity to learn about the datasets first-hand from the Principal Investigators, including in-depth background information about the study’s conceptualization and discussion of the data’s potential for secondary analysis. This workshop will include a presentation by members of the original research team, describing the datasets along with statistical analyses already completed. Rounding out the workshop will be a presentation about accessing data for secondary analysis by University of Michigan/ICPSR’s CivicLEADS project, which provides access to these datasets and many more (see All those attending the workshop will be given exclusive access to the second wave of the dataset.  Public access to this second wave will not be available until January 2018.  Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop computer with statistical analysis software to allow for data exploration during the workshop.

The workshop seeks to provide participants with the following:

  • Objective 1: Extensive information about YPPSP, its data collection, and datasets;
  • Objective 2: Discussion of youth civic engagement, social media, and their application in research design;
  • Objective 3: Hands-on demonstration of how to access, download, and analyze the datasets;
  • Objective 4: Exclusive access to wave 2 of the YPPSP dataset;
  • Objective 5: Opportunities for group and individual discussion about YPPSP and potential secondary analysis;
  • Objective 6: Networking with peers who are also interested in civic engagement research and YPPSP to spark collaboration.

The workshop will be presented by Cathy Cohen – University of Chicago (Principal Investigator), Joseph Kahne – University of California, Riverside (Principal Investigator), Ben Bowyer – Santa Clara University (Statistical Research Lead), Matt Luttig – University of Chicago (Postdoctoral Scholar), Susan M. Jekielek – University of Michigan/ICPSR (Director of CivicLEADS), and David Bleckley – University of Michigan/ICPSR (Research Associate).

Graduate students and junior researchers are especially encouraged to attend this workshop as the YPPSP data provide an opportunity to analyze large, nationally-representative datasets which explore topics ranging from social and new media use to civic involvement to political socialization. Stipends of $500 are available for promising graduate students and junior faculty to support their participation in this workshop and the Annual Meeting of APSA. Stipend applications must be received by July 12, 2017 for consideration.  For more information on applying for a stipend, please visit the workshop webpage ( and/or contact us at


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