Political Science 3780: Data Visualization and Literacy (Fall 2017)

Many, if not most, of the major debates in modern political science revolve around questions that can be addressed with data. The sources of voting behavior, the correlates of war, the determinants of development, political economy, psychology, institutions, and conflict—all are issues that are amenable to data-based analysis.

At the same time, the amount of available data and the number of publicly-available open-source tools for cleaning, transforming, analyzing and visualizing it have increased exponentially since the turn of the millennium. With a few clicks students can compare word frequencies in books over time or construct elaborate size-weighted word clouds—tasks that would have taken scholars weeks if not months of effort in the past.

This course introduces students to those tools and the principles behind their use in the context of applications in political science. It marries the substance of political theory to the methodologies of data visualization and exploratory data analysis. It neither requires nor imparts any statistical background: it is designed to serve either as a standalone course or as a gateway to a more advanced data-analytics class.

Syllabus available here.

Hans Rosling Health-Wealth data for Assignment 3 available here.