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Course Information


Number: POS 5737
Term: Fall 2018
Location: Bellamy 113
Day and Time: Monday, 11:45am-2:15pm
GitHub Organization: POS 5737 (private)


Name: Carlisle Rainey
Office: Bellamy 540
Office Hours: Wednesday, 10am-12pm
GitHub: carlislerainey

Teaching Assistant

Name: Juan Ramirez
Office: Bellamy 548
Office Hours: TBD
GitHub: jir16b

Course Description

This course introduces students to the basic methods of political science. It focuses on both statistical concepts (e.g., sample surveys) and computation (e.g., tidyverse). This course complements POS 5736 (research design) and 5744 (math). It serves as the foundation for POS 5746 (regression) and 5747 (maximum likelihood).

Course Objectives

In taking this course seriously, you will:

  1. Aquire and/or further develop knowledge of…
    1. basic statistical tools, such as a histogram, average, standard deviation, normal approximation, scatterplot, correlation, simple and multiple regression, sample surveys
    2. basic concepts in probability theory, such as conditional probability, the law of averages, the expected value, the standard error.
    3. advanced concepts in probability (that rely on calculus), such as a pmf or pdf, moments, and the central limit theorem.
    4. basic concepts in inference, such as a point estimate, interval estimate, and hypothesis test.
  2. Aquire and/or further develop the ability to…
    1. develop and present correct, compelling empirical arguments.
    2. use R for statistical computing, including the tidyverse.
    3. use LaTeX to develop manuscripts.
    4. use git, GitHub, and GNU Make to carefully manage the project files.


See me before buying any books for this class.

FPP: Freedman, Pisani, and Purves. 2007. Statistics. (4th Edition).

Gerring: Gerring. 2012. Social Science Methodology: A Unified Framework. (2th Edition).

Healy: Healy. 2018. The Plain Person’s Guide to Plain Text Social Science.

GW: Grolemund and Wickham. 2017. R for Data Science.

Important Deadlines


I assign your grade in the course is based on 15 weekly homework assignments, 15 reviews of another student’s homework assignment, one final exam, and one research project.

You can also earn 10 extra points by employing a daily writing routine (I have a broad definition of “writing”). You must write down a plan (including an accountability strategy) and discuss it with me before September 5. You must begin on or before September 5 and continue to November 30. Start by reading How to Write a Lot (as always, see me before buying a book).

Class Flow

The class is build around weekly homework assignments. Each homework assignment has two phases: a completion phase and a review phase. Each week, each students will (1) complete the homework assignment for that week and (2) review one classmates submission from the previous week. Both are due by Friday at 3pm.


In my view, social science should be a collaborative activity. But in this class, I want you to learn how to do social science, not just do social science. With that somewhat different goal in mind, I want you to work on your own for the homework submission, with one exception. The exception is that I encourage you to seek help by opening an issue ticket on GitHub. See below for more about getting help.

Seeking Help

If you run into an problem with the materials or homework assignments, please open an issue ticket on GitHub. I encourage you to come and talk to me (or the TA) immediately and in person. However, I still want you to open an issue ticket. This creates a written record of the conversation, promotes a more careful conversation, allows others to contribute, and enables me to improve the course materials in response.

At what point should you ask for help? In order to learn, you must struggle some. Ask for help when your struggle begins to turn into frustration.


In general, I encourage broad sharing of ideas. The more complete and thorough, the better.

I want you to hold back, though, when discussing homework assignments prior to the submission (see my remarks above on collaboration). Remember, I want us to learn to do social science. With that in mind, please follow two guidelines (that I borrowed from the guidelines on Stack Overflow) when helping fellow students complete homework assignments:

  1. Try to provide an explanation that leads the asker in the correct direction. Simply providing a complete, thorough, detailed solution typically doesn’t help the asker.
  2. As a default, don’t provide complete code samples. Usually, the asker just needs someone to point them to a specific function, identify a pesky bug, or walk through the problem in the abstract.

University Attendance Policy

Excused absences include documented illness, deaths in the family and other documented crises, call to active military duty or jury duty, religious holy days, and official University activities. These absences will be accommodated in a way that does not arbitrarily penalize students who have a valid excuse. Consideration will also be given to students whose dependent children experience serious illness.

Academic Honor Policy

The Florida State University Academic Honor Policy outlines the University’s expectations for the integrity of students’ academic work, the procedures for resolving alleged violations of those expectations, and the rights and responsibilities of students and faculty members throughout the process. Students are responsible for reading the Academic Honor Policy and for living up to their pledge to “…be honest and truthful and…[to] strive for personal and institutional integrity at Florida State University.” (Florida State University Academic Honor Policy, found at

American’s with Disabilities Act

Students with disabilities needing academic accommodation should:

  1. register with and provide documentation to the Student Disability Resource Center; and
  2. bring a letter to the instructor indicating the need for accommodation and what type.

Please note that instructors are not allowed to provide classroom accommodation to a student until appropriate verification from the Student Disability Resource Center has been provided.

This syllabus and other class materials are available in alternative format upon request.

For more information about services available to FSU students with disabilities, contact the:

Student Disability Resource Center
874 Traditions Way
108 Student Services Building
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-4167
(850) 644-9566 (voice)
(850) 644-8504 (TDD)

Course Development

I develop the course materials and website on GitHub. If you see find a problem (even if you don’t see a solution), please open an issue. I keep this repo private to protect students’ privacy, but I’m (usually) happy to grant access to colleagues interested in borrowing and collaborating. If you want to contribute via pull request, the wiki describes how I work.

Syllabus Change Policy

Except for changes that substantially affect implementation of the evaluation (grading) statement, this syllabus is a guide for the course and is subject to change with advance notice.


  1. Change deadline from September 3 to September 5 for discussing and starting daily writing routine.

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Carlisle Rainey