Colchester, United Kingdom

Experimental Political Science: Research Design and Application

online course
when 24 July 2023 - 28 July 2023
language English
duration 1 week
credits 4 EC
fee GBP 478

Grasp the foundations of experimental research in political science, with a focus on practical applications, and learn to apply design and randomisation strategies under different settings in your research.

Need to know

A general understanding of how a topic and concept can be transferred into a research question and research design.

In depth

The course will cover the following topics:

Day 1

You will explore the key dimensions of experimental research, including its differences from observational research and surveys in political science. You will also examine criteria for evaluating research designs and findings, drawing on existing experiments as examples.

Day 2

To begin, the instructor will dive right into research examples, with a focus on laboratory experiments and survey experiments. Using selected experiments and foundational literature, you will analyse and discuss the research practices of these two approaches. Our goal is to gain a deep understanding of these methods by examining real-world examples from research literature.

Day 3

On the third day, you will cover field experiments and natural experiments using the same approach as the previous day's topics. These four types of experiments are the most important in political science, and by studying them, you will gain a practical understanding of relevant theories.

Day 4

This session will focus intentionally on political science theory related to experiments, particularly causality and validity. This will allow you to apply theoretical foundations directly to different types of experiments in political science. You will also discuss your projects on this day, though these projects will be the main focus on day five.

Day 5

Together with other students, you will work on projects. For this purpose, detailed feedback will be provided by the lecturer, as well as the opportunity for discussion and mutual constructive feedback and criticism. In addition to that, you will discuss ethics in research, especially as it relates to political science experiments, but also matters of ethical research in general and what the frame of scientific research activities is constituted of.

How the course will work online

The course is structured into ten live Zoom sessions, two per day, each lasting 1.5. There will be online 'games' and work in groups on specific topics. Online apps will be used that support collective work and engagement with the course content.

You will have the opportunity to complete a post-class assignment. The assignment can be either an exposé in which you apply the course insights to your own project, or a short, methods-focused review of a published case study.

Suggested readings

The following books will be the foundation of this course. It is not obligatory to read these books before the course, but instead they are suggested readings for the purpose of orientation. A detailed list with core and additional readings will be provided by the lecturer.

• Druckman, J. (2022) ‘Experimental Thinking. A Primer on Social Science Experiments’, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• Druckman, J., Green, D., Kuklinski, J. and Lupia, A. (2011) ‘Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science’, Cambridge University Press.
• Dunning, T. (2012) ‘Natural Experiments in the Social Sciences’. Cambridge University Press.
• Green, D. (2022) ‘Social Science Experiments: A Hands-on Introduction’, Cambridge University Press.
• Gerber, A. Green, D. (2012) ‘Field Experiments: Design, Analysis, and Interpretation’, W.W. Norton & Company, New York.
• Morton, R. and Williams, K. (2010) ‘Experimental Political Science and the Study of Causality. From Nature to the Lab’, Cambridge University Press.

Course leader

Ulrich Hamenstädt is senior lecturer at the University of Muenster. He teaches political science, political theory, social science methods with a focus on quantitative and qualitative methods, and the impact of popular culture on political beliefs.

Target group

Researchers, professional analysts, and advanced students.

Course aim

For a long time, experiments have been overlooked in political science, despite being considered the 'gold standard' of scientific research. However, there has been a recent revival of interest in experiments as a research method in political science and other social sciences.

This course provides an introduction to experimental research in political science with a focus on practical application. The course covers a range of topics, including the different types of social science experiments, the theories that underlie them, and the design and randomisation strategies in different settings. While statistical evaluations will be discussed, the course places less emphasis on statistical analysis.

In addition to the four main types of experiments in political science (laboratory experiments, field experiments, survey experiments, and natural experiments), the course will also cover the foundations of causality, validity, and ethics in research.

Please bring your own project to the course. There will be a focus on practical applications throughout.

Credits info

4 EC
You can earn up to four credits for attending this course.
3 ECTS credits – Attend 100% of live sessions and engage fully with class activities.
4 ECTS credits – Attend 100% of live sessions, engage fully with class activities and complete a post-class assignment.

Fee info

GBP 478: ECPR Member
GBP 956: ECPR Non-Member


Funding applications for the 2023 ECPR Summer School in Research Methods and Techniques are now closed. For more details on funding opportunities for ECPR's other events, please visit our website.