[2023 Fall] POLS GA 3200 Quant Field Methods


Welcome to Fall 2022 Field Methods. This class will teach you about designing social science RCTs. This involves the following steps:

  • Posing a normatively-defined problem out in the real world. That is, tell us about “something that is wrong in the world” that deserves attention and resources to try to rectify.
  • Using evidence and theory to identify a mechanism that is an important driver of this problem.
  • Designing an intervention that can disrupt the mechanism.
  • Designing an experimental test of the intervention.

The class will be hands-on and driven by research interests of people in the class.


  • We will meet in person in Room 217 Tuesdays 2-4pm.
  • We will not meet as a class on the following dates:
    • Oct 3
    • Oct 10
    • Oct 24
    • Nov 21
  • If you need to miss a class, please be sure to give me advance notice so that we an adjust the course schedule as needed.
  • I will add instructions, including any recommended readings, in the weekly plan entries below.
  • If you want to meet to discuss your class work or to discuss accommodations, please sign up for office hours using Calendly: https://calendly.com/cdsamii
  • Pre-requisites are Quant I and II or equivalent. Please discuss if you are unsure.

Weekly Plan

Sep 5: Class overview and introduction


  • Samii, Cyrus. 2023. “Methodologies for ‘Political Science as Problem Solving.'” Forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Methodological Pluralism, edited by Janet Box- Steffensmeier, Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, and Dino Christenson, Oxford University Press. [link]
  • Healy, Kieran. 2018. “Making Slides.” Blogpost: https://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2018/03/24/making-slides/

Additional background:

Sep 12: Problem definition 1

One on one meetings.

Please prepare bullet points in which you describe your “societal problem” and then some potential data sources that you could consult to demonstrate the real-world extent of the problem. Send them to me next Monday so that we can hit the ground running when we meet to discuss on Tuesday.

We will meet in my office (Office 424). Here is the meeting schedule:

  • 2:00-2:20pm Matias
  • 2:20-2:40pm Kyle
  • 2:40-3:00pm Yinxuan
  • 3:00-3:20pm Munroe
  • 3:20-3:40pm Meghna
  • 3:40-4:00pm Cristina

Sep 19: Problem definition 2

Presentations and discussion of problem definitions.

Presentation schedule:

  • 2:00-2:15pm Matias
  • 2:15-2:30pm Kyle
  • 2:30-2:45pm Yinxuan
  • 2:45-3:00pm Munroe
  • 3:00-3:15pm Meghna
  • 3:15-3:30pm Cristina
  • 3:30-3:45pm Ivan

Prepare 4-5 slides so that you can speak for about 5-10 minutes. The slides should cover:

  • Problem definition
  • Description of context in which you are measuring the extent of the problem
  • Measurement approach, explaining how you operationalize the outcome variable that characterizes the problem and how you account for any confounding factors in your descriptive analysis.
  • Results of your descriptive data analysis.

Sep 26: Characterizing mechanisms 1

One on one meetings.


  • Humphreys, M, and Jacobs, A. 2017. “Qualitative Inference from Causal Models.” Working paper. [link]
  • Humphreys, M, and Jacobs, A. 2023. Integrated Inferences, Ch. 6. “Theories as Causal Models.” Book manuscript. [link]
  • Rodrigues, Daniela, et al. 2022. “Reflection on modern methods: constructing directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) with domain experts for health services research.” International Journal of Epidemiology. 51(4):1339–1348. [link]

Oct 3: Characterizing mechanisms 2

(No class meeting.) Circulate memos of DAGs and empirical strategies, and provide comments on others’ memos.

Oct 10: Characterizing mechanisms 3

(No class meeting.) Continue with implementation of empirical analysis of mechanisms.

Oct 17: Characterizing mechanisms 4

Presentations and discussion of results of empirical analysis of mechanisms.

Oct 24: Intervention concept 1

(No class meeting.) Circulate memo on intervention concepts.

Oct 31: Intervention concept 2

One on one meetings.

Nov 7: Intervention concept 3

Presentations and discussion of intervention concepts.

Nov 14: Defining effects and outcome measurement

One on one meetings.

Nov 21

(No class meeting.) Continue working on defining effects and outcome measurement.

Nov 28: Defining effects and outcome measurement

Presentations and discussion of target effects and outcome measurement plan.

Dec 5: Randomization, analysis plan and power analysis

One on one meetings.


  • Duflo, Esther, Rachel Glennerster, and Michael Kremer. “Using randomization in development economics research: A toolkit.” Handbook of development economics 4 (2007): 3895-3962. [link]


Dec 12: Randomization, analysis plan and power analysis

Presentations and discussion of randomization, analysis plan and power analysis