Course Site for Political Science 621 -- Fall 2020

Course Site for Political Science 621 -- Fall 2020

This project is maintained by fhollenbach


Professor Florian M. Hollenbach

Email:; Web:

Office: 332 LASB Building; Phone: 979-845-5021

Office Hours: Wednesday 3:00pm to 5:00pm or by appointment

Teaching Assistant:

Andrea Junqueira


Office Hours: Monday 10am to 11am & Thursday 10am to 11 am

Class Meeting Time:

Tuesday, 1:30pm - 4:20pm

Class Location: Zoom

Class Website:

The syllabus on my website will be continuously updated to reflect any schedule changes. Additional material will be posted on the shared Google Team Drive. We may possibly Google Class.

All assignments are to be submitted electronically via email to


The goal of this course is to familiarize PhD students with the various existing approaches to research in comparative politics. We will cover different strategies and methods of how to produce high quality research. The course is designed so that students will encounter a number of different perspectives on research in the field of comparative politics. Topics range from concept formation, case selection, case studies, to concepts of causal inference with observational data, experiments, and mixed methods. Students will learn how to evaluate other scholars’ research but also practice skills to develop their own research designs. While most readings focus on research design and methods, we will pursue a “hands-on” approach and read as well as replicate applied work (where possible). At the end students should understand the most common approaches to studying comparative politics in the discipline today.


At the end of the semester, after completing this course, students are expected to:


Class will meet once a week from 1:30pm to 4:20pm on Tuesdays. For most weeks, you should expect classes to be about one hour of lecturing and 90 minutes of discussion. We will cover a variety of concepts, sometimes complicated. I expect you to have done all of the required reading before sending discussion questions the day before class (see below). Even when I lecture, I want you to ask questions and participate actively. In the second part of class we will discuss the readings and applications in more of a group setting. We will also try to work through example applications whenever possible.

For part of this class we will be working on the computer with statistical software. We will use the statistical programming language R. R is available for download here:. I would recommend you download R-Studio, which is a software that makes the use of R much easier. You can download R-Studio here:. Both R and R-Studio are free.

It is important that you somewhat familiarize yourself with R in the first few weeks of the semester. Here is a short document on how to write good r-code: The document also includes some links to resources for learning R, e.g.,


Your grade will be based on the following:

  1. Participation (5%)
  2. Two discussion questions for class session (weeks 1 - 13) (10%)
  3. One in-class presentation (15%)
  4. Two paper reviews, simulating a review for the APSR/AJPS/JOP (20%)
  5. Motivation of Research Question, i.e., paper Introduction (15%)
  6. Final Project Research Design Presentation (10%)
  7. Final Research Design (25%)


We will be reading both articles and book chapters throughout the semester. Readings under the header Additional Readings are not required, but suggestions for those interested in the particular topic. This is a PhD student level seminar; as such I expect all students to come to class prepared, having read all required material prior to sending discussion questions on Monday. I also expect you to complete relevant assignments on time.

Some of the weeks have substantial amounts of readings that may take significant time to get through. Make sure you start early enough. Additionally, some of the methodological work will be difficult. It is okay if you do not fully understand everything before coming to class, that is what our class meetings are for. Nevertheless, read carefully and try to understand each article/chapter. Take notes on your readings, especially on parts you do not understand.

If you have not done so, I would advise you to develop a consistent system of reading and taking notes. We will discuss some approaches to reading early in the semester.

Since we will read large parts of them, you should acquire the following books:

Required Books:

When reading applied papers, you should think about questions such as:

Discussion Points:


Peer Review

Introduction/Research Motivation

Research Design

Your final project (and presentation) does not need to include data or data analysis. Instead, focus on writing up a clear research design that will allow you to empirically investigate your research question in the best possible way. What are the observable implications of your argument? What research design will allow you to best discriminate between different explanations? How could you best identify a causal relationship? Your final research design should be 10-15 pages (excluding the bibliography, double-spaced).

Your written assignments will be graded on both content and quality of writing. Again, I want you to be ambitious in your research designs. You can find helpful links on how to write well here: Writing is one of the most fundamental skills for academics. All of us struggle and it requires a lot of practice. Do not hesitate to ask for help. If you are having trouble with it, please talk to me or visit the University Writing Center (see below).

The grading scale (in %) used in this class for all written assignments, and the overall class grade will be the following:


The University Writing Center (UWC), located in 1.214 Sterling C. Evans Library and 205 West Campus Library, offers one-on-one consultations to writers. To find out more about UWC services or to schedule an appointment, call 458-1455, visit the web page at, or stop by in person.


“An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.”

“Texas A&M University students are responsible for authenticating all work submitted to an instructor. If asked, students must be able to produce proof that the item submitted is indeed the work of that student. Students must keep appropriate records at all times. The inability to authenticate one’s work, should the instructor request it, may be sufficient grounds to initiate an academic misconduct case” Section, Student Rule 20.

You can learn more about the Aggie Honor System Office Rules and Procedures, academic integrity, and your rights and responsibilities at

All students should follow the highest standards of academic integrity. Cheating or plagiarism will not be tolerated in any way and will have grave consequences for your academic career. If you are unsure what entails plagiarism, come talk to me. Any cases of cheating or plagiarism will be submitted to the academic honor council, no exceptions.


I expect you to attend class unless circumstances prohibit you from doing so. If you must miss class, please let me know in advance. You are still responsible to do the readings and submit discussion questions and assignments, even if you are missing class. Of course, this semester is full of unusual circumstances. If you have trouble following the class or fulfilling any of the requirements, please speak to me early on. Similarly, if you get sick, let me know.

I strongly encourage everybody to participate in class discussion. Please be respectful to your fellow class mates, do not interrupt them, and wait until called upon.

While we are all on the computer during class, please try to keep distractions to a minimum. In addition, please make sure your cell phones are on silent mode and refrain from using them or other devices during class time.

Classroom Code of Conduct

The Department of Political Science at Texas A&M University is committed to fostering an environment of learning and scholarship that is open, respectful, and welcoming to all, regardless of race, religion, gender (identity), ability, age, socio-economic background, or sexual orientation. As outlined in the department’s Code of Conduct, we strive to create a positive climate for all students, faculty, and staff. We are dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for all members and guests of the department. Whereas, we expect members of the political science department to adhere to the departmental Code of Conduct in general, respectful behavior by all participants is especially important in the classroom and other course-related interactions (virtual and in-person). An environment conducive to learning and scholarship requires free speech and an open mind, but must be free of harassment1, hostile, or threatening behaviors. Faculty, staff, and students ought to be proactive in helping others and speak up to avoid harm in the case that any of these unwelcome behaviors are observed.

In selecting a Zoom background, it is expected that everyone adheres to the above Code of Conduct and refrains from material that is discriminatory or degrading to others.

In the Zoom environment, your screen name must be the name that is listed on the course roster, unless otherwise noted. If you do not go by the name on the roster, please contact Dr. Hollenbach in the first week of class.


Except in the case of observance of a religious holiday, to be excused, the student must notify his or her instructor in writing (acknowledged e-mail message is acceptable) prior to the date of absence. In cases where advance notification is not feasible (e.g. accident or emergency) the student must provide notification by the end of the second working day after the absence. This notification should include an explanation of why the notice could not be sent prior to the class. Accommodations sought for absences due to the observance of a religious holiday can be sought either prior or after the absence, but not later than two working days after the absence. Legitimate circumstances include religious holidays, illness, serious family emergencies and participation in group activities sponsored by the University, etc. See for additional information.

All assignments are due on their due date at the beginning of class. Unexcused late work will be penalized by a 7.5 percentage point deduction for each 24hrs your work is late. For example, if you hand in the assignment on the same day it is due, but after class, your maximum score will be 92.5%. If you hand in your assignment more than 24hrs late, e.g., 1:45 pm the next day, your maximum score will be 85%, after 48hrs it would be 77.5%, and so on. Late work will be excused only in the case of university-excused absences. Only under extreme circumstance will I make exceptions to these rules. Again, if something comes up that keeps you from performing your best in this class, please talk to me early on.

In the fall of 2020, students may use the Explanatory Statement for Absence from Class formin lieu of a medical confirmation. Students must submit the Explanatory Statement for Absence from Class within three business days after the last date of absence.


Students that want to appeal a grade received on an exam or assignment must submit a regrading request in written form (e.g., email). This request has to be turned in within five working days after the graded exams or assignments are returned to the class. The written statement must explain exactly why the student believes the current grade is incorrect. I will then regrade the entire assignment extra carefully. NOTE, as a consequence your grade may go up or down.


The best place to ask questions is in the zoom classroom. Most questions that arise are things that are also pertinent to other students, please ask it in class. If your question is not related to class material or relevant to other students, we can discuss it after class. I encourage you to visit my office hours to discuss any difficulties with the readings or class.

You can generally expect me to reply to emails within 24 hours during the work week.


Texas A&M University is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. If you experience barriers to your education due to a disability or think you may have a disability, please contact Disability Resources in the Student Services Building or at (979) 845-1637 or visit Disabilities may include, but are not limited to attentional, learning, mental health, sensory, physical, or chronic health conditions. All students are encouraged to discuss their disability related needs with Disability Resources and their instructors as soon as possible.

Reasonable accommodations will be made for all students with disabilities, but it is the student’s responsibility to inform the instructor early in the term. Do not wait until just before an exam to decide you want to inform the instructor of a learning disability; any accommodations for disabilities must be arranged well in advance.

Title IX and Statement on Limits to Confidentiality

Texas A&M University is committed to fostering a learning environment that is safe and productive for all. University policies and federal and state laws prohibit gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

With the exception of some medical and mental health providers, all university employees (including full and part-time faculty, staff, paid graduate assistants, student workers, etc.) are Mandatory Reporters and must report to the Title IX Office if the employee experiences, observes, or becomes aware of an incident that meets the following conditions (see University Rule 08.01.01.M1):

• The incident is reasonably believed to be discrimination or harassment. • The incident is alleged to have been committed by or against a person who, at the time of the incident, was (1) a student enrolled at the University or (2) an employee of the University.

Mandatory Reporters must file a report regardless of how the information comes to their attention – including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Although Mandatory Reporters must file a report, in most instances, you will be able to control how the report is handled, including whether or not to pursue a formal investigation. The University’s goal is to make sure you are aware of the range of options available to you and to ensure access to the resources you need.

Students wishing to discuss concerns in a confidential setting are encouraged to make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Students can learn more about filing a report, accessing supportive resources, and navigating the Title IX investigation and resolution process on the University’s Title IX webpage.

Changes to Syllabus

I reserve the right to update/modify/clarify the syllabus with advance notification.

Class Schedule

Week 1 (08/25)

Is the science of comparative politics possible?


Week 2 (09/01): Models and Theory



Additional Readings:

Week 3 (09/08): Concepts & Measurement



Additional Readings:

Week 4 (09/15): Case Selection


Additional Readings:

Week 5 (09/22): Case Studies, Analytical Narratives, and Process Tracing (Virtual Visit by Alisha Holland)

Presentation: MM


Applications (pick one):

Additional Readings:

Week 6 (09/29): Concepts of Causal Inference


Additional readings:

Week 7 (10/06): Discovering Natural Experiments (Virtual Visit by David Broockman)

Presentation: Francesco Bromo


Applications (pick one):

Additional Readings:

Week 8 (10/13) Experiments (Virtual Visit by Pia Raffler)

Submit Introduction/Research Motivation

Presentation: Chen Shen



Additional Readings:

Week 9 (10/20) Regression Discontinuity (Virtual Visit by Jacob Grumbach)

Review 1 Due

Presentation: Lu Sun


Applications (pick one):

Additional readings:

Week 10 (10/27) Instrumental Variables

Presentation: Keigo Tanabe


Applications (pick one):

Additional readings:

Week 11 (MONDAY 11/02) Big Data & Machine Learning (Virtual Visit by Michelle Torres)

Presentation: Manuela Munoz


Week 12 (11/10) Surveys & Survey Experiments (virtual visit by Alicia Cooperman)

Presentation: Thiago Moreira


Applications (pick one):

Additional Readings:

Week 13 (11/17) Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Evidence (virtual visit by Tariq Thachil)

Review 2 due

Presentation: Hank Yang


Applications (pick one):

Additional Readings:

Week 14 (11/24) Research Design Presentations

Week 15 (12/06)

Final Research Design Description due at 6 pm CET on December 6th

  1. As defined in the Society for Political Methodology Code of Conduct, harassment includes but is not limited to “degrading verbal comments, discriminatory jokes and language, deliberate intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.”