Applying for Soc400 Fall 2020

Course Listing

Course Materials from Prior Years

What is Soc400?

Soc400 is the undergraduate course number associated with Soc500: Applied Social Science Statistics, the first course in Sociology's graduate statistics sequence.  In Fall 2020, we will be accepting a small number of undergraduate students into the course on an application-only basis.

Who Should Take This Class? 

This class is designed to take you on a deep dive into regression analysis and causal inference with a particular focus on performing and evaluating research in the social sciences.  Prior undergraduates taking the course have come from a huge range of departments (ORFE, Computer Science, WWS, Politics, Sociology, Psychology, History, Astrophysical Sciences etc.) and have gone on to apply their statistical skills in graduate school, policy analysis, and statistics jobs in industry.  As such the backgrounds of incoming students are quite varied.  

What Background is Required?

The most important prerequisite is a willingness to work hard on possibly unfamiliar material. Learning statistical methods is like learning a new language, and it will take time and dedication to master its vocabulary, its grammar, and its idioms. However like studying languages, statistics and programming yield to daily practice and consistent effort.  Because of the diverse backgrounds of students, we assume very little background knowledge and build things up from scratch (both mathematically and the R coding).  

Because we move quite quickly, even students with substantial background have found the class challenging and engaging.  What exactly about the class is challenging varies across students: for some it is the mathematical content for others it is the elements of research design.  Even if you have had a class on linear regression before, you will likely find a lot to learn here.  By rebuilding the foundations of linear regression from scratch, we help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can more deeply appreciate the intricacies of these methods.

The most common path into the class has been students who have taken the Politics department undergraduate sequence POL 345 and POL 346.  This is a solid preparation, although students will likely experience a marked increase in difficulty in material and time required to complete problem sets.  Many students with this background have reported that they found the first two weeks a review, but that it ramped up quickly after that.

If you have a different background (which you are concerned is too low or too high), please apply anyway or reach out to me to talk.

How Much Work Is This?

Quite a lot. The class has more contact hours than a typical undergraduate class (3 hours of lecture and 2 hours of lab per week).  The primary evaluation is the weekly problem sets.  Based on self-reports, these seem to take students 8-10 hours per week.  I recommend reading the course evaluations (available at the course listing above) to get a sense of how previous generations of students have felt about this.

Can I Use This to Satisfy Requirement X?

You may want to check with your program coordinator.  The course is listed as an elective for the SML undergraduate certificate.

How Do I Apply?

Please send the following to my assistant, Lance Gilmore (lance.gilmore at 
1) an updated resume/CV
2) a statement about why you want to take the course (no more than two pages)
3) an unofficial course transcript. 
I will begin review of the applications no later than April 20th and will make decisions on a rolling basis.

How Will I Choose?

I will select students on the basis of: 1) likelihood to benefit from taking the course 2) likelihood to contribute to the educational experience of other people taking the course 3) potential to increase the diversity (broadly construed) of the course and the community of researchers in this area.