Core Course Descriptions
9100A - Research Design
The objective of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the fundamental principles that underlie research inquiries in the social sciences. Beginning with the importance of understanding previous research and conducting effective literature reviews, students will learn how to design projects to evaluate research questions. By the end of the course students will be able to recognize the value of using different approaches to address research questions and critically evaluate the appropriateness of distinct empirical strategies. Each student will gain a clear understanding of which tools and approaches can be used to conduct a variety of qualitative and quantitative research projects.
Instructor: Laura Stephenson
9200A - Quantitative Research Methods and Data Collection
The goal of this course is to provide students with hands-on experience in designing quantitative data collection instruments and implementing data collection strategies, tailored for research in social policy and evaluation. The course lectures and labs are organized around the following six research method topics: experimental design; survey design; scaling, measure evaluation and construction; secondary data analysis; quantitative content coding and analysis; and meta-analysis. By the end of the course students will have developed three key skills. First, they will be able to develop the research protocols and instruments as well as verify the soundness of their approach through a verification process. Second, they will be able to collect, evaluate, and synthesize existing quantitative evidence addressing a specific research question or program evaluation. Third, they will develop the skills necessary to communicate their research effectively to relevant audiences in the workplace.
Instructor: Paul Tremblay
9400A - Qualitative Research Methods and Data Collection
The objective of this course is to introduce students to foundational topics and methods of qualitative research. Students will explore the principles underlying qualitative inquiry, acquire a general understanding of the theoretical positions that underlie qualitative methodology and gain an appreciation of the basic elements of research ethics that guide qualitative data collection. Students will learn how to conceptualize, implement, and evaluate a variety of qualitative research methods, including in-depth interviewing, focus groups, naturalistic observation and content analysis. Moreover, they will gain a clear understanding of how to critically evaluate the appropriateness of different research methods to answer specific research questions. Students will also learn different techniques for analyzing and interpreting qualitative data, and how to present such data effectively. Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on applied aspects of qualitative research. By the end of the course, students will be able to conduct, analyze, interpret and communicate qualitative research findings for policy and program relevant goals.
Instructor: Wolfgang Lehmann
9300B - Statistics
This course is designed to equip students with the tools necessary to analyze policy- and practice-related questions either on their own or as a member of a team, to critically consume statistical information, and to communicate their findings in effective and appropriate ways. We focus on the fundamental building blocks of statistical analysis in order to address practical problems in policy and practice. We will start with simple statistical concepts for describing and summarizing data, and build towards more sophisticated tools for making decisions and predictions about the social world. Topics covered include: measures of central tendency and variation, probability, hypothesis testing, correlation, and regression. Students will also use the statistical software program Stata to develop their data analysis skills. This course presumes students have little mathematical background beyond high school algebra. By the end of the course, students will be able to conduct their own descriptive analyses of real data, as well as read and interpret statistical analyses conducted by others.
Instructor: Patrick Denice
9500B - Knowledge Mobilisation
The overarching aims of this course are (1) to develop students’ abilities to synthesise literature and evidence from a variety of sources and (2) communicate research to a range of audiences by alternative means. These aims are achieved by first focusing on the research process, including the questions asked, methodological assumptions made, and the quality of the evidence produced, noting its strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge mobilisation follows and is worked through a pedagogy that is collaborative and interactive including case studies, problem-based learning and blended course delivery. Assessments structure the student learning process and include such deliverables as verbal and written reporting, policy briefs, social media, blogs and other methods reaching beyond traditional academic communication. By the end of this course, students will be able to mobilise knowledge for policy and programme impact by collecting and assimilating relevant research, developing communication strategies to target relevant audiences and employing alternative techniques and tools to deliver insights.
Instructor: Michael Buzzelli
9600B - Evidence-Based Policy Making and Program Evaluation
The purpose of the course is to familiarize students with how research evidence is used to inform policy-program decisions, maximizing outcomes and utilizing the best available evidence. This includes evidence from scientific research, organizational data and facts, and experiential evidence from practitioners. The evaluation process does not, however, take place in a vacuum. Issues and externalities such as professional judgment, ethics and objectivity, public expectation, and political sensitivities can (and do) impact this process. Understanding of and strategies to cope with these issues are a key course component. In particular, students will learn to apply evidence-based decision-making tools and techniques to the evaluation and review of programs and policies. On successful completion of this course, students will be able to: identify, collect, synthesize, prioritize and reconcile relevant sources of evidence in decision-making; compare different evaluation techniques employing them appropriately to the program-project and resources constraints; determine strengths and weaknesses of a policy-program through an analysis of its internal dynamics and operations; judge overall effectiveness of a policy-program through an outcome, results assessment and/or impact assessment; and conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
Instructor: Bill Irwin
Internship All Terms
9700 - InternshipThe internship course will be held bi-weekly through the fall and winter terms, providing hands-on experience for the professional development of students. Students in this program are being trained to conduct social science research for practical applications in a variety of settings, including in government, not-for-profit, and private sectors. Thus, in addition to training in research and communication skills provided in other courses, students in this course will be provided with professional skills for a variety of workplaces. Topics to be covered may include: deciding on your career path and goals; preparing a resume and highlighting your skills; finding positions that match your skills and goals; the interview process; first days on the job; time management; navigating organizational power structures; managing your career over time; and ensuring you follow EDI guidelines throughout your work. A relevant internship will then take place through the summer term, with continuing support from the program, providing opportunities to further develop professional and research skills for the workplace.
Instructor: Victoria Esses and Internship Coordinator