Professor Hirano should have a gold or silver nugget! I really enjoyed this course. It taught me the basic study designs used by quantitative political scientists who wish to observe, quantify, understand political phenomena. I also liked how Professor Hirano included election content within the course, showing us how to stimulate election outcomes for 2020. Professor Hirano made the course material, which otherwise might seem dry, engaging. Professor Hirano was also very supportive. He helped me to secure a dataset for the final paper/project and even cleaned and prepared the data for me using STATA (the course teaches R). Other students also mentioned how helpful Professor Hirano was, as he made time to meet with all of us to discuss our final paper ideas. This is someone uncommon in the Political Science department, and it really helped me. Grade Breakdown: Five homework assignments (25% of final grade), the TAs provide hints on the homework from time to time which makes it manageable Two midterm exams (30% of final grade) -- the midterms were not too bad. They tell you what pages in the book have code that you can copy or modify to answer the questions. There may also be extra credit opportunities on the midterms, there were for midterm 2. Final paper (35% of final grade), this is effectively a data analysis project that you write an 8-12 paper about. It is emphasized that you must include a research question and hypothesis and try to utilize the statistical methods taught in the course (difference in difference, regression, etc.) to answer the research question. The TAs and Professor Hirano provided good guidance around the final paper. Lecture panel participation and final presentation (10% of final grade)--we had to present a slide that had our research question, hypothesis, and preliminary findings. It was a short presentation. We also were randomly selected to participate in lecture panels twice during the semester, in which we had to have our cameras on and answer questions about the material. Overall, I would say that the course is very doable (if not easy!). The course textbook, Quantitative Social Science by Kosuke Imai, does a good job at making the content accessible and providing ample examples of how to code things up. It really simplifies the statistics behind some of the models covered in the course. The TAs also provide demo code to help with the coding and also review concepts covered in lectures, which may be helpful for those who have not had much exposure to R and statistics or just find data science, statistics, and quantitative political science research interesting. This is not a course to fear...
This seminar class was one of the first upper level classes I took in the Columbia political science department and really helped me develop my research skills. I initially felt overwhelmed since the weekly reading is a lot and often incorporates advanced statistics, but Professor Hirano was sooooo helpful. When I expressed my confusion about some material over email he created easy charts to present the information to me and the rest of the class the next day. I had never done an original research project of my own and the object of the class was to create one. The class was small, only 12 people, and each week one of us was in charge of deciphering and presenting the readings. The main goal, however, was the end 25-30 page research paper. We'd each meet with him one-on-one to discuss our projects and the end product was something I was really proud of. Professor Hirano helped me at each part of the project from brainstorming what topic was feasible to research and incorporated my interests to editing my final draft. The class was awesome because I developed a greater understanding of how to do proper research, how to think critically about the research we read and evaluate problems within it, and how to develop a project that could be published and/or turned into a thesis. Professor Hirano can come across as a little awkward on first meeting, but he is so helpful and really wants his students to learn and succeed. He clearly enjoys teaching and it shows.
If you haven't taken and done well in Calculas I and taken Linear Algebra, simply do not take 4912 with Hirano. It it uses two text books: you cover ALL the material from the undergraduate probability course in the statistics department and use the textbook that the economics PhD students use in their three econometrics courses (Greene). So essentially two hardcore quantitative courses in one. It is simply too much material for one semester and it is taught by a real "math" guy: Hirano has real difficulty teaching this material in a way that most students easily get and he spends most of his time frantically scribbling equations at light-speed that very few of the students understand. Unless you have a very good foundation calculas, statistics, and linear algebra, don't take 4912. I would suggest taking POLS 3704/4910 and POLS 4911 with Professor Robert Shapiro instead. These course is designed to catch first semester political science PhD candidates up to speed on all the math and statistics they didn't do as undergrads. If you are an undergrad and are even considering doing a PhD in the social sciences DON'T TAKE THIS COURSE. Either (a) do the quantitative things whole hog and take Calc I, Calc III, Stats w/ Calc, Linear Algebra, (maybe) Statistical Inference, etc or (b) take POLS 3704/4910 and POLS 4911 and a few other non-brutal quantitative courses. 4912 isn't a fast-forward version of option (a). For those with no math/stats background, it is brutal, takes up your entire life, and you don't learn anything and for those who have already done (a), it is a tough refresher that brings all the pieces together. As an undergrad, you don't want to take this course. For the graduate students, this is a make it or break it class: will they be a quantitative political scientist or not? Given the stakes, they work very, very hard and help each other all the time. You won't have the time to work that hard because you will be taking other classes you care about, looking for an internship, having a life, etc. Plus, you won't get the built in support network because you are a clear outsider, which really sucks and makes it tough to master the material. Avoid my mistakes! Don't take this course. It crushed my GPA and I didn't learn a damn thing.