The Power and Limits of Causal Analysis - SO744

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury
(version 2)
Autumn
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5 15 (7.5) MR JD Cunliffe
Canterbury
(version 2)
Spring
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5 15 (7.5)

Pre-requisites

SO410 or a Short Introduction to Quantitative Social Research (Summer School) or and equivalent introduction to quantitative research (to the level of basic (OLS) regression)

Restrictions

None

2017-18

Overview

This module aims to develop basic quantitative research skills (to the level of regression) to understand more advanced issues in making causal claims. Learning will be oriented towards:

  • Understanding the limitations of simple (OLS) regression for making causal claims, with particular emphasis on endogeneity/confounding and causal heterogeneity;

  • Learning a small number of advanced methods for investigating causality through quantitative research (e.g. experiments, instrumental variable approaches, matching methods, longitudinal analysis). For each method, students will first consider the rationale for the method (its strengths and limitations), and then use the method in hands-on statistical analysis sessions using appropriate statistical software (e.g. Stata);

  • Towards the end of the module, students will learn how to decide the relative strengths and merits of each approach, and how to select the appropriate research design given the particular features of real-world scenarios
  • Details

    This module appears in:


    Contact hours

    22 hours over 11 weeks, normally 1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar or a 2 hour data analysis workshop

    Availability

    Available 2016/17

    Method of assessment

    100% coursework (10% class participation, 35% group presentation, 55% Report)

    Preliminary reading

    Cartwright, Nancy (2013), 'Knowing what we are talking about: why evidence doesn't always travel'. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, Volume 9, Number 1, pp. 97-112.

    Christenfeld, N., R. Sloan, et al. (2004). "Risk factors, confounding, and the illusion of statistical control." Psychosomatic Medicine 66: 868-875.

    Cook, T., & Campbell, D. (1979) Quasi-experimentation: Design and analysis issues for field settings. Rand McNally College Publications.

    Hedström, P and Ylikoski, P, (2010). 'Causal Mechanisms in the Social Sciences'. Annual Review of Sociology, 36:49-67. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.012809.102632

    Jackson, M and Cox, DR (2013), 'The Principles of Experimental Design and Their Application in Sociology'. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 39: 27-49.

    Morgan, SL and Winship, C (2007), Counterfactuals and Causal Inference: Methods and Principles for Social Research.

    Shadish, William R., Thomas D. Cook and Donald T. Campbell. 2002. Experimental and Quasi-experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin.

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

    Learning outcomes

    On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

    1 Critically understand the limitations of simple regression when making causal claims, with particular attention to endogeneity/confounding and causal heterogeneity;

    2 Critically understand the strengths and limitations of more advanced methods for investigating causality through quantitative research (e.g. experiments, instrumental variable approaches, matching methods, longitudinal analysis);

    3 Demonstrate a basic ability to themselves apply these more advanced methods for investigating causality, using appropriate statistical software (e.g. Stata);

    4 Demonstrate an ability to select the most appropriate design for investigating causality in real-world settings, given practical constraints;

    5 Demonstrate an ability to critique causal claims made in public debates and in academic research;

    6 Demonstrate an ability to present the rationale and results of more advanced statistical methods for investigating causality to non-technical audiences.

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