Core Curriculum

Analytics, research, theory, and professional communication are at the core of our curriculum and are required for all students.

Advanced methods courses and electives provide the opportunities to specialize in one of our five concentrations: Applied Social Research, Data Science, Market Research, Media and Marketing, or Program Evaluation and Policy Analysis. (See the full list of courses and catalog descriptions.)

Analytics

Our hands-on courses teach students to access, manage, manipulate, analyze, interpret data, and write about data.

Building on a foundation in statistics (see prerequisites), our Basic Analytics course (710) focuses on programming using Stata or SAS for bivariate and descriptive statistics, with strong emphasis on how to interpret and write up results. Our Advanced Analytics (712) course introduces complex data models and teaches students to use R for data handling, visualization, and report writing.

Research Process

We feel strongly that knowing statistics is not sufficient to be a good data analyst or researcher. What good are reams of numbers and results if they have no meaning?

Knowing how to ask questions, how to seek answers using methods that will provide valid and valuable results, and how to draw conclusions from those results are all critical to harnessing the power of data. These skills require “research thinking” and a methodical approach to research.

Students will have had an exposure to research methods and empirical approaches in their undergraduate coursework (see prerequisites). In our two semester sequence on the Research Process (754 and 755), we focus on empowering students to design and conduct their own research at a professional level with skills and knowledge that apply to any specialization.

At the end of the program, students move from learners to experts as they conduct their own work  on the thesis topic of their choice (793).

Theory

We require that students gain exposure to theory. Far from being a holdover to our days as an MA in Sociology, this requirements represents an emphasis on ideas and concepts, which contribute much in the way of sophistication and substance to both analysis and research design.

We take a practical approach to theory, seeing it as a vehicle for contributing to a field through conversation with previous research and thinking as well as a way to move beyond variable measurement to the more meaningful and enduring level of concepts and ideas. Emphasizing what Merton called “middle range” theories, we teach our students to move fluidly between big ideas and detailed measures.

Students may meet the theory requirement either with a survey course in sociological theory (701) or with substantive courses on topics that use theory (see our list of elective courses for those that meet the theory requirement).

Professional Writing and Communication

Your research and analysis might yield the most important insights of a lifetime, but they will be nearly worthless if you can’t communicate them effectively. Effective communication applies to various aspects of presentation. Our course on Professional Writing and Communication (716) addresses them all, focusing on the nuts and bolts of organizing ideas and arguments, crafting messages that matter to your audience, telling stories with numbers through narrative and data visualization, public speaking, and self-presentation.

Students are also called upon to use these skills throughout all of their other courses, whether writing up results, compiling reports, doing presentations, or visualizing data.