Home Graduate Doctoral Program Training in Methodology

Training in Methodology

Public policy scholarship is heterogeneous and involves many different methodologies. Often, or perhaps ideally, methods are combined.  The public policy doctoral dissertation can be described simply: selection of a policy problem for analysis, if not solution; proposal and refinement of a testable hypothesis; location or creation of evidence, followed by its formal evaluation; interpretation of findings; and, lastly, presentation of results in a way that solves, or at least reconceptualizes, the problem originally chosen for study.

Public policy doctoral candidates are required to take two methodology courses, PLCY 798R Quantitative Research Methods and Public Policy (3 credits) and PLCY 798Z Qualitative Research Methods and Public Policy (3 credits). For schedule and registration see Testudo.



taught by: Carol Graham



The course is a seminar with active participation expected and a number of guest speakers with expertise in topics ranging from difference in difference techniques, to survey data analysis, to the measurement of inequality, to the methodological challenges of evaluating micro-finance interventions. Each student completes an independent project, on the topic of his/her choice, but incorporating at least two of the methodological approaches that are covered. One objective of the project is to advance each student\'s dissertation work.


There are no required books. The following are recommended only – if there is substantive interest or need to complement the methods papers. Most required readings are in the form of papers and articles. All the books have been ordered via the bookstore.

  • Peter Kennedy, A Guide to Econometrics, Fourth Edition
  • Bernard Van Praag and Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonel, Happiness Quantified (Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • Carol Graham and Eduardo Lora, ed., Paradox and Perception: Measuring Quality of Life (Brookings Institution Press, 2009).
  • Carol Graham, Happiness around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires (Oxford University Press, 2009).



taught by: Peter Reuter




Public policy research, though it follows general scientific principles, is distinctive in both its choice of questions and what constitutes a satisfactory answer; it is not merely applied economics or statistics.  There is, however, no general paradigm in terms of research methods.  Rather, effective research requires familiarity with a wide variety of research techniques. This course, which will emphasize empirical research since the vast majority of dissertations are empirical rather than conceptual, covers a range of these techniques and illustrates how they can be used individually and jointly in policy research.

After spending a week examining an exemplary piece of public policy research, to illustrate what we are aspiring to, the course is roughly divided into two equal segments.  The first covers some methods of collecting data, qualitative and quantitative, which are commonly used in this kind of research; this supplements the variety of other courses offered that focus on data analysis.  The case study is not a well developed methodology but a surprising number of policy dissertations end up usaing it. The course emphasizes survey research because so much empirical policy research relies on surveys and there is a lot of potential (rarely realized) in understanding the process that generates the specific data being used.  The second half of the course presents some analytic techniques, apart from those you acquire in other PLCY courses, that are also commonly used.


Students are required to write and present one research paper and to do at least two other written and oral assignments during the semester.  Examples of assignments include: assessing how well a specific case study achieves its goals, comparing alternative methods of estimating the number of emigrants or critiquing an evaluation paper.

Students will be expected to participate actively in class, which will usually follow what is (perhaps pretentiously) called the Socratic method and requires reading of materials in advance.  Participation includes asking questions of other students\' presentations, which also encourages constructive collegial criticism.