Close Menu

Strengthen your research skills with new social science courses

There are still spots available in two brand new research-focused courses from the Department of Social Sciences. These courses are open to all Illinois Tech undergraduates and will satisfy communications (C) or social sciences (S) requirements in the core curriculum. Students can register for these courses online at the Registrar’s website.

Computational Social Science (SSCI 385)

Tuesday & Thursday, 3:15–4:30 p.m.

Computational Social Science is a great course for students interested in social science, math, and/or computer science.

This is a project-based course in which students will learn how to develop computational models in software. Computational social science is an emerging field at the intersection of social science, math, and computer science that utilizes numerical models to further our understanding of societies, markets, and human behavior. In contrast to traditional approaches to social science (e.g., inferential statistics, axiomatic modeling, or interviews), the numerical nature of the models present both unique opportunities and methodological challenges that will be discussed throughout the semester. For example, how do we introduce adaptive behavior into our models of human conflict and cooperation? Why are things as they are? How do we evaluate policies when decision makers are boundedly rational? The course addresses these questions drawing on recent advances in computational modeling and data science.

The methods to be discussed include the framework of agent-based modeling (ABM), input-output (IO), structural path analysis (SPA), and computable general equilibrium (CGE). The models covered are analytically intractable: results can only be derived using numerical simulations. The analysis therefore requires computer packages, including IMPLAN, Excel, GAMS, and NetLogo. We begin with the notion of social systems as complex systems. Nations, cities, and markets are adaptive, self-organizing systems of individuals whose interdependent actions create physical forms and produce spatial patterns. To explore how macro-patterns such as residential segregation, cultural norms, and social networks emerge from micro-behavior, we will discuss the bottom-up framework of agent-based modeling. We then turn our attention to top-down IO analyses, which are appropriate for short-term policy analysis while recognizing the salience of flows of goods and people. We close by engaging the CGE method in which the supply side interacts with demand in a market economy, enabling policymakers to plan for the medium term and beyond.

This course will be taught by Yuri Mansury, associate professor of social science.

Qualitative Social Science Research Methods (SSCI 386)

Thursday, 10 a.m.–12:40 p.m.

Students interested in urban planning, journalism, human-centered design, architecture, marketing, communications, sociology, political science, and/or anthropology will find this course very beneficial.

This course offers a workshop to try out social science research methods while thinking critically and creatively about them. Much of your time will be spent “doing” research methods together, both in the classroom and out.  Study sites include our local campus, the city of Chicago, communities and people of interest to you, wherever they may come together – from a street corner to a social media site. Students who are planning an upcoming thesis, capstone or socially-minded IPRO will find this a welcoming venue to explore their project ideas and hone their approach, with significant individual attention from the instructor. Students will be exposed to qualitative methods commonly used in an array of professional fields and disciplines, including urban planning, journalism, human-centered design, architecture, marketing, communications, sociology, political science and anthropology. We will ask, for example, what can you learn by interviewing someone? What can you learn by studying how people interact with their environments? What about the microdynamics of their speech? What are the benefits and limitations of experimental methods? Of surveys? Can you gauge the “social benefits” of new technological or engineering solutions? In each case, students will be asked to actively participate in the design and execution of exercises, and to think critically about the data they gather. 

This course will be taught by Noah McClain, assistant professor of sociology.