Skip to main content
Workshops & seminars, Conferences & lectures

Experiments in the Social Sciences (ONLINE)

January 7, 2021 (8:00am - 11:00am & 12:30pm - 3:30pm)
with Dr. Donald Green,
J.W. Burgess Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

SPSA - ONLINE 2021 | All times are in CST
Date & time
Thursday, January 7, 2021
8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Dr. Donald P. Green,
J.W. Burgess Professor of Political Science, Columbia University


Participants must register to attend: Register here


SPSA Conference 2021
*Registered participants will also have access to all workshop recordings until March 15th 2021


In this workshop, we will discuss the logic of experimentation, its strengths and weaknesses compared to other methodologies, and the ways in which experimentation has been -- and could be -- used to investigate political, social, and economic phenomena.  Emphasis will be placed on field experiments, randomized trials conducted in real-world settings.  Examples will be drawn from a broad array of disciplines.

After describing the attractive statistical properties of experiments, we consider a variety of potential threats to core assumptions.  In particular, we consider the complications that arise when (1) treatment and control conditions different in systematic ways other than the intended treatment, (2) treatments are not administered according to the randomly assigned plan, (3) subjects are affected by the treatments assigned or administered to others, and (4) outcome measures are not obtained for all subjects.  In each case, we discuss possible statistical and design solutions.  We conclude by discussing the practical and ethical issues that arise when conducting experiments in field settings.


The primary text for the course is:

Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green.  2012.  Field Experiments: Design, Analysis, and Interpretation.  New York: W.W. Norton.

This textbook (FEDAI for short) is too extensive to be covered in two sessions, but we will make our way through much of the first half, which covers core topics.

Supplementary readings are designed to illustrate a wide range of experimental applications.  They will be provided to participants via a shared Dropbox folder.  Further readings beyond the dropbox PDFs are available on request.

Data analysis examples will be provided in both R and Stata format, but no special programming expertise is required.  If you have some experience with statistical software, you can join in when we analyze data together.


The planned schedule of the course is as follows:

Workshop Outline & Reading List

Thursday, January 7

Session 1 8:00am - 11:00am

What are experiments? Why conduct experimental research? Experiments and Models of Potential Outcomes.


  • FEDAI: Chapters 1 and 2.

In addition, skim these brief research articles that highlight certain core assumptions that underlie experiment-based inference:

  • Page, Stewart. 1998. Accepting the Gay Person:  Rental Accommodation in the Community, Journal of Homosexuality, 36 (2): 31-39
  • Sherman, Lawrence W., and Dennis P. Rogan.  1995.  Deterrent Effects of Police Raids on Crack Houses: A Randomized, Controlled Experiment.  Justice Quarterly 12(4): 755-781.

Sampling distributions and Randomization Inference. Blocking, Clustering, and Covariate Adjustment.


  • FEDAI: Chapters 3 and 4.

In addition, read the following article, which illustrates the use of blocking:

  • Bertrand, Marianne and Sendhil Mullanathan. 2004. Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination. The American Economic Review  94(4):  991-1013.
Session 2 12:30pm - 3:30pm

Experiments with One-sided Noncompliance (Failure-to-Treat)


  • FEDAI: Chapter 5.

In addition, read the following article, which we will use in class to illustrate the analysis of experiments with one-sided noncompliance:

  • Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green. 2000. The Effects of Canvassing, Direct Mail, and Telephone Contact on Voter Turnout: A Field Experiment. American Political Science Review 94:653-63.

Experiments with Attrition.


  • FEDAI: Chapter 7.

Implementing an Experiment and Reporting the Results.


  • FEDAI: Chapter 13, Appendix A, and Appendix B.

Special topics: heterogeneous effects, causal mechanisms, and meta-analysis.


  • FEDAI: Chapters 9, 10, and 11.

Back to top Back to top

© Concordia University