Spring 2020 - POL 339 D100

Selected Topics in Comparative Government and Politics (4)

Politics and Data Science

Class Number: 5253

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    WMC 3535, Burnaby

    We 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM
    WMC 3535, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Six lower division units in political science or permission of the department.



Selected Topics:  Politics and Data Science


Social data and digital technologies are rapidly transforming politics and society, including election campaigns, how governments make policy, the targeting of consumers, and our interactions and connections with one another. How can we use this new data and the digitization of vast public records to understand politics? This course offers a hands-on introduction to data science with an emphasis on data visualization for political and social analysis.

The objective of this course is to introduce students to data science and its use in political research with an emphasis on data visualization. Seminars focus on workflow and project management with RStudio and R Markdown, importing data, tidying data, visualizing data through exploratory analysis and interactive media, and introducing network analysis, text analysis, and machine learning. Through in-class practice, quizzes, homework, and group projects, students will learn to apply data science techniques to political research.

Course Organization:

There will be three hours of seminar per week that involves a mix of lecture, group activities, and analysis. You are required to bring a laptop to all class meetings (note: the library loans out laptop computers for up to four hours).


  • Participation and Preparation for Class 10%
  • Quizzes 20%
  • Homework Assignments 40%
  • Group Project and Presentation 30%



Data Visualization: A Practical Introduction by Kieran Healy. Available in hard copy or here.

R for Data Science (“R4DS” 2016), by Hadley Wickham & Garrett Grolemund. Available in hard copy or here.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

The Department of Political Science strictly enforces a policy on plagiarism.
For details, see http://www.sfu.ca/politics/undergraduate/program/related_links.html and click on “Plagiarism and Intellectual Dishonesty” .

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html