Methods of Historical Social Science

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Arrival Date in Beijing, China:  Saturday, August 19, 2017 (course begins August 21, 2017)

Departure Date from Beijing, China:  Thursday, September 7, 2017 (course ends by evening September 6, 2017)

Location:  Stanford Center at Peking University, Beijing, China

Instructor:  Andrew G. Walder, Professor of Sociology and Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Eligibility: Co-term, Master's or Ph.D. level Stanford students in Political Science, Sociology, History, and related fields, who are contemplating social science research on non-contemporary topics, especially if they are interested in research on China. 

Fees/Cost: Airfare, accommodations, and food are covered by the Stanford Center at Peking University.  See details under "Program Cost."



This course is intended for Co-term, Master's or Ph.D. level students in Political Science, Sociology, History, and related fields, who are contemplating social science research on non-contemporary topics, especially if they are interested in research on China. The course focuses on methods of research, in particular, how to identify and exploit archival and published sources in a systematic fashion. Particular emphasis will be placed on methods of translating qualitative documentary materials into quantitative datasets or other digital formats. The course will begin with reading selected exemplary publications in the field, most of which are about political conflict in the United States and Europe, and then moves to consider recent efforts to apply these methods to China. We will review the range of Chinese sources that have been used in recent research projects, and others that might be potentially exploitable. Students will then be asked to develop a research proposal that identifies a topic, a potentially exploitable source of historical data, and a plan for research.


Method of Instruction 

The course will primarily be conducted as a graduate seminar, with the instructor giving a brief presentation at the beginning of each section, and then leading a group discussion. In order to cover a large number of readings in a short period of time, individual students will be assigned readings in addition to those required for all, and make brief presentations that address issues relevant to the methodology of the research. Students will be expected to identify a topic and a source of relevant data by the end of the second week. During the third week, students will make presentations of their research proposals in progress, at which point they will receive comments from the instructor and other participants.

Faculty members from local universities who are working on relevant historical topics, along with graduate students who are members of their research teams, will also participate in the class and share their experiences and methods.


Learning Goals

The goal is to familiarize students with certain kinds of social science methodology that have been employed in studying a wide variety of historical topics, and take the first steps in mastering them and applying them in the Chinese context.

Seminar Schedule

During the first two weeks we will meet for 2.5 hours on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule to permit students to complete the readings for each session. During the third week, we will have 3 sessions on a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday schedule for students to present their project proposals.



Application Process

seminar application is required plus an official Stanford transcript via Axess.  Please submit transcript and the application online at the same time.  The deadline to apply is April 14, 2017.  Applications received after the deadline will be considered for the waitlist.  Transcripts via Axess should be submited to Connie Chao


For More Information


Please contact Professor Walder with "SCPKU Seminar" as your email subject.  More information about SCPKU's Graduate Seminar Program can be found here.