Methodology Seminar Series

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Leading social scientists consider cutting-edge quantitative and qualitative methodologies, analyse the logic underpinning an array of approaches to empirical enquiry, and discuss the practicalities of carrying out research in a variety of different contexts.

Seminars are on Thursdays from 16:15- 17:45  and most will take place in the PhD Academy LRB 4.02 (4th floor of the Lionel Robbins Building - Please see here for a map of the LSE).

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If you would like further information on the seminars, please email

PhD students and staff across the LSE are welcome to attend.

Lent Term Seminars


Paolo Campana speaking at an event

3 February 2016

The organisation of human smuggling: An application of social network analysis

Speaker: Dr Paolo Campana, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

Venue: 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields, LG.03


This paper is an empirical in-depth study of the structure and activities of a human smuggling ring operating between the Horn of Africa, Libya, Italy and Northern Europe. The ring was involved in the tragic journey that ended with the 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck, in which 366 migrants lost their lives. More generally, the actors under investigation took part in the smuggling of at least 4,670 migrants across the Mediterranean over a period of seven months. This paper relies on a number of novel data sets that were manually coded from court files and analysed using social network analysis techniques. It reconstructs the structure of the smugglers’ network and investigates the determinants of coordination among the actors involved. Finally, the paper complements the quantitative evidence with a discussion of the (qualitative) content of phone wiretaps. 



An image of Professor Raymond Duch


25 February 2016 

Why we cheat: Experimental evidence on tax compliance

Speaker: Prof Raymond Duch, Nuffield College, Oxford

Venue: PhD Academy, Level 4, Lionel Robbins Library


Successful redistributive taxation requires that the rich actually pay their taxes. National survey data indicate that the rich typically have much lower tax morale. Is it the case that simply acquiring wealth results in an antipathy towards taxation? This essay suggests a somewhat more nuanced view: individuals who demonstrate high levels of ability or effort, who typically are rich, are much less likely than others to comply with taxation. A causal mechanism contributing to tax cheating appears to be ability as opposed to wealth per se. There is overwhelming evidence that subjects who perform better on the real effort tasks cheat more – simply performing better, in our experiments, results in greedier behaviour. Experimental treatments were implemented in order to explore alternative causal mechanism. Clearly the price of compliance to redistributive taxation also matters – as the cost of compliance rises we see an increase in cheating. But the higher levels of cheating by able versus less able types persists in high and low tax regimes. There is no experimental evidence that when earnings are associated with luck or status that this correlation between performance or ability and cheating moderates. And finally efforts to make the experimental treatment regimes much more redistributive had little effect on the intrinsic motivations of those with high ability – the correlation between ability and cheating was similar to the baseline treatments.  Intrinsic motivation for complying with taxation is very asymmetric. Those who exhibit high ability, and hence are more likely to be rich, realise much less intrinsic benefits from complying with taxation than is the case for those with lower ability who are more likely to be poor. 



Image of Assistant Professor Sukriti Issar


3 March 2016

Documents, Power and Rule Ambiguity

Speaker: Assistant Prof Sukriti Issar, Department of Sociology, Sciences Po

Venue: PhD Academy, Level 4, Lionel Robbins Library


Bureaucratic documents have long been defined as the key material artifact of modern bureaucracy. Yet we know little about what bureaucrats actually do with such documents or how the bureaucratic power of documents is enacted. This talk explores the state’s documentary practices, and compares the form with the file. Drawing on field research in archives and bureaus, the file is defined as a manuscript-source, collating internal bureaucratic correspondence and diverse documents about the hard cases of rule application and governance. In contrast to prevailing conceptions of documentary power as standardization, rationalization, and routinization, I argue that files represent moments of ambiguous and tenuous power. Using illustrative examples from urban policy, the civil disobedience movement, and interviews with bureaucrats in India, I explore how files as a data source provide a unique insight into power, bureaucracy, and rule following. The talk concludes with recommendations for the use of bureaucratic files as an archival source for studying the state. 



An image of Dr Tasha Fairfield


10 March 2016

Formal Bayesian Process Tracing: Guidelines, Opportunities, and Caveats

Speaker: Dr Tasha Fairfield, International Development, LSE

Venue: PhD Academy, Level 4, Lionel Robbins Library

Abstract TBC





Image of Ben Bradford


24 March 2016

The Scottish Community Engagement Trial: Perils and pitfalls in experimental studies of policing

Speaker: Ben Bradford, Centre for Criminology, Oxford

Venue: PhD Academy, Level 4, Lionel Robbins Library


Aiming to replicate a previous Australian study, the Queensland Community Engagement Trial, the Scottish Community Engagement Trial (ScotCET) was an RCT that tested whether the introduction of improved mechanisms for communicating procedural justice during routine encounters between police and public can influence public trust and enhance police legitimacy. This paper draws on the findings of the trial itself and follow up work with the police officers who implemented it to explore the process and pitfalls of conducting – and replicating – RCTs in criminology. Results demonstrate the difficulty in translating experimental interventions across national boundaries; challenge the notion that public perceptions may be improved through a simple, additive approach to the delivery of procedural justice; and underline the organizational and cultural barriers to this kind of research in policing contexts.



An image of Dr Slava Mikhaylov


28 April 2016

Assessing the Effectiveness of Human Rights Rhetoric: An empirical test of Spiral Model

Speaker: Dr Slava Mikhaylov, Department of Political Science, UCL

Venue: PhD Academy, Level 4, Lionel Robbins Library


The “spiral model” of human rights is a theory about the processes that lead to changes in human rights practises of states. Developed in a series of publications by Thomas Risse (Risse and Ropp, 2013; Risse and Sikkink, 1999) this theoretical framework describes the transformation of a rights abusive, repressive state to a state with a positive human rights record. Existing empirical evidence for the “spiral model” is largely qualitative. A central theoretical mechanism focuses on rhetoric around human rights and dialogue between the state and domestic and international human rights actors. However this mechanism hasn’t been systematically analyzed in a quantitative empirical setting (Simmons, 2013). In this paper we provide a first empirical test of the central mechanism of the “spiral model” by focusing on the relationship between the rhetoric of Non-Government Organisations and International Non-Government Organisations and the protection of human rights in the countries using the debates in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), and the United Nations General Assembly. Our data covers summary protocols over the last 31 years of human rights discussions at the UN by as many as 172 states. Methodologically we develop a new method that we term topic dependent scaling that combines structural topic modelling with text scaling procedures (Wordscore and Bayesscore) to measure how states’ representatives rhetoric compares to peer groups. Our method is particularly suited to estimate actors’ positions when text is conditional on exogenous contexts and latent political positions. Our study shows that, as predicted by the “spiral model”, the dialogue between government authorities and international society changes as human rights in a state improve, and that these changes in the dialogue happen before governments adjust their policies. INGOs play a crucial role in this process. Presence of INGOs in states, and participation of INGOs in dialogues in the UNHRC and UNCHR improves how states’ agents discuss human rights.



An image of Professor David Kirk


26 May 2016

A Mixed-Methods Natural Experiment on Residential Change and Recidivism: The silver lining of Hurricane Katrina

Speaker: Prof David Kirk, Nuffield College, Oxford

Venue: PhD Academy, Level 4, Lionel Robbins Library

Abstract TBC








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