GV319      Half Unit
Experimental Politics

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Florian Foos


This course is available on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.


Familiarity with basic research design and statistics as covered by Research Design in Political Science (GV249) or an equivalent course (such as ST102, ST107, ST108, GY140, SA201) is recommended.

Course content

This course will introduce students to the design, conduct and analysis of randomized field experiments (RCTs) in politics to evaluate theories, programmes and policies. The course will cover the science and methods of experimentation (weeks 1-3), debate the practicalities of collaborating with political actors such as parties, NGOs and governments, as well as the ethics of field experiments (weeks 4-5). The second part of the course examines the findings of experimental research in five distinct political domains (weeks 7-11). Topics include:

1. Voter mobilisation

2. Social networks

3. Political persuasion

4. Social contact and prejudice reduction

5. Gender and politics


This course will be delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 25 hours across the Lent Term and Summer Term. Some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and classes. There will be no lecture during Week 6 (reading week) and no class during Weeks 1 and 6.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to solve 1 formative problem set, in LT.

Indicative reading

Required textbook:


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


Suggested texts:


Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green. 2017. "Field experiments on voter mobilization: An overview of a burgeoning literature." In Handbook of Economic Field Experiments, Vol. 1, pp. 395-438.

John, Peter. 2017. Field Experiments in Political Science and Public Policy: Practical Lessons in Design and Delivery, London: Routledge.

Karlan, Dean and Jacob Appel. Failing in the Field, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.


Journal articles and other reading list texts, as assigned.

Students will have free choice on final essay topics, so they should expect to find and read additional books and articles on the topic in consultation with the instructor and the library.


Essay (50%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Take-home assessment (50%) in the LT.

The assessment for this module consists of one problem set (50%) and one research design essay (50%). The problem set combines short theoretical problems, and applied problems requiring basic data manipulation/analysis using R. In the research design essay (3000 words) you are asked to write an experimental design outlining how you would address a causal research question of your choice in Political Science using a randomized field experiment. The research design should include a short literature review, hypotheses, research design, and pre-analysis plan. There is also a practice problem set, for which cohort feedback is provided. The two problem sets (formative and summative) will ensure that students have the skills necessary to propose a credible experimental design. One-on-one meetings after Reading Week will provide a checkpoint to obtain early feedback.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: 3

Average class size 2019/20: 3

Capped 2019/20: Yes (15)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness