Department of Political Science


POLS0060 Lies, Damned Lies and Bullshit (BSc Politics and International Relations students only)

Course Code: POLS0060

Course Tutor: Dr Mike Seiferling (Department of Political Science)

Length: One term (Spring Term)

Teaching: 20 contact hours (10 hours of lectures, 10 hours of seminars)

Assessment: Problem Sets (four problems at 10% each)/3000 word Data Project (50%)/10 minute presentation (10%)

Credits: 15 credits, 4 (US), 7.5 (ECTS) 

Module Level: L4 (Introductory)

About this course

Only open to first year BSc Politics and International Relations students in the Department of Political Science

In the age of information overload, big data, social media and contestation over ‘fake news’ based on ‘evidence’ and ‘facts’, it is more important than ever to equip students of politics with the necessary skills to read, interpret and critically assess conclusions, political claims and government findings based on strong methodological foundations. “Lies, Damned Lies, and Bullshit" aims to turn students into competent producers, and critical consumers, of ‘facts’ or scientifically based information. We will review the process by which facts are developed using a ‘scientific method’, which will include ontology (what is reality), epistemology (nature, sources and justification of reality or facts), methodology (how do we prove/disprove claims about reality) and methods (what methods are available to social scientists). The second part of this course will give particular attention to quantitative methods in terms of i) the quality of political, economic and financial data; ii) introduction to causality, correlation, necessity and sufficiency in social sciences, and iii) the ethics of scientific research, academic debate and public critique. The main aim is to turn students into data aware consumers of social science research, before moving to more detailed methodological training in year 2 methods course.