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Computational Methods for the Social Sciences

Key Information

Course details
Methods Option course for MSc, Hilary Term
Written submission
Dr Fabian Stephany, Dr Luc Rocher


This course teaches the essentials of programming in Python, the language of choice in the growing field of computational social science. In particular, the focus will be on using the language to access data from a diverse variety of sources on the social web (from Twitter and Facebook to Reddit, YouTube or the front page of the New York Times), and transforming this material into datasets which are amenable to traditional social science analysis.  Once the data has been collected, the course familiarizes students with the variety of approaches for processing and preparing data for analysis. 

Learning Objectives

  • Have knowledge of the range of social science research taking place using data from the social web 
  • Have a grasp of key methodological issues involved in the collection and processing of these types of data, and the key challenges in using social data to answer social research questions 
  • Have a solid grounding in the use of the Python programming language for social research 
  • Be able to parse text files in a manner suitable for Natural Language Processing 
  • Be able to reshape json data such as tweets, Facebook statuses and other API-based data into rectangular structures amenable to analysis using data frames. 
  • Understand how to apply regular expressions to string text 
  • Appreciate, understand and tame Unicode data such as © and TM 
  • Be able to transfer data between R and Python