Dr. Simone Dietrich, who is Assistant Professor of Political Science and also holds an appointment at the Truman School of Public Affairs, studies a broad range of political subjects with a particular interest in international aid allocation and effectiveness. Her field work in international development across the world informs her development of data-oriented inquiries into the political and economic mechanisms of international aid. “Academics don’t explain trees—we explain forests,” she tells us, and in her main projects, she combines many different pieces of data to develop a clear picture of larger trends in the politics of international aid.
Nothing will get a labor economist’s mental gears turning like the word “shortage.” At the very utterance of this term, Michael Podgursky’s ears perk up, his eyebrow rises, and he leans over his desk: “What do you mean by shortages?” It’s not that Podgursky isn’t accustomed to hearing the word—quite the contrary, actually. As a professor of Economics at MU, his query results from extensive research on education, a field that has fallen victim on numerous occasions to accusations of “shortages.”
Dr. Dietrich’s work is supported by different types of data. Dr. Dietrich tells us how she utilizes qualitative and anecdotal data to illustrate political and economic mechanisms that impact foreign aid allocation and effectiveness, and about how she combines this information with quantitative data to ensure that her analyses and conclusions are supported by facts.
Dr. Dietrich is currently working on a paper that examines how international aid impacts the views of recipient countries towards aid suppliers. Dr. Dietrich is currently communicating with USAID and other organizations to develop a field experiment which will “evaluate systematically” how aid recipients’ opinions change after receiving aid.
Recently, school districts and states have started collecting large data sets about students and teachers. Podgursky compares this tremendous treasure-trove of data to a candy shop for economists. These longitudinal data systems are important, because by analyzing student growth and achievement he can also determine the productivity rates of individual teachers.
Selecting history research projects, according to Watts, is a combination of careful assessment and serendipity. For this historian, gathering data is sometimes like hunting for treasure. Watts has had a string of good luck, as it turns out, since Henry Ford, Walt Disney, and Hugh Hefner all compiled archives through which Watts was allowed to dig.
From reading court cases to scouring such legal databases as Lexis-Nexis and WestLaw, Mitchell explains how a legal scholar goes about gathering research data. He also describes a teaching strategy employed in his classes to handle conflict-ridden legal subjects that require one to “take sides.”
Larsen gathers his data through a variety of different methods ranging from ethnographic field research to content analysis and GIS. But the method he prefers is called “participant observation,” an approach in which “you go and live with the people for an extended period of time, so you can start to learn how they think and feel and act.” In fact, Larsen considers participant observation to be a base line for all the research he does because “you gain an insight by participating in the culture.”