Teaching with Data: Use Data to Inform Policy Decisions

Resources & Strategies for Faculty Teaching Undergraduates

Use Data to Inform Policy Decisions

Faculty Author: Nina Rathbun

Course: International Relations 329

Department or School: International Relations

Student Population: Junior and senior majors in International Relations, Economics, and International Relations Global Business

Duration: 8 weeks


  • Initial research question
  • Critiques of peers’ proposals
  • Research proposal

Keywords: writing, data, analysis, essay, research proposal, international policy

Summary:  Students develop research questions related to international policy issues, locate data relevant to the research question, and prepare a research proposal to address the question as informed by the data.

Assignment Goals:  The goal of this project is to introduce students to data­‐based research. While students will not actually write a full research paper based on the data analysis, nor are expected to do statistical analysis, students will learn to think about data and research questions in an analytic way. This will help inform the policy analysis that students will complete in their eventual group project. Students should explain in a 5 page, double-‐spaced paper the reasoning behind the research question they designed, why it is important, where it fits in the larger relevant literature.

Recommended Tools:

  • Blackboard LMS
  • Microsoft Word or other word-­processing program

Faculty Author Advice:  If I were to use this assignment again, I would include more reflection by the student on the data. Instead of just producing a data-‐supported research proposal, students could reflect on the application of the data on their research proposal.