Methods Camp

UT Austin, Department of Government


Andrés Cruz

Matt Martin


August 2023

Class schedule

Date Time Location
Thurs, Aug. 10 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM RLP 1.302D
Fri, Aug. 11 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM RLP 1.302E
Sat, Aug. 12 No class -
Sun, Aug. 13 No class -
Mon, Aug. 14 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM RLP 1.302D
Tues, Aug. 15 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM RLP 1.302D
Weds, Aug. 16 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM RLP 1.302E

On class days, we will have a lunch break from 12:00-1:00 PM. We’ll also take short breaks periodically during the morning and afternoon sessions as needed.


Welcome to Introduction to Methods for Political Science, aka “Methods Camp”! Methods Camp is designed to give everyone a chance to brush up on some skills in preparation for the introductory Statistics and Formal Theory courses. The other goal of Methods Camp is to allow you to get to know your cohort. We hope that matrix algebra and the chain rule will still prove to be good bonding exercises!

As you can see from the above schedule, we’ll be meeting on Thursday, August 10th and Friday, August 11th as well as from Monday, August 14th through Wednesday, August 16th. Classes at UT begin the start of the following week on Monday, August 22nd. Below is a tentative schedule outlining what will be covered in the class, although we may rearrange things if we find we’re going too slowly or too quickly through the material.

Course outline

1 Thursday morning: Intro to R

  • Introductions
  • R and RStudio: basics
  • Objects (vectors, matrices, data frames, etc.)
  • Basic functions (mean(), length(), etc.)
  • Packages: installation and loading (including the tidyverse)

2 Thursday afternoon: Tidy data analysis I

  • Tidy data
  • Data wrangling with dplyr
  • Data visualization basics with ggplot2

3 Friday morning: Matrices

  • Matrices
  • Systems of linear equations
  • Matrix operations (multiplication, transpose, inverse, determinant)
  • Solving systems of linear equations in matrix form (and why that’s cool)
  • Introduction to OLS

4 Friday afternoon: Tidy data analysis II

  • Loading data in different formats (.csv, R, Excel, Stata, SPSS)
  • Recoding values (if_else(), case_when())
  • Handling missing values
  • Pivoting data
  • Merging data
  • Plotting extensions (trend graphs, facets, customization)

5 Monday morning: Functions

  • Definitions
  • Functions in R
  • Common types of functions
  • Logarithms and exponents
  • Composite functions

6 Monday afternoon: Calculus

  • Derivatives
  • Optimization
  • Integrals

7 Tuesday: Probability, statistics, and simulations

  • Probability: basic concepts
  • Random variables, probability distributions, and their properties
  • Common probability distributions
  • Statistics: basic concepts
  • Random sampling and loops in R
  • Simulation example: bootstrapping

8 Wednesday morning: Text analysis

  • String manipulation with stringr
  • Simple text analysis and visualization with tidytext

9 Wednesday afternoon: Wrap-up

  • Project management fundamentals
  • Self-study resources and materials
  • Other software (Overleaf, Zotero, etc.)
  • Methods resources at UT

Contact info

If you have any questions during or outside of methods camp, you can contact us via email. Or if you are curious about our research, you can also check out our respective websites and Twitter accounts (or should we say X…):

  • Andrés Cruz: [Website] [Twitter]

  • Matt Martin: [Website] [Twitter]


We thank previous Methods Camp instructors for their accumulated experience and materials, which we have based ours upon. UT GOV professors Stephen Jessee, Connor Jerzak, and Dan Nielson have given us amazing feedback for this iteration of Methods Camp. All errors remain our own (and will hopefully be fixed with your help!).