Computational Social Science

The Computational Social Science (CSS) major educates students to build, compute, and improve theoretically informed models of social processes, bridging domain and technical expertise. This major will prepare students to understand, engage with, and innovatively solve evolving, complex multi-scale challenges such as climate change, transnational political violence, cybersecurity and privacy, social polarization, and inequality. This major will draw on and enhance Pitt’s strength in both social science theory, broadly construed, as well as computing, informatics, and networked systems. Students will gain an understanding of modern computational tools and resources, and social, political, and economic concepts from core social science classes.

Degree Requirements

The major will comprise of the following for a total of 52/53 credits (explained in detail below):

Foundations of Computational Social Science

The first set of courses will introduce students to enduring puzzles in social science research, emerging themes of computational social science as well as the approaches that social scientists, and information & network scientists use to solve problems. Courses in this section provide foundations of subject matter knowledge, basic computational tools that are relevant to social scientific theories and empirics (8 courses required as denoted below):

One Introduction to Social Science Class

Four Required Introductions to Computational Approaches and Basic Tools

One Social Science Research Design

One Modeling Social Interactions and Motivations

Ethics and Computational Social Science

This section of the major will expose students to important debates on the ethics of governance, computing, and technological change. Issues covered will include tradeoffs between privacy/security and censorship/freedom, as well topics related to surveillance, propaganda, cyber-security and regulation. The goal is for students to not only be exposed to the moral and social consequences of technology at a conceptual level, but also the specific technical implementations that cause potential social problems (e.g., packet-sniffing) and could potentially expand the space for solutions (e.g. differential privacy) (2 courses).

Intermediate Techniques Applied to Social Science Content

The third set of courses will empower students to use computational tools to explore enduring social science puzzles and theories at scale. These paths are not meant to be formal areas of concentration, but options to gain competence in more focused areas. For example, some students might be interested in applying data mining techniques to problems in campaigns in American politics. Other students might want to focus in cyber-security and international relations. Both the tools and domains are organized to allow a set of choices that broaden interest in the major. Together, these courses allow our majors to have an evolved understanding of how computing and digital tools can be used in government, businesses, and NGOs. There are three sub-sets of classes in this section:

Intermediate Techniques Applied to Social Science Content

The third set of courses will empower students to use computational tools to explore enduring social science puzzles and theories at scale. These paths are not meant to be formal areas of concentration, but options to gain competence in more focused areas. For example, some students might be interested in applying data mining techniques to problems in campaigns in American politics. Other students might want to focus in cyber-security and international relations. Both the tools and domains are organized to allow a set of choices that broaden interest in the major. Together, these courses allow our majors to have an evolved understanding of how computing and digital tools can be used in government, businesses, and NGOs. There are three sub-sets of classes in this section:

Upper-level content courses

Students will delve deeper into their domain specialization with two classes. One class should be within a domain theme (such as international relations), another substantive class can be outside that theme (such as in comparative politics).

  • American Politics list of 1000-level courses
  • Comparative Politics list of 1000-level courses
  • International Relations list of 1000-level courses.

Integrated Analytics

Students must complete one analytics-intensive course in the PS 1290X, PS 1390X, or PS 1590X series, or PS 1702.

Application Development Capstone

Select one of the following courses.