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PhD course: PHD416 Randomized controlled trials in the social sciences

PhD students have the opportunity to attend this course, led by Professor Eric Bettinger from Stanford University. One of the world’s foremost experts on RCTs, professor Bettinger is also known as an outstanding lecturer.

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This course aims to provide future researchers with the tools required to plan and conduct randomized experiments. (Photo: Elisabeth Tønnessen)

Course content:

The use of randomized experiments has become increasingly popular and prevalent in social science research. The US Department of Education has labeled randomized experiments as the “gold standard” in educational research. The World Bank often requires developing countries to use randomization in determining the assignment and use of new policy.

This course focuses on the methodology of randomization in social science research. We focus on questions surrounding the use of randomization. Why is randomization so compelling? What assumptions are inherent in randomized designs? What are the hidden challenges to randomization? Is randomization always the “best” empirical strategy? How does one design randomized experiments? Is clustering a problem to randomization?

Full course description:

PHD416 Randomized controlled trials in the social sciences.

Method of work

The course will be conducted digitally this year, and will consist of five days of intensive lectures, PC-lab exercises and seminars. During lectures students will engage in the learning objectives and discuss examples of sophisticated RCTs. During the labs students will work with software to measure statistical power. During the seminars, RCT researchers will visit and present large scale RCTs that they are working on, as practical examples.
Students are expected to prepare for and review lecture materials on their own.

Expected work load:
Lectures: 22 hours
Computer Lab sessions: 8 hours
Seminars: 5
Preparations and reviews of materials: 65 hours Paper requirement: 50 hours
TOTAL: 150 hours

Please note that number of hours of expected workload for this course is based on normal circumstances. The expected workload will stay the same for the digital solution, but you may experience variations in the allocation of the total amount of course hours.


Professor Eric Bettinger from Stanford University is the course instructor, in collaboration with professors Oddny Solheim, Sigrun Ertesvåg and Mari Rege from UiS.

Practical information

Course dates

Meeting 1:  29 October 2020
Meeting 2:  5 November 2020
Meeting 3:  12 November 2020
Meeting 4:  19 November 2020
Meeting 5:  26 November 2020

Lessons: Classes take place in the afternoon (13:30-17:30)
Platform: Participants will have free access to our e-learning platform (Canvas)
Credits: 5 ECTS
Course fee: Free for PhD candidates 
Course coordinators: Prof. Mari Rege and Prof. Eric Perry Bettinger
Language of instruction: English
Preliminary readingRequired readings
Application: Candidates admitted to the PhD Programmes at the University of Stavanger should apply through Studentweb. Other applicants may apply using this application form. Please send the application to nadya.sandsmark@uis.no. External applicants must apply at latest three weeks prior to the course start date. 

Please click here for for more information about this course. For any queries about resources/materials, please contact the PhD coordinator.