SOS4021 - Research Designs for Causal Inference

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Course content

This course offers an introduction to several research designs particularly suited to making causal inferences. Social scientists routinely ask causal questions such as "Does divorce affect children’s school performance?" and "Does family policies affect gender relations?" Questions of this type are notoriously difficult to answer, and many sociologists have traditionally been very careful not to voice any causal ambition on behalf of their empirical analyses.

Researchers in the social sciences now have at their disposal a wide array of tools that allows them to provide more plausible answers to causal questions. In this course, participants will be introduced to and trained in a selection of the most commonly used and most powerful of these tools.

Taking the counterfactual model of causal effects as the point of departure, the problems associated with drawing causal inferences from observational data will be discussed. From these, the course moves on to demonstrations of various research designs that are particularly well suited for establishing causal effects. These include regression discontinuity designs, panel data methods including «differences-in-differences», and instrumental variable models.

The course is applied, in the sense that it is taught through a combination of lectures and computer lab sessions where participants will replicate results from exemplary studies. Time will also be allotted to critically discuss empirical challenges from the participants’ own research projects.

Learning outcome

  • Of the counterfactual model for causal effects
  • Of the problems associated with drawing causal inferences from observational data
  • Of various research designs that are well suited for establishing causal effects
  • To evaluate if research use appropriate statistical methods to establish causal effects
  • To use advanced statistical techniques using observational data in Stata
  • To present your work in the form of journal articles
  • To critically assess research designs using observational data
  • To choose appropriate research Methods


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

This course is not available for single course students.

This course is a part of the Master's program in Sociology. This course is aimed at doctoral students, researchers and talented master students in the social sciences with an interest in causal inference.This course has jointly taught classes with SOS9019 Research Designs for Causal Inference (ph.d.-level). Doctoral students must take SOS9019. Participants should have a good working knowledge of applied regression analysis. Prior exposure to Stata is an advantage.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course as guest student if this is cleared by their own study programme. Admission as a guest student will vary from semester to semester, as guest students will be allotted any vacant seats on the course.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Overlapping courses

6 credits overlap with SOS9019 - Research Designs for Causal Inference


This course has jointly taught classes with SOS9019 Research Designs for Causal Inference (ph.d.-level). The course will be organized as lectures, seminars, and labs during 5 days.

The lectures are given in English.

Participation in the lectures and seminars is mandatory (note that you must be present at 6 out of 7 lectures/seminars). Approved compulsory attendance is valid until the course is no longer offered.

Absence from compulsory tuition activities

If you are ill or have another valid reason for being absent from compulsory tuition activities, your absence may be approved or the compulsory activity may be postponed.


Andreas Kotsadam holds a Ph.D. from the University of Gothenburg.

Niklas Jakobson holds a Ph.D. from University of Gothenburg. Both publish in several social science disciplines.


Masters participants obtain 10 ECTS credits by completing the course requirements which are:

  • Active participation in the course
  • Submission of a term paper (in the form of an evaluation of published Research)

  • Oral exam

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

It is recommended to request an explanation of your grade before you decide to appeal.



The deadline to request an explanation is one week after the grade is published. For oral and practical examinations, the deadline is immediately after you have received your grade.

The explanation should normally be given within two weeks after you have asked for it. The examiner decides whether the explanation is to be given in writing or verbally.

Resit an examination

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






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