Fall 2020: Exploring research ideas

Let me start off by wishing everyone a happy new year! 2020 was a sad and difficult year for many, and I hope that the new year will bring some semblance of normalcy.

As I shared in my first post, I am currently in my second and final year of coursework. Fall 2020 was also my first semester of being a Teaching Assistant. It suffices to say that active research took a bit of a backseat given the demands of both taking three classes and teaching one! In this post, I focus on what I learnt and worked on during the course of the semester. (I intend to write a separate post about my experience being a first-time TA in a remote learning world!)

Through my substantive courses (Evolving Perspectives in Comparative Politics and American Political Behavior), I was exposed to the intellectual history of comparative politics and political behavior more broadly. This has helped me a lot to situate my research interests in the larger literature. The one methods course I did this this semester (Applied Statistics III) introduced me to Bayesian inference in addition to being an excellent refresher on causal inference methods.

During the course of the semester, I pursued three research ideas which I briefly mention below.

First, employing the “text as data” approach I learnt this semester, I explored the issues that different political parties prioritize in legislative bodies. I used text data from the Question Hour in the Indian Parliament (297-2972079_parliament-of-india1999-2019), and specifically analyzed questions Members of Parliament asked about Jammu and Kashmir for the period that this dataset covers. [A big shout-out to this fantastic resource made available for researchers: “TPCD-IPD: TCPD Indian Parliament Dataset (Question Hour) 1.0”. Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University

Second, I designed a research project with my collaborators around networks and potential peer effects among local politicians in Bihar, India. As I write this, we are in the middle of enrolling participants in our study which will be launched in mid-January.

Third, I revisited an older project with an objective to understand how Muslim-majority villages (in Bihar) may be different from others in terms of public goods provision and private wealth, and worked on a research design to causally examine the role of political representation in explaining the patterns and trends that emerge from the data. Implementing the design will involve collating government data and perhaps even collecting new data.

While my primary agenda of building a framework for thinking about politician-bureaucrat-frontline worker relationships at the lowest levels of government in India is continuing into Spring 2021, I am currently in the process of building collaborations that will enable me to test some of my initial hypotheses using existing data collected by other researchers and sharpen my own specific data collection requirements.

In subsequent posts, I will expand on all of the above!

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About Apurva Bamezai

I am a 2nd year PhD student in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. I am primarily interested in comparative politics and the political economy of development, with a regional focus on India. Before starting at Penn, I worked in development research and the public policy space for over 8 years, mainly conducting mixed-methods impact evaluations and process assessments of government programs in India with a focus on governance and service delivery of social protection, nutrition, and early childhood education interventions. I hold an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge, an MA in Development Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and a BA (Honours) in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University.