Group final project

Students can work in groups of 3-4. You must choose one of the three following options for your final project:

  1. Write an original research paper: Articulate and answer a novel research question in international development. Your project should rely on the original analysis of non-traditional data.  Your goal should be to have the first draft of a short paper that could be published or presented at an academic research venue (here is an example of a successful project from last year). Be ambitious, be practical, and start early: you need to be able to obtain and analyze the required data within the course of a semester.
  2. Build something useful: Build a public-facing website that transforms, merges, and analyzes non-traditional data, and provides output or analytics that are useful to people studying international development. Your tool must fill an unmet need, i.e., your contribution must be different from what is already out there.  Examples of what to strive for: Streetscore, DataChile, …
  3. Write a grant proposal: Write a compelling research proposal describing a feasible project that uses novel sources of data to answer a pressing question in international development. Your idea should be compelling, novel, and feasible. To be compelling, it must tackle an important question that people care about. To be novel, you must clearly articulate your research question, and convince the reader that this question is not something that has been adequately addressed in the research literature. To be feasible, you must convince the reader that your team can realistically achieve your goals in a realistic (6-18 months) timeframe. Obtain all necessary data to conduct the research study and present preliminary analysis of these data in the proposal. Include an approximate budget and schedule of milestones and deliverables.


There are a few deliverables associated with each project:

  1. Abstract (Due March 13): Submit a 2-3 page summary of your idea. Make sure to include the following in this summary: A title; the names of all group members; a 1-sentence summary of the research question you hope to answer (this sentence should end with a question mark!); a 1-paragraph abstract; a description of the data required; an overview of the methods you will use; and a list of the 3-5 most relevant papers. After reading this abstract, it should be clear to the reader that your project or proposal is both interesting and feasible (on this latter point, you must succinctly describe how your methods will allow you to answer your question based on your data). This of this summary as laying out the terms of a contract that defines what you will accomplish by the end of the semester — the contract should be sufficiently well-specified that it will be easy to ascertain whether or not you have delivered on that contract.
  2. Lit review and summary statistics (Due April 3):  Conduct a thorough literature review of related work (or related projects in the private or public sector). Submit an annotated bibliography that describes the 5-10 most relevant papers. For Grant Proposals, also identify 2-5 sources that would be likely to fund your research, and include an outline for your grant proposal. For Research Projects, also include a few pages of summary statistics of your primary datasets (this means you have to have your data in hand by this point!). Summary statistics include N, min/median/max/mean/SD of key variables, etc.
  3. Final presentation and poster session (Due April 29): On the last class (tentatively scheduled for May 6), we will have a public presentation and poster session.
    • The lightning presentation session will be from 11-12pm. Each team will have 5 minutes to present. Submit your slide deck via bCourses no later than 7am on Monday; I will load this deck onto a single computer. I will be ruthless about cutting you off when your time is up, so please practice in advance. There is no requirement that everyone in the group speaks during this presentation, just do what feels right!
    • The poster session will run from 1030-1230pm. Please show up by 10:00am to get your station set up. Each team will set up a poster. You should feel free to use the the I School printer for this. If you want to have an interactive exhibit, we can arrange to have a monitor available for your team (or you can use your laptop). But do not treat the poster session as an informal slide show, where you can walk people through several slides. Your goal (and your grade) will be based on the 1-2 static slides that are on display. Make sure your project has a recognizable title.
  4. Final report (Due April 29): Please use the PNAS submission template for your final report. If you are writing an original research paper, aim for 5-10 pages excluding figures, tables, and appendices.  If you are building a tool/website, aim for 3-5 pages that motivate the need for the tool/website and discuss potential use cases. If you are writing a grant proposal, aim for 10-20 pages, and make sure to model your proposal after a common standard, such as an NSF proposal.

What data can you use?

While there are no hard-and-fast requirements, your project should ideally involve at least one source of “big” or non-traditional data, and should pertain to development or other substantive topics covered in this course. A few datasets that you might find useful (see bCourses for other ideas).

Frequently-used development datasets

Satellite/RF Data

Other places to look for ideas: