On a clear November morning, Chris Winship, the Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, was getting ready to begin the last class of the course on quantitative research methods he has been teaching for more than 40 years, first at Northwestern and for the past three decades at Harvard.
Meanwhile, students sat around the table browsing a 17-page handout and munching chocolate chip cookies brought by a teaching fellow. They were joined in the room by several of Winship’s colleagues and former students, who, following an academic tradition, had dropped by to watch him give the last lecture of the required course for sociology graduate students.
“I loved teaching this course all these years,” Winship said in an interview before the class. “The course helps students how to think about being a social scientist and how to think about their research. Too often in graduate training we focus on the details and the nitty gritty, and students cannot see the forest from the trees. This course focuses on helping them see the forest.” The purpose of the class, he added, is to answer the question: “How do we learn and know things from data?”
In a career spanning 42 years, Winship, who will formally retire in 2025, has gained a reputation as an intellectual leader in quantitative social science. He co-authored with his former student Stephen Morgan the book “Counterfactuals and Causal Inference: Methods and Principles for Social Research” (2007), which has sold nearly 40,000 copies and is often described as the “bible” of causal inference. He is also known for having trained a generation of scholars to be innovators in statistical methods in social science research.