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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog 
  Jul 21, 2024
2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Computational Social Science, BS

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Computational Social Science

The Computational Social Science (CSS) major educates students to build, compute, and improve theoretically-informed models of social processes, bridging domain and technical expertise. This major will prepare students to understand, engage with, and innovatively solve evolving, complex multi-scale challenges such as climate change, transnational political violence, cybersecurity and privacy, social polarization, and inequality, among others. This major will enhance the student’s strength in both social science theory, broadly construed, as well as computing, informatics, and networked systems. Students will gain an understanding of modern computational tools and resources and social, political, and economic concepts from core social science classes.

Eligibility for the Major

Students may declare a major in Computational Social Science after completing the following course with a letter grade of C or higher.

Additionally, students are encouraged to be enrolled in or have completed INFSCI 0702  / PS 0702  with a grade of “C” or better when declaring the major.

Computational Social Science Major Requirements

The major will comprise of the following requirements for a total of 52-53 credits. All courses should be completed with a grade of “C” or better.

Pre-Requisite Mathematics Class

Foundations of Computational Social Science

The foundational courses introduce students to enduring puzzles in social science research, emerging themes of computational social science, and the approaches that social scientists and information & network scientists use to solve problems. This section consists of eight required courses that will provide foundations of subject matter knowledge and the basic computational tools that are relevant to social scientific theories and empirics.

One Introduction to Social Science Class

Choose one class from this list:

Four Classes Introducing Computational Approaches and Basic Tools

Two required courses:

And then, select two of the following courses:


* Students should have some programming experience (usually acquired in high school) before taking CMPINF 0401 . Any high school course that includes the writing of several Python, C++, or Java programs would be sufficient. It is also possible to take one of CS 0010 , CS 0011 , or CS 0012  as preparation. Preparatory classes of this nature do not count toward the student’s major requirements.

One Social Science Research Design Class

One Modeling Social Interactions and Motivations Class

Select one of the following courses.

Ethics and Computational Social Science

This section of the major will expose students to critical debates on the ethics of governance, computing, and technological change. Issues covered will include tradeoffs between privacy/security and censorship/freedom, as well as topics related to surveillance, propaganda, cyber-security, and regulation. The goal is to expose students to both the moral and social consequences of technology at a conceptual level, and the specific technical implementations that cause potential social problems (e.g., packet-sniffing) and could potentially expand the space for solutions (e.g., differential privacy).

Select two courses from the following:

Intermediate Techniques Applied to Social Science Content

The third set of requirements will empower students to use computational tools to explore enduring social science puzzles and theories at scale. These paths are not meant to be formal areas of concentration, but options to gain competence in more focused areas. For example, some students might be interested in applying data mining techniques to problems in campaigns in American politics. Other students might want to focus on cyber-security and international relations. The computational techniques, domains, and analytics course sets are organized to broaden interest in the major. Together, these courses allow our students to have an evolved understanding of how computing and digital tools can be used in government, businesses, and NGOs.

Two Computational Skills Classes

These classes specifically focus on relevant computational skills, including data mining, the web, visualizations, social computing, and advanced security and privacy.  Other upper-level INFSCI courses (1100+) may be used with approval of the advisor.

Select two of the following courses to satisfy this subset:

Two Domain Specialization Classes

Students will delve deeper into their domain specialization with two classes. One class should pair with the theme chosen for the student’s Introductory Social Science Class (under Foundations of CSS). Students then choose another substantive class that can be outside the previous theme. Select two domain specializations classes from the themes below. Although only a few classes are listed for each theme, more are options available to students. Students should refer to the major’s academic advisement (degree progress) report for a complete list of course options.

One Integrated Analytics Content Class

The final section in this requirement will marry a deep analytical component, such as predictive analytics, causal inference, game theory, data visualization, and other topics with complicated social problems such as inequality, trade, climate change, political violence, or polarization. The class will focus on integrating computational tools into the measurement of core social science concepts, including democracy, human rights, happiness, and peace. There will be a focus on using text and images as data.

Select one of the following courses:

Application Development Capstone

The major culminates in the production of a research project that uses computational tools to create either a) an online, interactive data visualization, b) a replicable research report that uses unstructured data or c) a module/library. In all cases, the project will engage with or help to resolve an important social problem. This project can be created through independent or directed research, or in one of the classes listed below. All students will present their projects as digital posters to faculty, alumni, and potential employers from around the Pittsburgh area at an end-of-the-year event.

Select one of the following courses:

Additional information

Grade requirements

All courses for the major must be taken as the letter grade option and completed with a C or better.

Approved courses

If a course is approved for multiple requirements, it cannot satisfy more than one.

Satisfactory/No Credit option

No course that counts toward the major can be taken on an S/NC basis without the approval of the advisor.

Writing requirement

Students enrolled in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences must complete at least one writing-intensive (W) course in the major.  Students in the School of Computing and Information must comply with GER rules.

Double majoring

There will be specific provisions for double majors on the A&S side, but it is expected that students can double major this with another social science major or any major in SCI.


Students can declare the major in the Spring of their first year. Students are required to complete MATH 0220  prior to declaring and are strongly encouraged to be enrolled in PS 0702  during or before their declaration term.


To earn honors designation within the major upon graduation, a 3.7 GPA is required across all major classes and a 3.5 Cumulative GPA overall.

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