GESIS Training Courses

Scientific Coordination

Marlene Mauk
Tel: +49 221 47694-579

Administrative Coordination

Loretta Langendörfer M.A.
Tel: +49 221 47694-143

A Practical Introduction to Machine Learning in Python

Online via Zoom
General Topics:
Course Level:
Fall Seminar
Software used:
Students: 400 €
Academics: 600 €
Commercial: 1200 €
Additional links
Lecturer(s): Dr. Damian Trilling, Dr. Anne Kroon

About the lecturer - Dr. Damian Trilling

About the lecturer - Dr. Anne Kroon

Course description

The course will provide insights into the concepts, challenges and opportunities associated with data so large that traditional research methods (like manual coding) cannot be applied anymore and traditional inferential statistics start to lose their meaning. Participants are introduced to strategies and techniques for capturing and analyzing digital data in communication contexts using Python. The course offers hands-on instructions regarding the several stages of computer-aided content analysis. More in particular, students will be familiarized with preprocessing methods, analysis strategies and the visualization and presentation of findings. The focus will be in particular on Machine Learning techniques to analyze quantitative textual data, amongst which both deductive (e.g., supervised) machine learning and inductive (e.g., unsupervised machine learning) approaches will be discussed.
To participate in this course, students are expected to be interested in learning how to write own programs where off-the-shelf software is not available.
For additional details on the course and a day-to-day schedule, please download the full-length syllabus.

Target group

Participants will find the course useful if:
  • They are social scientists who have the ambition to model quantitative textual data. Specifically, those who aim to describe, explain or predict the content of large-scale textual data using computation techniques are likely to benefit from participating in this course.
  • Note that non-textual data, such as images or networks, are not at the center of this course. Techniques we cover are partly generalizable to such types of data, but note that the course is not tailored towards them.

  • Learning objectives

    By the end of the course participants will:
  • be able to identify research methods from computer science and computational linguistics which can be used for research in the domain of social science;
  • understanding of the principles of supervised and unsupervised machine learning;
  • be able to explain the principles of these methods and describe the value of these methods;
  • know to analyze textual data;
  • have basic knowledge of the programming language Python and know how to use Python-modules for questions relevant in the domain of the social sciences;
  • be able to independently analyze quantitative textual data using machine learning techniques.
    Organisational Structure of the Course:
    In the morning, we will have three hours of online lectures, in which we will explain the topic of the day both from a theoretical-conceptual point of view as well as from a practical point of view (i.e., walking you through code examples). We may have small in-class exercises in between, if necessary.
    In the afternoon, students work on larger exercises in which they implement the techniques we covered. We provide example datasets, but it is also possible (and encouraged) to try to apply the techniques to own datasets. Due to the online setting, participants can either opt to work on their own (and just re-join for plenary feedback moments), or try to solve problems together with one or multiple classmates in a breakout room. Lecturers will provide feedback on the (attempted) solutions of participants, and also provide example solutions.


  • Knowledge of basic statistics (linear and logistic regression)
  • Some experience with computational methods, programming in general, and/or statistical languages (but not necessarily Python) is highly recommended to participate in this course. During the first day of the course, we will discuss some fundamental aspects of coding in Python at a fast pace. In order to follow along, we recommend those who have no previous experience with computational methods or statistical languages to take part in the course: Introduction to CSS with Python (week 1).
  • Participants are expected to have a working Python environment installed (see below), and we strongly recommend that participants spend a couple of hours with one of the many free only resources to familiarize themselves with the very basics of Python to have an easier start.
    Software requirements:
    Participants need to have a current Python environment installed and need to be able to install packages on their own. All relatively recent versions of Python (in general, 3.6 or higher) should be fine. If you still have an older version, you may not be able to run the example code 1:1 but need to adapt it. Make sure you have recent versions of crucial packages such as pandas, numpy, scipy, scikit-learn, gensim, and keras installed. If in doubt, check how to update them. One option to achieve all of this is to simply install the newest version of the so-called Anaconda distribution, even though this is by no means necessary (in fact, both of us usually install our packages by hand instead of using Anaconda).