Running Randomized Evaluations

Glennerster_RunningRandomized “The popularity of randomized evaluations among researchers and policymakers is growing and holds great promise for a world where decision making will be based increasingly on rigorous evidence and creative thinking. However, conducting a randomized evaluation can be daunting. There are many steps, and decisions made early on can have unforeseen implications for the life of the project. This book, based on more than a decade of personal experience by a foremost practitioner and a wealth of knowledge gathered over the years by researchers at J-PAL, provides both comfort and guidance to anyone seeking to engage in this process.”–Esther Duflo, codirector of J-PAL and coauthor of Poor Economics

Running Randomized Evaluations: A Practical Guide
Rachel Glennerster & Kudzai Takavarasha

This book provides a comprehensive yet accessible guide to running randomized impact evaluations of social programs. Drawing on the experience of researchers at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, which has run hundreds of such evaluations in dozens of countries throughout the world, it offers practical insights on how to use this powerful technique, especially in resource-poor environments.

This step-by-step guide explains why and when randomized evaluations are useful, in what situations they should be used, and how to prioritize different evaluation opportunities. It shows how to design and analyze studies that answer important questions while respecting the constraints of those working on and benefiting from the program being evaluated. The book gives concrete tips on issues such as improving the quality of a study despite tight budget constraints, and demonstrates how the results of randomized impact evaluations can inform policy.

Suggested courses:

  • Program evaluation courses taught in Master in Public Administration/ International Development, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Public Administration programs.
  • Masters of Public Policy courses focusing on economics and impact evaluation.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 pdf-icon
Request an examination copy.


Peter Dougherty reflects on the latest crop of textbooks from Princeton University Press

Dear Readers,

As summer moves (perhaps too swiftly) from July to August, and soon enough to September, we are celebrating our new array of excellent advanced textbooks, titles crucial to research and teaching in the academy. A scholar once characterized an outstanding text as a book that brings “point, verve, and a sense of general acceptance” to the field which it defines—a worthy objective, among others, of a scholarly publisher such as Princeton University Press.  (Please don’t ask me to identify the source; I came across this quote about 30 years ago).

Textbooks of a scholarly stripe have long held a proud place on Princeton’s list, dating back many decades, and have complemented our monographs and more general interest titles in serving up robust accounts of the fields in which we publish.  This year is no exception, featuring as it does the impressive cluster of advanced texts we’ve published since last fall.  In fact, this is arguably the best set of new texts we have published in years.  And this bumper crop of texts is unusual in that spans most of the fields in which we publish, not just one or two.  As we approach some of the big annual academic meetings, and with fall semester only a month away, it’s worth our reviewing some of these outstanding offerings.

Most notable in this year’s crop are the new science texts.  The earliest of our new science texts appeared last August in the form of Wally Broecker and Charles Langmuir’s new edition of the classic work, How to Build a Habitable Planet.  Habitable Planet was quickly followed by Biophysics: Searching for Principles by William Bialek, and an innovative new book on the physics of sound and music, Why You Hear What You Hear by Harvard’s Eric Heller.  Our science offerings concluded this past spring with Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell by Anthony Zee, author of the modern classic Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell, now in its second edition, and Climate Dynamics, an exciting new book by Texas-based scholar Kerry Cook.  Rounding out the spring flock of science texts are the second edition of Steven Vogel’s Comparative Biomechanics, and Whitney Cranshaw and Richard Redak’s exciting Bugs Rule! An Introduction to the World of Insects.  Collectively, these texts are helping to turn a new page in PUP’s science publishing.

While launching the new science texts, we added handsomely to our world-leading list of economics texts with new offerings by two of our most successful and celebrated textbook authors: Stanford’s David Kreps, whose 1990 book, A Course in Microeconomic Theory, marked the rise of the modern PUP economics list, is back with his new text, Microeconomic Foundations I: Choice and Competitive Markets, while MIT’s Robert Gibbons, author of the widely admired 1992 book, Game Theory for Applied Economists, joined Stanford’s John Roberts in editing the path-breaking Handbook of Organizational Economics. In addition, we published Berkeley economist Steven Tadelis’s long-awaited Game Theory: An Introduction, and an important edited volume by Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir, Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy.  Shafir’s volume touched a nerve at The New York Times when columnist David Brooks used it as the basis for a January 2013 column. These books and more will be on display later this month at the European economics meetings in Sweden.

The list of 2012-13 textbooks extends from science and economics into various other regions of the social sciences.  We began the academic year with Phillip Bonacich and Philip Liu’s Introduction to Mathematical Sociology, and finished the year on an equally quantitative note with Moore and Siegel’s new book, A Mathematical Course for Political and Social Research, two titles we will feature prominently at this month’s meetings of the American Political Science Association and the American Sociological Association. In anthropology we added two new teaching titles in Ethnography and Virtual Worlds by Tom Boellstorff and his colleagues, and Nikolas Rose and Joelle Abi-Rachid’s Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind.

Returning to the earliest months of the past academic year, it’s worth recalling that we published the fourth edition of the famed Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics in a low-priced paperback edition, thereby making it course adoption-ready in seminars on poetics and advanced classes on poetry.

For more on these and other textbooks, please check out Princeton Pretexts where we will be posting additional information about these titles over the coming weeks or our dedicated textbooks web site.


Peter Dougherty
Director of Princeton University Press

Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell

Zee_EinsteinGravityNutshell Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell is a remarkably complete and thorough textbook on general relativity, written in a refreshing and engaging style. Zee leads us through all the major intellectual steps that make what is surely one of the most profound and beautiful theories of all time. The book is enjoyable and informative in equal measure. Quite an achievement.”–Pedro Ferreira, University of Oxford

Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell
A. Zee

  • Provides an accessible introduction to Einstein’s general theory of relativity
  • Guides readers from Newtonian mechanics to the frontiers of modern research
  • Emphasizes symmetry and the Einstein-Hilbert action
  • Covers topics not found in standard textbooks on Einstein gravity
  • Includes interesting historical asides
  • Features numerous exercises and detailed appendices
  • Ideal for students, physicists, and scientifically minded lay readers
  • Solutions manual (available only to teachers)


Table of Contents

Sample this textbook: Introduction [PDF]

Additional information about the In the Nutshell series

Request an examination copy.



FACT: “[C]hocolate chip cookies (CCCs) have eight times the energy as the same weight of TNT. How can that be true? Why can’t we blow up a building with CCCs instead of TNT? Almost everyone who hasn’t studied the subject assumes (incorrectly) that TNT releases a great deal more energy than cookies. That includes most physics majors….Even though chocolate chip cookies contain more energy than a similar weight of TNT, the energy is normally released more slowly, through a series of chemical processes that we call metabolism.”

Physics and Technology for Future Presidents:
An Introduction to the Essential Physics Every World Leader Needs to Know

by Richard A. Muller

We invite you to read the preface online:

“Modern science and technology have the power to shape the world we live in, for good or for evil. Muller, himself a brilliant, creative scientist, has distilled the most important scientific principles that define our choices, and has presented them clearly and objectively. To make wise decisions, not only future presidents, but future business and community leaders, and thoughtful citizens generally, need the information in this book.”–Frank Wilczek, Nobel Prize–winning physicist



New Biology Catalog

We invite you to download and browse our 2012-2013 Biology catalog:

Be on the lookout for these new and forthcoming titles (just to name a few):

Nature’s Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation
by James L. Gould & Carol Grant Gould

Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life
by Enrico Coen

Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture
by R. Ford Denison

Solid Biomechanics
by Roland Ennos

How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches
by Peter R. Grant & B. Rosemary Grant

Atmosphere, Clouds, and Climate
by David Randall

The World’s Rarest Birds
by Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash & Robert Still

and more. There are too many great titles to list here. You’re just going to have to check it out online:

If you are attending the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Ottawa, stop by and visit us at booth #105!

Q&A with Sönke Johnsen

Quinn Fusting, PUP’s editorial assistant in the life sciences, has conducted a Q&A with Sönke Johnsen, the author of The Optics of Life: A Biologist’s Guide to Light in Nature.

Q: When, how, and why did you become interested in light?

A: I grew up in a house where we made just about everything, including science toys. My dad was a physicist, and we would spend weekends building pinhole shoebox cameras, arc lamps from dismantled batteries, and once even a solar hot dog cooker made out of a sledding saucer covered in aluminum foil. He would also bring home surplus items from his lab, like head-sized Fresnel lenses and chunks of sapphire lasers. He also set up a black-and-white darkroom in the attic where I spent much of my childhood and adolescence. My mother was creative as well and introduced me to painting, drawing, tie-dying and such. There were no computers yet, and our TV only got two channels (three if my little brother stood in just the right spot), so I had plenty of time to fiddle around.

As for why…well, light is beautiful. What’s more wonderful than the light filtered through new leaves on a windy, Spring day? Or the green bioluminescence trailing your limbs as you swim on a moonless night?  The stars alone are worth having eyes for. I can’t imagine not studying light. 

Q: What drove you to write an optics guide for biologists?

A: I’m not entirely sure. I do enjoy writing, but this was a lot of work, so there must have been a reason. When I pitched the project to my editor, I told her that it would fill a niche, but I’ve never been one to lose sleep over unfilled holes. I also told her that optics was important to biology. It is, but so what? Steve Vogel told me once that writing books is wonderful because it transforms you from a competitor into an enabler. I do hope this book helps people use optics in their research, but honestly I still feel competitive. Maybe I just want people to stop me in the hall and say, “Nice book!” I’d be lying if I said this didn’t matter. I’m shallow, and flattery goes a long way with me.

There’s more though. While not religious, I am often overcome by this world — it’s like being given a prize over and over. The most remarkable part to me is that we are able to appreciate and at least partially understand it. Being a biologist, I can mumble about scientific curiosity being an epiphenomenon of natural selection for cooperative hunting, foraging, individual recognition, and so on, but that doesn’t make it any less incredible. As the physicist Isidor Rabi said when the muon was discovered, “Who ordered that?” However we acquired this ability to appreciate and understand the world, it would be rude to waste it. So I wrote this book to share this feeling, this amazement at what is all around us.

Q: What would you say is the most important thing for biologists to know about optics?

A: That it’s easier to learn than you think. The long history of the field and its connection with human vision has left us with a horrible mess of units and concepts. Only in optics do people still publish papers using units like stilbs, nits, candelas, trolands, and my personal favorite, foot-lamberts. However, the reality of optics itself is simple and elegant. With the right introduction, you can sidestep the mess and get right to the fun parts.

However, light is also harder to work with than many people appreciate. The main reason for this is that we don’t measure light in our daily lives. Since childhood, we develop an intuitive sense of weights, lengths, area, temperature, and so on. For example, we can guess someone’s height to within 5% and weight to within 10%-20%. However, even after a decade of measuring light, I can’t tell you how bright my office is on this overcast morning to within even an order of magnitude. This is like saying that I can’t decide whether I am six or sixty feet tall. So you need to be careful. It’s worth it though. The biological world is a funhouse of optical tricks and traits just waiting to be discovered. Just today, I read that jumping spiders use image defocus to judge distance and that bowerbirds play with visual perspective to impress their mates. How cool is that? 

Q: What is light anyway?

A: I have no idea. I have thought about light since I was five years old and am no closer to understanding its fundamental nature. I am in good company though. Even Richard Feynman, one of the creators of the theory of how light and matter interact and widely acknowledged as one of the best explainers of physics, said that light cannot be understood. We have equations that let us predict what light will do to a precision of more than twenty significant figures, but no one has come up with a description of light that makes sense. It is unlikely that anyone ever will. Read enough about the subject, and your head will start to itch.

However, while the non-intuitive nature of light can be unsatisfying, it doesn’t affect our ability to use it. In other words, as long as you do your measurements and math correctly, you can think of light as little purple buffaloes and it won’t matter. After all, we don’t really understand the fundamental nature of anything, but manage just fine.

Mammals Monday!

This week’s featured mammal from the Mammals of North America app is the Eastern Chipmunk. As the weather gets colder, you might see chipmunks collecting food to store for the winter in their extensive underground burrows — these burrows can be up to 3.5 metres long, and often have multiple entrances.

Fun fact: a chipmunk is a kind of squirrel!

Previous Mammals Monday posts:

The blue whale




A Short Primer on Notation in Engineering Dynamics: A Comprehensive Introduction

The authors of the new textbook Engineering Dynamics: A Comprehensive Introduction have written a short Primer to the notation used in their book. The notation differs from that used in the traditional suite of introductory texts (Meriam, Bedford & Fowler, Hibbeler, Beer & Johnson), but this more sophisticated notation is necessary because, as Kasdin explains, this textbook is more comprehensive than anything else currently available. Much of the material that requires this notation, such as multiple frames or three-dimensional rigid body rotation, are not covered in other textbooks.

Kasdin notes that the goal of the primer is threefold: “to show that the notation serves a specific purpose and has pedagogical value, to show that it is not as extensive and different as people think (i.e., it can be categorized into a small number of elements), and that we did not invent it, but rather followed common practice, adopting it from many sources, and merely tried to make it more consistent, systematic, and clear.”

He also emphasizes that there are other more complete and advanced books that have adopted some variation of the notation used in Engineering Dynamics, so there are precedents already in place for their decision to utilize this notation.

You can download the primer here.

Why People Draw features Viewpoints authors Annalisa Crannell and Marc Frantz

Over at Whacky Shorts Creations, they speak with the authors of Viewpoints about their earlier memories of drawing and their current work at the intersection of mathematics, drawing, and art:

Today, I’m so, so excited to present to you a new “why people draw” that is such a wonderful example of how drawing is not just art, but is rather a wonderful visualizing, knowledge-sharing, enlightening thinking tool. Mathematicians Annalisa Crannell from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, and Marc Frantz from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN share their thoughts on drawing, and how they have designed ways to teach math concepts to teachers and college students through drawing! They also discuss how drawing plays a part in their own process of solving problems.

A Biologist’s Guide to Mathematical Modeling in Ecology and Evolution

As mentioned in our earlier post, Sally Otto (new MacArthur Fellowship recipient, yay!) is co-author with Troy Day of A Biologist’s Guide to Mathematical Modeling in Ecology and Evolution. This book is intended for undergraduate biology courses and starts at an elementary level of mathematical modeling, assuming that the reader has had high school mathematics and first-year calculus. It then gradually builds in depth and complexity, from classic models in ecology and evolution to more intricate class-structured and probabilistic models.

Sample chapters of this book are available on our web site:

Chapter 1, Mathematical Modeling in Biology (PDF)
Chapter 6, General Solutions and Transformations—One-Variable Models (PDF)
Chapter 13, Probabilistic Models (PDF)

Supplemental material for instructors is also available online at the authors’ web site:

Examination copies are available via the instructions here.

Princeton University Press author Sally Otto awarded a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship

Congratulations to Sally Otto who was awarded a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship. She is the co-author of PUP’s 2007 book A Biologist’s Guide to Mathematical Modeling in Ecology and Evolution. You can read more about her award here, or watch this video interview the MacArthur Foundation taped:

The award notice singles out the textbook and Sally’s dedication to educating others:

In addition to participating actively in laboratory and field experiments to test and refine her models, Otto is a dedicated educator, having recently co-authored an acclaimed textbook on mathematical modeling that introduces other biologists to the power and rigor of quantitative analysis. Otto’s extensive track record of bringing fresh perspectives to thorny conceptual problems suggests that her fundamental contributions to ecology and evolution will continue unabated.

Feedback Systems wins the 2011 Harold Chestnut Control Engineering Textbook Prize

The International Federation of Automatic Control just announced that the winner of the 2011 Harold Chestnut Control Engineering Textbook Prize is Feedback Systems: An Introduction for Scientists and Engineers by Karl Johan Åström & Richard M. Murray.

According to the IFAC’s call for nominations, this prize “is awarded to the author(s) of a control engineering textbook that has most contributed to the education of control engineers.”

Books are evaluated on their originality and innovation, their presentation of clear application to real problems, and in how well they meet education objectives. The prize (consisting of a monetary award, a certificate, and bragging rights for the next year) was formally presented at the Closing Ceremony of the 18th IFAC World Congress that was held in Milano, Italy earlier this month.

Feedback Systems is intended as a complete, one-volume textbook for undergraduate and graduate courses. A solutions manual is available upon request by professors who are assigning the book for courses and the authors are maintaining a wiki of additional content. A complimentary chapter is available for preview here. Instructors who wish to sample the complete book for their courses should follow the instructions here.

In addition to this prestigious award, Feedback Systems has received outstanding reviews in mathematics and engineering journals:

“This book provides an introduction to the mathematics needed to model, analyze, and design feedback systems. . . . Feedback Systems develops transfer functions through the exponential response of a system, and is accessible across a range of disciplines that use feedback in physical, biological, information, and economic systems. . . . Exercises are provided at the end of every chapter, and an accompanying electronic solutions manual is available.”–Mechanical Engineering

“[T]his is a refreshing text which is delightful to read, and which even experts in the area may find a valuable resource for its diverse applications, and exercises, and its clear focus on fundamental concepts that does not get side-tracked by technical details.”–Matthias Kawski, Mathematical Reviews

“This book provides an interesting and original introduction to the design and analysis of feedback systems. It is addressed to engineers and scientists who are interested in feedback systems in physical, biological, information and social systems.”–Tadeusz Kaczorek, Zentralblatt MATH

We hope you will join us in extending congratulations to the authors!