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Formal Modeling



Formal models are ubiquitous in political science and, to a lesser extent, public administration, research. This course aims to introduce students to the basics of modeling in the social sciences.

First, the course will discuss the place of formal theoretical models in the research process according to different philosophies of social sciences – positivism, empiricism, etc. The questions why do we need formal models and how can formal models be empirically evaluated will be addressed. Next, we will turn towards rational choice spatial models. During two sessions we will discuss spatial models of EU decision-making, formal models of government formation, and models of delegation (principal-agent models). Next, we will move into the realm of game theory. In two sessions we are going to uncover how game-theoretic analysis works and review applications in international relations (deterrence), as well as games of incomplete information and signaling. One session will be devoted to agent-based computational modeling (applications include racial segregation and ethnic conflict) and to structural mathematical models (e.g. models of policy diffusion), which offer an alternative to the rational choice spatial and game-theoretic approaches. The final session will be devoted to discussing the student research paper ideas.

The course is targeted to students who want to develop skills for reading and evaluating academic research that uses formal models, and to those who consider using formal models in their own research work.

Methods of Instruction
Lectures, group discussion, and presentation.

Approximately 500 pp.
Academic articles and book chapters, to be announced separately.


Students are required to write a paper in which they build a formal model of a real-world puzzle.


Monday 1 November till 20 December, 13.00-15.00 hrs., in 3B08.