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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Methodology and Formal Theory

METHODOLOGY is centrally about statistical theory and methods. Political methodology adapts and develops ideas from statistics to the empirical study of politics, in much the same ways as do econometrics in Economics and psychometrics in Psychology.

The core of this enterprise is the analysis of statistical models based on substantive theory, in a growing number of cases mathematically derived (spatial models of party competition being a prime example). Students are encouraged and expected to learn how to develop and interpret models that comport with their theories, as well as how to estimate the models' parameters and judge the quality of the estimates.

Courses in Methodology are designed to be useful to students wishing to conduct rigorous analysis of empirical questions in American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Formal Theory, and Public Law; to understand and be able to criticize articles in these fields in the leading political science journals; to contribute to the leading political science journals themselves; to be able to stand up to methodological criticisms by others; or to make original contributions to political methodology itself.

FORMAL THEORY consists of mathematical efforts to model political behavior. This means developing a deductive system of propositions based on a basic set of assumptions about political action. In Game Theory, for example, the individual is modeled as a rational agent who uses the resources under his control in an effort to "Win the Game" based on the assumption that his opponent(s) are doing likewise. Game Theory is a set of mathematical propositions based on this premise. Game Theory applies to any interactive situation. As such, it is a cornerstone of Formal Theory. The Spatial Theory of Voting and Elections is one area of Formal Theory to which Game Theory is applied. The Theory of Social Choice is another area of Formal Theory and concerns the logical properties of group decision-making.

Basic Courses

  • Statistics I (Basic Statistics)
  • Statistics II (Regression Models)
  • Introduction to Formal Political Analysis
  • Game Theory

Advanced Courses

  • Advanced Regression
  • Applied Quantitative Analysis
  • Covariance Structure Models
  • Frameworks for Social Science Research
  • Math Methods for Political Analysis
  • Mathematical Methods for Political Analysis (Maximum Likelihood Estimation)
  • Models for Discrete Dependent Variables
  • Politics and Economy
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Simultaneous Equation Models
  • Spatial Theory
  • Time-Series Analysis

Out-of-Department Courses

Students wishing to make contributions to the Methodology field are encouraged to supplement these offerings by taking econometrics or statistics courses in the Economics or Mathematics Department.


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