Link to Syllabus: POL S 559 - Fall 2017 Syllabus
This course will focus on applications of formal (game theoretic) models in social science research. The course is designed to achieve two broad goals. First, students will develop the skillset to understand and critically evaluate simple formal models in their own areas of interest. To this end, we will work through a selection of papers which employ flexible, workhorse models in the social sciences. Each week students are expected to work through assigned models taking care to understand specific modeling decisions and the logical derivation of results. Second, we will engage in a quarter-long discussion about the usefulness of formal models and how they may or may not be an asset in your own research. Students will participate in two workshops during the quarter where they design and solve a simple formal model of their own. These workshops provide an opportunity to practice presenting formal models, receive feedback on the evolution of your theory, and learn from one another’s challenges and successes in the early-stages of theory development.
A note on prerequisites. While an introductory course on game theory (i.e., POL S 559: Game Theory) or some other exposure to formal modeling (i.e., IPCSR, undergraduate coursework, self-study, etc.) is certainly helpful for this course, it is not necessarily a requirement. We will open the course with a primer on game theory that introduces the language and central concepts necessary to get started — this may feel like a review for some and deluge of information for others. Your performance will be evaluated accordingly, though our focus will never be on solving highly technical models. I see formal models as an exceedingly helpful tool in my own research and want to make that tool available to students, regardless of whether they become consumers or producers of formal models in their own research. If you are interested in taking the course but concerned about your background and how that might affect your experience, please set up a time to come talk to me beforehand and I can provide you more information as you are deciding if it is a good fit.