The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Methodology and Formal Theory

Data and graphs. Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash.

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 models of political behavior. Introduction to Formal Political Analysis provides students with basic literacy in probability and utility theory, decision theory, and game theory. Formal Political Analysis II covers more advanced topics and techniques and is aimed at preparing students to produce original research utilizing game theory and social choice. Students specializing in methodology as a field have the option of taking these courses and answering a section on the methodology comprehensive exam dealing with formal theory. The department does not offer formal theory as a stand alone field, but rather as a specialty within political methodology.

Basic Courses

  • Scope and Methods of Political Science
  • Statistics I (Basic Statistics)
  • Statistics II (Regression Models)
  • Introduction to Formal Political Analysis

Advanced Courses

  • Advanced Regression
  • Advanced Statistical Analysis (Maximum Likelihood Estimation)
  • Applied Quantitative Analysis
  • Causal Inference
  • Conceptualization and Measurement
  • Covariance Structure Models
  • Experimental Methods in Political Science
  • Formal Political Analysis II
  • Frameworks for Social Science Research
  • Math Methods for Political Analysis
  • Politics and Economy
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Simultaneous Equation Models
  • Survey Design and Analysis
  • Time-Series Analysis
  • Time Series Cross Section/HLM

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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    The University of Texas at Austin
    158 W 21st ST STOP A1800
    Batts Hall 2.116
    Austin, TX 78712-1704