Formal models are used in political science as abstract representations of political institutions and choices in order to focus attention on key logics and causal mechanisms in a political process. Good modeling requires fluency in technical fields such as game theory and social choice theory, as well as the substantive knowledge to craft an appropriate and insightful model for a specific application.
The Models & Politics subfield, instituted by the faculty in 2007, connects advanced training in formal modeling techniques (also commonly referred to as formal theory, positive political theory, or political economy) with innovative substantive research in political science. It is designed for students who plan to make significant use of formal modeling in their own research in American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, or Political Theory. This subfield is appropriate for students who wish to use formal models to structure and inform their empirical research, as well as those who wish to become “pure” modelers.