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Thread: Political Methodology

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    Political Methodology

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    Hi. Can you please recommend some Political Science PhD programs that are strong in the field of Methodology? I'm particularly interested in working with Game Theory. I appreciate your help.

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    You have to be more specific. Game theory is a means rather than an ends in itself. Most political scientists use game theory to study some substantive topic (e.g. legislative bargaining in American politics or nuclear proliferation in International Relations) rather than studying game theory just for the sake of doing game theory. If you are interested in the latter then an Economics Phd would be more appropriate.

    Also, political methodology as a field and game theory are two different things. The former refers to statistical analysis of political data while the latter falls under the umbrella of 'formal theory/modelling'.

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    Thanks for your reply, yankeefan. Well, to be completely honest with you, I'm not particularly interested in any of the issues that Political Science deals with. My ultimate goal is studying and doing research in game theory, be it applied or theoretical, although I must say I'm more interested in the latter. What I'm really looking for is a PhD program where I can get a strong formal training and ultimately doing research in game theory. Indeed, I plan on applying mainly to Economics PhD programs but I'm just looking for alternative ways to get a formal training in game theory and I thought that a Political Science PhD could serve this purpose.

    By the way, thanks for clarifying the difference between political methodology and formal theory/modeling.

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    If you have no interest in political science research then do not apply to a political science PhD. Upon completion you will be expected to teach political science and publish in political science journals, and in some departments you will be expected to turn your dissertation into a book for the popular press (In Poli Sci, books > journal publications, the complete opposite applies in economics).

    I can't think of a single Political Science PhD where you can go there and focus solely on game theory. You will be required to specialize in a substantive field (American, Comparative, IR, etc...) in addition to your methods training (methods collectively refers to political methodology & formal modelling). Also, you will likely have distribution requirements that you must fulfill in order to safeguard against overspecialization. Remember at the end of your PhD you will go on the political science job market and if you can't teach basic introductory courses such as intro to american govt/IR/CP then you will do terribly. You can't simply say you will teach game theory; the modal political science undergrad will not take a math class higher than precalculus, and at lower ranked schools many of them aren't even competent in high school algebra. To be a political science professor, you have to be able to teach at least one substantive topic.

    Also if you have no interest in political science research, it will be blatantly apparent in your SOP (which, unlike in economics, they actually read and take very seriously). The only place I can think of where you can focus extensively on methods (game theory et al) is U Rochester. Their program is a bit of a double-edge sword - their methods training is highly valued and they place extremely well for those people who combine their methods training with a substantive focus. Others who ignore substantive topics tend to do quite mediocre. Lately they seem to be producing a lot more of the latter which is why they have slid down the rankings and are actively made fun of on many political science forums.

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