Millennial Reflections on International Studies > Evaluating Methodology in International Studies

Evaluating Methodology in International Studies

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Methodology

"Formal Methods in International Relations"
Michael Nicholson

"Cumulation, Synthesis and Research Design for the 'Post-Fourth Wave'"
Harvey Starr

"Accomplishments and Limitations of a Game-Theoretic Approach to International Relations"
Bruce Bueno do Mesquita

"Game Theory in Practice: Problems and Prospects in Applying it to International Relations"
Steve J. Brams

"Reflections on Quantitative International Politics"
Dina A. Zinnes

"Reflections on Millenniums, Old and New: The Evolution and Role of Quantitative Approaches to the Study of International Politics"
James Lee Ray

"Quantitative International Politics and Its Critics: Then and Now"
Russell Leng

"Qualitative Methods in International Relations"
Jack S. Levy

"Case Study Methodology in International Studies: From Storytelling to Hypothesis Testing"
Zeev Maoz


Excerpts and Abstracts

Excerpt from:
"Formal Methods in International Relations"

Michael Nicholson
University of Sussex, England

"Approaches to the analysis of international relations using formal methods are now well established. Models of this, that or the other international relations problem appear frequently in many of the leading journals. While there are still those who hold that formal methods only manage to render obscure what had hitherto been clear, the achievements of such methods, commonplace in all the other social sciences, make such positions hard to justify. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the principles behind formalization. I also wish to justify its extensive use, mainly by conceptual argument and by referring very briefly to some of the achievements. These achievements are genuine and require attention from those outside the formal tradition as well as those within it. Ultimately the aim of formal modeling is the same as that of any other tradition in international relations—to understand better the international system and point in the direction of making the world a pleasanter place to live in. Has formal modeling contributed to this, and, if so, what are the directions it might continue to move in?..."

Excerpts from:
"Cumulation, Synthesis and Research Design for the 'Post-Fourth Wave'"

Harvey Starr
Department of Government and International Studies
University of South Carolina

"...While this point in time is a propitious one for reflection, the members of the Quantitative Methods panel have not had to wait for the millennium to engage in a variety of self-reflective and stock-taking activities. Their career-long search for cumulation, better theory, and the best ways to test and evaluate that theory is quite evident...."

"... [This paper tries] to indicate some of the methodological challenges that face students of world//global/international politics/relations as we enter the 21st century. Cumulation and "progress" in the study of global phenomena will depend on the quality and rigor of our theories and our methods. Synthesis will follow broad agent-structure approaches that cut across more standard levels of analysis and disciplinary boundaries. The challenges facing researchers arise from finding the appropriate methods by which to study the agent-structure problem...."

Excerpts from:
"Accomplishments and Limitations of a Game-Theoretic Approach to International Relations"

Bruce Bueno do Mesquita
Hoover Institution
Stanford University

"... Over the course of the ... thirty or forty years [since the 1960s], game theory became analytically more sophisticated, contributed greatly to the acquisition of cumulative knowledge in international relations, and gradually emerged as a tool for generating hypotheses worthy of empirical study and as a contributor to policy debate. Game theoretic analyses today increasingly are closely linked to empirical tests and to questions of great policy significance.

This essay summarizes one person's views of the strengths and contributions of game theory as a tool for studying international relations, and assesses the limitations inherent in the current state of the science. [It does] not review individual studies in depth, [but focuses] instead on broad patterns and generalizations...."

Abstract:
"Game Theory in Practice: Problems and Prospects in Applying It to International Relations"

Steven J. Brams
Department of Politics
New York University

Four problems plague game-theoretic models in international relations (IR): (1) misspecifiying the rules; (2) confusing goals and rational choice; (3) arbitrarily reducing the multiplicity of equilibria; and (4) forsaking backward induction. An alternative approach, theory of moves (TOM), is discussed and applied to Prisoners' Dilemma and to Anwar Sadat's peace initiative, and visit to Jerusalem, in 1977. TOM incorporates into the framework of game theory an initial state in a payoff matrix, the moves and countermoves required to reach a "nonmyopic equilibrium", and threat, moving and order power that reflect asymmetries in the capabilities of the players. It also allows for incomplete information, which in the case of Sadat's peace initiative caused great surprise. Sadat's initiative paved the way for ending the 30-year military conflict between Egypt and Israel at Camp David in 1978. Beyond this case, TOM provides both explanations of, and prescriptions for, optimal play in games, depending on where play starts and the power of the players, that could aid foreign policy makers.

Excerpts from:
"Reflections in Quantitative International Politics"

Dina A. Zinnes
Department of Political Science
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

"... I found the [reflection panel] questions hard to answer within the context of a panel on Quantitative Methods. I am not, for example, sure that there are "unresolved debates" in regards to quantitative methods, I don't know what "theoretical insights" we have had regarding methodology, nor am I clear as to the meaning of "a fruitful synthesis of approaches" within this context. So while I will reflect on the uses and abuses of methodology in the general field of international studies/relations it will be more of a personal statement about where we have been, where we seem to be going, and what we need to consider in the decades ahead...."

Excerpt from:
"Reflections on Millenniums, Old and New: The Evolution and Role of Quantitative Approaches to the Study of International Politics"

James Lee Ray
Vanderbilt University

"As we enter the new millennium, the time seems right for a broad retrospective, introspective, and prospective analytical review of all categories of human endeavor, even including the academic study of international politics. This paper will focus on the evolution of the subfield of international politics over the last 40 years, with a particular emphasis on the development of quantitative approaches. It will focus on its shortcomings, but also point out what to this author at least seem worthy of being considered some accomplishments. It will conclude with a few brief prescriptions for the future. It is presumptuous of me (and, to be fair to myself, to any one person) to take on such a task. I have two excuses. One is that the task was assigned to me. The other is that for good or ill I currently occupy something of a "gatekeeper" role in the field, that is, editor of a journal. That being the case, my views on these matters may be of some interest to practitioners in the field (assuming they are desirous of getting their works published), no matter how idiosyncratic and otherwise lacking in intrinsic merit they may be...."

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