STV4020G – Rational Choice in Empirical Political Science

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

In all parts of political science, scholars often use a game-theoretic model or some other rational choice framework to analyze their research questions and to develop empirically testable hypotheses about politics and policy making. Examples of political science topics being analyzed with this analytical tool include aspects of international cooperation, international and domestic conflict, democracy, institutional design (at all levels), voting, bureaucratic politics and more. This course aims to enable students to use a game-theoretic model or other rational choice framework in their own research.

The course consists of five main parts

  • The first part introduces the students to the relationship between institutions, rational choice theory, and political science in general
  • The second part deals with the construction, solving and evaluation of formal models
  • The third part explains how models can be confronted with empirical evidence in the form of case studies
  • The fourth part studies how formal models can be confronted with experimental evidence
  • The fifth part similarly explains how models can be confronted with empirical evidence in the form of large-n statistical analysis

Learning outcome


Students will acquire knowledge about:

  • The use of rational choice theory in political science
  • Rational choice institutionalism as a methodology
  • How to construct and evaluate models
  • Various methods for solving models, including backward induction, forward induction, elimination of weakly dominated strategies, and equilibrium selection
  • How to use case studies to empirically assess various types of game-theoretic models, including static games, sequential games, and repeated games
  • How to use experiments to empirically evaluate rational choice models
  • How to conduct statistical evaluation of game-theoretic models


Students will be able to:

  • Critically read and evaluate rational choice based literature in political science
  • Construct and analyze their own models
  • Apply different types of empirical evidence to confront models with evidence
  • Apply various statistical tools and techniques to confront models with evidence


Students will:

  • Enhance their competence in analyzing complex questions thoroughly, critically, and independently
  • Enhance their competence concerning the relationship between theoretical models and empirical evidence


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

 Apply for guest student status if you are admitted to another Master's programme.


7 lectures and 3 seminars.

Mandatory activities

  • Attend and participate actively in 2 out of 3 seminars
  • Submit a 3-5 page outline
  • Give a short oral presentation of the outline
  • Comment on at least one other student's outline

Absence from mandatory activities

If you are absent from a seminar, you must notify the Department of Political Science within three workdays after the seminar. Contact your seminar leader immediately in order to organise a new time for the activity.

Use this form to report absence. Valid documentation must be enclosed.


Written assignment (5000-7500 words in length).

Guidelines for written assignments

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

You may submit your response in English or Norwegian.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






This course is not taught on a regular basis.

Teaching language