Wargaming for Political Science Research

31 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2020 Last revised: 18 Feb 2021

See all articles by Erik Lin-Greenberg

Erik Lin-Greenberg

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Reid Pauly

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Jacquelyn Schneider

Stanford University

Date Written: February 17, 2021

Abstract

Political scientists are increasingly integrating wargames into their research. Either by fielding
original games as a data-generating process or by leveraging archival wargame materials,
researchers can study rare events or topics where data are difficult to obtain. Scholars, however,
have little guidance on how to apply this novel methodological approach to political science
research. This article evaluates how political scientists can use wargames as a method of scholarly
inquiry and sets out to establish a research agenda for wargaming in international relations. We
first differentiate wargames from other methodological approaches. We then chart out how
researchers can build and run their own games or draw from archival wargames for theory
development and testing. In doing so, we explain how researchers can navigate issues of
recruitment, bias, validity, and generalizability when using wargames for research, and identify
ways to empirically test the potential benefits and pitfalls of wargames as a tool of inquiry. We
argue that wargames offer unique opportunities for political scientists to study issues related to
decision-making both in and beyond the international relations subfield.

Keywords: wargaming, political science, methodology, international relations

Suggested Citation

Lin-Greenberg, Erik and Pauly, Reid and Schneider, Jacquelyn, Wargaming for Political Science Research (February 17, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3676665 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3676665

Erik Lin-Greenberg

Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Building E40, 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.eriklg.com

Reid Pauly

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Jacquelyn Schneider (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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