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    (Original post by Craghyrax)
    Be more specific! Politics most certainly does not cling onto outdated theoretical models. It is very firmly grounded in ongoing empirical research, and I have absolutely no problem at all telling people why Politics and Sociology are important for understanding the world and developing policy.
    was meant mostly in jest.

    Fine, I'll be more specific - politicians never stop to question their assumptions. Or if they are fully aware of what their assumptions are.

    Don't care how recent your research or models are. The accusation I would level is that insufficient criticism is made of the assumptions you make in creating them and interpreting the findings, and that these assumptions often go unstated.
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    (Original post by The Mr Z)
    was meant mostly in jest.

    Fine, I'll be more specific - politicians never stop to question their assumptions. Or if they are fully aware of what their assumptions are.

    Don't care how recent your research or models are. The accusation I would level is that insufficient criticism is made of the assumptions you make in creating them and interpreting the findings, and that these assumptions often go unstated.
    Wait. You're comparing politicians to researchers in Social and Political Sciences?


    :toofunny:
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    (Original post by Craghyrax)
    Wait. You're comparing politicians to researchers in Social and Political Sciences?


    :toofunny:
    Well, actually I wasn't. :cool:
    (You asked me to be more specific, I just was - researchers can do whatever they like so long as their statistical analysis is sound)

    p.s. did you just delete the post of someone who asked for advice re college choice?
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    (Original post by The Mr Z)
    Well, actually I wasn't. :cool:
    (You asked me to be more specific, I just was - researchers can do whatever they like so long as their statistical analysis is sound)

    p.s. did you just delete the post of someone who asked for advice re college choice?
    This isn't the place for those questions and he kicked off with a spam post anyway, so I should hope so.
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    (Original post by The Mr Z)
    Well, actually I wasn't. :cool:
    (You asked me to be more specific, I just was - researchers can do whatever they like so long as their statistical analysis is sound)
    Statistical analysis is only one of the methods used in empirical research by social scientists. The vast majority of researchers in the field are very self aware about the dangers of making assumptions and the need to be aware of them. In fact, since the 70s they've all been obsessed with criticising quantitative research and statistical practices, and trying to find more 'reflexive' ways to do things. Every article published in the social sciences today has to be very explicit about the circumstances and interests of the researchers, how they designed the study, and what judgements they made in sorting through their data, in the hopes that where individual efforts to analyse one's own assumptions might fail, the collective scrutiny of the research community might help to make up for human error.
    I don't mean this in a bad way, but you probably ought to read a bit about qualitative research before making points like that again, because it just suggests you don't know very much about the discipline. (I'm not saying you should know something about it, but obviously its a bit premature to criticise something if you don't).

    p.s. did you just delete the post of someone who asked for advice re college choice?
    I moved it.
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    (Original post by Zoedotdot)
    This isn't the place for those questions and he kicked off with a spam post anyway, so I should hope so.
    hmm...I'd say the chat thread doesn't really have a defined role, and as such it doesn't have things that are not its role.

    At most one should direct him to a thread designed for that sort of question. Edit - which I see cragh has done.

    (Original post by Craghyrax)
    Statistical analysis is only one of the methods used in empirical research by social scientists. The vast majority of researchers in the field are very self aware about the dangers of making assumptions and the need to be aware of them. In fact, since the 70s they've all been obsessed with criticising quantitative research and statistical practices, and trying to find more 'reflexive' ways to do things. Every article published in the social sciences today has to be very explicit about the circumstances and interests of the researchers, how they designed the study, and what judgements they made in sorting through their data, in the hopes that where individual efforts to analyse one's own assumptions might fail, the collective scrutiny of the research community might help to make up for human error.
    I don't mean this in a bad way, but you probably ought to read a bit about qualitative research before making points like that again, because it just suggests you don't know very much about the discipline. (I'm not saying you should know something about it, but obviously its a bit premature to criticise something if you don't).



    I moved it.
    Ok, moving is sensible enough.

    I'm trying quite hard not to cause offence here, but it's getting difficult. I was making no criticism of social science research. In fact I wasn't really making any comment on it at all.
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    (Original post by The Mr Z)
    hmm...I'd say the chat thread doesn't really have a defined role, and as such it doesn't have things that are not its role.

    At most one should direct him to a thread designed for that sort of question. Edit - which I see cragh has done.
    It does have a defined role - it's a place for current students and alumni to chat, as indicated by its presence in the current students and alumni forum. The applicants have their own thread and a big college choice thread, which is where the post belongs - if we let them start asking questions in here we'd be overrun rather quickly.
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    (Original post by The Mr Z)
    I'm trying quite hard not to cause offence here, but it's getting difficult. I was making no criticism of social science research. In fact I wasn't really making any comment on it at all.
    Well your post was:
    (Original post by The Mr Z)
    ...politicians never stop to question their assumptions. Or if they are fully aware of what their assumptions are.

    Don't care how recent your research or models are. The accusation I would level is that insufficient criticism is made of the assumptions you make in creating them and interpreting the findings, and that these assumptions often go unstated.
    In this context you must either be referring to politicians as in people who run the country, or you must mean academics in the field of politics. Since you then went on to say that you weren't talking about politicians, the only option remaining was to assume that you were arguing that academics in the field of politics 'never stop to question their assumptions, are not fully aware of what their assumptions are' and that 'insufficient criticism is made of the assumptions they make in creating and interpreting findings' etc.

    If you'd like to say that you weren't making any comment at all, it would have been safer to delete your previous posts first.
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    (Original post by The Mr Z)
    I'm sure it's partly that they're too mathematical, there's also a reason you don't learn String Theory as an Undergrad. But it wouldn't hurt to point out the shortcomings of the simpler models and even spend some time analysing where they fail.

    I think one of the big reasons economical models are often so wrong is not that modelling the interactions of many people is hard (you can apply statistics, some things tend to average out, which means that it's actually easier than trying to model any individual or small group of people)
    I think the problem is that 1. These models are often based on incorrect axioms (As far as I can tell most economists aren't even aware what their inherent assumptions are, let along checking them)
    and 2. Economic systems seem inherently unstable, reacting exponentially to disturbances away from equilibrium rather than returning to equilibrium.
    Regarding the axioms, they are actually mentioned but just not emphasised as much as they perhaps should be.

    (Original post by lp386)
    I should have been more clear - I didn't mean that it was directly applied, I meant that it was taken in general by people who are doing it for the career prospects and not for the joy of the subject. As far as I can tell pretty much everyone goes into banking, consulting or grad school. One way or another (whether that's because of students who see it as a means to an end or professors who set the syllabus in looking to create grad students) the course isn't hugely intellectually focused.

    That said, I think the problem is quantity - the faculty keeps piling more and more crap onto the syllabus, making the exam questions compulsory rather than optional so you can't specialise and focusing entirely on mathematical models and occasional history lessons rather than assessing whether the models are any good for economics or what we're trying to do. It feels a lot like jumping through hoops, except the faculty keeps adding more of them and occasionally setting the hoops on fire (oh, you were expecting a formula sheet like they've had every year since the Tripos was created? Well suck on this.) It's the academic equivalent of hard labour rather than intellectually engaging imo.
    I think the compulsory questions actually made sense, especially in first year when you really should learn all the topics.

    (Original post by lp386)
    It would be good if we analysed how good they are or what the applied use is, but unless they're one of the straw man models put into the course so you can bash them to death, they're essentially treated as gospel. Maybe a quick look at the empirical evidence, none of the foundations of the assumptions that we look at.



    It also pulls the economics profession (and the degree) further and further away from the real world - if friends and family ask about what I'm learning or how it's useful, I can't explain it. If friends give me stick about how useless the discipline is or ask me what I think about other forms of government or modern issues, I have to tell them we haven't covered anything that's got anything to do with that ballpark. Even the supposedly "real world" paper in the first year is mostly about pre-1997 history and unions, instead of actually dealing with anything that's actually broadening. It has the hallmark of a contractual obligation so the external examiner can tick the breadth box. Actually, I think I might have to do another post with a set of suggestions for what would make the degree better...



    We do talk a little bit about stability but the assumptions (rationality, prizing "stuff" above all else, markets that clear etc.) don't tend to get questioned that much, certainly not at undergrad.
    I agree about the lack of real-world application, it's just tacked on at the end of Tripos questions for extra marks but you can easily get a 1st without it.

    (Original post by BigFudamental)
    I'd almost be willing to venture that economics is a bit of special case because what you learn at university and what you think you'll learn at university are so far removed. Brushing aside those that are only in it for the jobs, most aspiring economists are drawn to the subject because they want to understand the economy. They want to understand what goes on in the world, the reasons behind news headlines, and what tools are available to governments and companies to make an impact. When it turns out that most of what they do at undergrad is actually more mathematical philosophy (let's take this ridiculously oversimplified model and see where it takes us just for fun) than anything else, they become disillusioned. I'm not sure what the situation is with other subjects (do historians not do history? english students not analyse books and poems?), but it's entirely possible to do pretty well in an economics degree and really know quite little about the reasons behind economic phenomena (I'm living proof I guess. What little knowledge I do have about economics-y things comes mainly from outside reading).
    This sounds about right.
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    (Original post by Doughnuts!!)
    Disagree. It couldn't be further from that, it's just that loads of people who want to go on to be lawyers treat the degree like that.
    To be fair, it's useful for the bar. Though since most of us go on to be solicitors, yep, pretty useless.

    (Still love it though :love:)
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    (Original post by lp386)
    I should have been more clear - I didn't mean that it was directly applied, I meant that it was taken in general by people who are doing it for the career prospects and not for the joy of the subject. As far as I can tell pretty much everyone goes into banking, consulting or grad school.
    For an individual I don't think eventual career is a particularly good indicator of why the degree was chosen. A well paid graduate scheme is the default option. If you're a Cambridge graduate with a "good" degree and don't put the effort into thinking of something better, that's where you're likely to end up. (Obviously that doesn't mean that you can't use the distribution of destinations by subject to get some idea of why people tend to take a particular subject.)
    It also pulls the economics profession (and the degree) further and further away from the real world - if friends and family ask about what I'm learning or how it's useful, I can't explain it. If friends give me stick about how useless the discipline is or ask me what I think about other forms of government or modern issues, I have to tell them we haven't covered anything that's got anything to do with that ballpark.
    Why should it be useful?
    (Original post by gethsemane342)
    To be fair, it's useful for the bar.
    Sounds like my sort of degree.
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    Do references generally feature in the word count for dissertation-like things?
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    (Original post by BigFudamental)
    Do references generally feature in the word count for dissertation-like things?
    Yep. And footnotes. Bibliographies don't usually count.
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    Back from visiting the States :titan: for PhD-scouting

    (Original post by TheUnbeliever)
    ...
    I met a co-author of the Dragon book! :awesome:
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    (Original post by ukdragon37)
    Back from visiting the States :titan: for PhD-scouting
    Rep for the first time I've seen that epic smilie. :yep:
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    (Original post by ukdragon37)
    Back from visiting the States :titan: for PhD-scouting
    So where's your first choice?
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    (Original post by Topaz_eyes)
    So where's your first choice?
    Surprisingly I think I'm going to reject my US offers (Columbia and Yale) and do Part III in Cambridge, even though the offers are for PhD and are fully-funded.
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    (Original post by ukdragon37)
    Surprisingly I think I'm going to reject my US offers (Columbia and Yale) and do Part III in Cambridge, even though the offers are for PhD and are fully-funded.
    :shock:

    What put you off?
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    (Original post by ukdragon37)
    Surprisingly I think I'm going to reject my US offers (Columbia and Yale) and do Part III in Cambridge, even though the offers are for PhD and are fully-funded.
    :O Any reason? You ask to defer a year and start after Part III? Well done on the offers anyway :P
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    (Original post by ukdragon37)
    Surprisingly I think I'm going to reject my US offers (Columbia and Yale) and do Part III in Cambridge, even though the offers are for PhD and are fully-funded.
    Part III NatSci or Maths?
Updated: October 5, 2012
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