Causal Modeling – Introduction to Academic Mainstream


In most fields of empirical research, research aims at identifying cause-effect relationships. Even though causal thinking has been criticized in many fields of the humanities and the social sciences, the most commonly relied-on methodologies in these fields build on methods that assume knowledge of how causal relationships are identified and described, and how hypotheses of causal relations are tested.

Examples are survey analysis, experimental studies in psychology, and policy analysis. Also, a good deal of criticisms of mainstream science coming from, say, cultural studies, assumed knowledge of causal modeling. In design research, causal thinking usually operates through sophisticated criticisms. Understanding these criticisms and how they are tied to notions of causality require knowledge of the procedures in causal modeling.

This class teaches how causal modeling works. It shows how one can identify, describe, and analyze causal relationships, key concepts related to causal modeling, and finally touches the criticisms and alternatives of modeling.

In UIAH, this class is a response to two types of needs. First, it clarified the basis of mainstream methodology for criticism. An intelligent criticism of mainstream science requires that one understands how this mainstream works. Secondly, being able to state one’s research problem in causal terms is a tremendously effective tool for getting a conceptual grasp of research. Knowing the basis makes one far more effective.


The main learning aim is to give participants an ability to see research problems in causal terms, and give elementary tools for translating problems so modeled into a research design.

For whom

The class is particularly useful for researchers who build and construct devices, and hope to test them with people. The class is for doctoral students mostly in constructive fields at UIAH, including but not limited to School of Design and Media Lab.


Lectures and literature give 4 ects points. With an essay, up to 8 ects points are negotiable.

Requirements (4 or 8 ects):

Option 1, 4 ects:

Participation in lectures, 60% 10% Participation in lectures

Final essay (see syllabus, instructions in the first lecture)


Presentations in lectures

Exam 40%

Exam in Taik general exam in April or May.

Option 2, 8 ects:

In addition to above, an optional, extensive essay in which one’s own research problem is turned into a research plan using learning from the classroom.


Each participant has to present a plan in the class at the end of the class for feedback. This plan needs to go through the research problem in causal terms. The instructor is available for consulting for one hour before the class in February in his room (8th floor, old library, left side).


Exam is to be taken at UIAH general exam, which is organized once a month between 10-14. You need to register for the exam 10 days before the exam in TALSS, on the 2rd floor of the Gallery corridor part of the UIAH building.


Last day to register

Sat 18.4.2009 klo 10–14

Wed 8.4.2009

Sat 2.5.2009 klo 10–14

Wed 22.4.2009

Sat 16.5.2009 klo 10–14

Wed 6.5.2009

Sat 13.6.2009 klo 10–14

Mon 3.6.2009

I’ll pose three questions and require a written answer to two.


Literature will be available on Reserve in UIAH Library before the class begins. Some papers will be made available through class Web site.