Complex Systems Analysis Case Study

For this assignment, you will analyze a complex social system of your choosing based on a specific “explanatory challenge” (i.e., a phenomenon that you want to explain) that you wish to address. The system could be a professional sports league, a government, a university, a military branch, or any other group or organization constituted by several hundred or more individuals, but typically not more than a few thousand. The explanatory challenge might be something like asking why some teams are more successful than others, why some governments tend to be corrupt, and so on. You will need to research the system you choose, and refer to your findings in your essay. Make sure that this research informs your breakdown and analysis of the system, and referenced in a bibliography at the end of your paper.

You should begin by providing a brief overview of the system you will describe and a summary of the explanatory problem that will be the basis of your analysis. It should be evident why you are treating this as a “complex system,” rather than a system that only exhibits “merely complicated” behavior (such as a grandfather clock or a jet engine). The rest of your analysis should accomplish the following tasks:

  1. Describe the explanatory challenge: What phenomenon or behavior of the system in particular you want to understand or explain? This step is critical to effectively accomplishing the subsequent steps (recall how the explanatory challenge shaped our decompositions in the hospital and soccer league examples).
  2. Identify the component parts and structural features of the system at different levels of analysis, including individual agents, sub-groups (such as teams, clubs, divisions, or branches), as well as hierarchical and non-hierarchical relations among them.
  3. Evaluate multiple causal relations or feedback loops relevant to your explanatory challenge.
  4. Describe possible emergent properties that may arise from the interactions among various constituents in the system, and identify the characteristics of these interactions that would give rise to these properties.
  5. As you complete your assignment, consider how the above can be synthesized, as many of the above elements are inter-related (rather than each a standalone analysis).
  6. Your analysis should reflect what you discovered in your research, but should not merely repeat it. Synthesize different sources of information to decompose the system and the interactions among its components.

Conclude by briefly summarizing what you have discussed, noting any particularly interesting or surprising features of the system that you have uncovered, and explaining how this illuminates the explanatory challenge that sparked this investigation.

Your analysis must cover the characteristics of complex systems discussed in this unit, using #systemanalysis and #emergentproperties.

In addition, you will be graded on some learning outcomes from last semester:

#composition: Communicate with a clear and precise style.

#thesis: Write a clear declarative sentence that takes a firm position on the topic under consideration and serves to organize the rest of the work.

Be sure to draw attention to your most prominent applications of LOs (especially those mentioned in the “LOs to be graded” section below) by adding footnotes. In the footnote text (at the bottom of the page), provide the hashtag of the LO and a 1-2 sentence explanation of your application. Help the professor understand exactly why this constitutes a strong application, but do not elaborate on your analysis. For a given LO, create at most one footnote per page.

Footnote text does not count toward the target length of the assignment, and all applications of the LOs (not just those that are footnoted) could count toward your grade.

Include a word count at the end of your main text (prior to the bibliography).

Finally, make sure to proofread and check your assignment in Grammarly, and also to include a both in-text citations and a bibliography, formatted in APA style, listing all resources you used in preparing this assignment. Citations and bibliography DO NOT count towards the word limit. This includes journal articles, book chapters, and Internet resources such as Wikipedia, blog posts, or popular media. Quotations (if any), or ideas and examples that are summarized or paraphrased from other authors must be appropriately cited. If you have any questions about this, please contact your instructor.


Assignment Information


1,000 – 1,300 words