What is Modelling?

Note that there are many different types of models and many different uses for them. Models categories include: stochastic models, deterministic models, micro-models, macro-models, autonomous models, continuous models, differential models, compartmental models and many more. Generally, models are created when society has a question that cannot be answered or measured in the real world.

To put it simply: Build a simulated system and investigate.

Let’s break that down.


The system is the thing we want to know more about. A system could be proteins interacting with one another, polio spreading through a country or a group of Sims buying groceries in SimCity.


The system being simulated means that it is an estimate of the real world. It is not the real thing, but a representation of it. It is simplified with assumptions, which reduces how complicated it is. To be considered valid and worthwhile, the representation must match the real system.


Building the simulated system looks different depending on the type of model. It can be a computer program, a miniature representation of a building, or a water tank with wave machines. While building the model, you calibrated it to mimic the system you are interested in.


Now, you are ready to investigate the question, theory or phenomenon. You present the model with all of your tricky questions, vary parameters and observe the system’s response. If the model is calibrated correctly, what happens to the model will represent what would happen in the real world: providing you with an answer!