Postgraduate Modules: POL6160 - Research Methods in Politics

Module Code

POL 6160

Module Title

Research Methods in Politics


Level 4




15 credits

Taught by:


Module Description:

This aim of this module is to introduce MA students to research design and research methods in political research and to provide the skills to develop a research outline proposal for the MA thesis. We will also consider the application and selection of appropriate qualitative and quantitative methods in political research. The seminars will require engaged class participation and involve group presentations on the week’s recommended readings as well as individual presentations of MA thesis research proposals in the last two seminars. All students are required to do each week’s recommended readings and to be prepared to discuss these in class.

Students are strongly encouraged to attend the Governance and Participation Research Workshops as these will provide practical illustrations of many of the issues covered in the course and will aid with Assignments 1 and 2.

Module Aims:

By the end of the module, students should be able to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of how to structure an MA thesis / research outline
  • The ability to critique the key arguments, research design and methodologies applied in a published journal article
  • A grasp of the fundamental issues involved in designing research and preparing an outline of one’s proposed research project
  • The ability to formulate an original research question based on a review of previous scholarly research work and to devise an appropriate research plan / design to study it
  • An appreciation of the utility and relative strengths and demerits of various qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods in political research

This module also equips students with a range of important transferrable skills, which are vital in terms of employability, including working independently as well as part of a team; managing a varied workload; assimilating and synthesising multiple theoretical ideas; constructing coherent, independent and critical arguments.

Module Schedule:

8 Introduction to the Logic of Social Inquiry (5 November)
9 Issues of Measurement (12 November)
10 Sampling/Case Selection and Case Studies (19 November)
11 Survey Research (26 November)
12 MA Research Outline Presentations (3 & 10 December)
13 MA Research Outline Presentations (3 & 10 December)

Teaching Methods:

  • 6 * 2 hour lectures


  • Assignment 1 - 40% of mark
  • Assignment 2 - 60% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors.
  • Detailed module outline with weekly reading list (most readings are journals articles or digitised pdf book sectionis directly available from the MOLE2 site.
  • Dedicated module site on MOLE2.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Indicative Reading:

Almond, Gabriel A. and Stephen J. Genco (1977) “Clouds, Clocks, and the Study of Politics.” World Politics, 29: 489-522.

Becker, Howard (2008) Writing for Social Scientists Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Converse, Philip E. (1986) “Generalization and the Social Psychology of 'Other Worlds'.” In Metatheory in Social Science, eds. Donald W. Fiske and Richard A Shweder. Chicago: University of Chicago Press , pp. 42-60.

King, Garey, Keohane, Robert and Sidney Verba (1994) Designing Social Inquiry. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Ragin, Charles (1992) The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. University of California Press

Schmitter, Phillipe C (2009) “The Nature and Future of Comparative Politics.” European Political Science Review, 1: 33-61.