Postgraduate Modules: POL6255 - Research Methods

Module Code

POL 6255

Module Title

Research Methods


Level 4




30 credits

Taught by:

Adrian Millican and Charles Pattie

Module Description:

This module is a CORE for all students on the MA in Politics with Research Methods programme.

This module focuses on research methods and research design in politics. We will consider the selection of appropriate research methods and learn how to analyse cross-national datasets. The module aims to provide the skills to develop a research outline and conduct independent quantitative research for the thesis: how to develop a theoretically-motivated research question based on a critical examination of previous research, how to develop a research design and testable empirical hypotheses, how to select appropriate methods for analysis and find adequate data sources, how to conduct data analysis, the interpretation of results in relation to previous research.

The seminars will require engaged class participation and involve group presentations on the week’s essential readings and/or data analysis workshops in the IT lab.

Students are strongly encouraged to attend workshops held by the Governance and Participation Research Group 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:

  • A grasp of the fundamental issues involved in designing research and in selecting appropriate research methods;
  • An appreciation of the utility and relative strengths and demerits of various qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods in political research;
  • The ability to formulate an original research question based on a review of previous scholarly research work and to devise a plan to study it;
  • Knowledge of the key principles of empirical political research and the ability to test empirical hypotheses through data analysis using STATA;
  • The ability to apply the following skills for independent research for the thesis: examine survey data from established cross-national datasets, set up an empirical research design, evaluate published research and develop research questions for study, develop testable empirical hypotheses, test them through the analysis of data from established cross-national datasets in STATA software, write up statistical results (including tables and figures) and discuss their implications in relation to results from previous literature.

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, quantitative data analysis.

Module Schedule:

1 Introduction to the logic of social inquiry
2 Issues of measurement and cross-cultural research
3 Sampling, case selection and case studies
4 Qualitative methods: semi-structured interviews and field studies
5 Quantitative methods: survey research and data analysis
6 Introduction to STATA and data sources
7 Descriptive statistics
8 Hypothesis testing
9 Graphs in STATA
10 Linear regression
11 Logistic regression
12 STATA, data, and your dissertation

Teaching Methods:

  • 12 * 2 hour seminars


  • Essay 1 (2,500 words) - 40% of mark
  • Essay 2 (3,500 words) - 60% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors;
  • Detailed Module Outline with weekly reading list;
  • Dedicated module intranet site;
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Indicative Reading:

Agresti & Finlay (1997) Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences. Prentice Hall.

Hamilton. 2013. Statistics with STATA. Brooks / Cole.

Hantrais & Mangen. 2007. Cross-National Research Methodology and Practice. Routledge.

Hoyle, Harris & Judd. 2002. Research Methods in Social Relations.

Johnson & Reynolds. 2012. Political Science Research Methods. Washington: CQ Press.

Kellstedt & Whitten. 2009. Fundamentals of Political Science Research. Cambridge.

King, Keohane & Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry.

Kohler & Kreuter. 2009. Data Analysis Using Stata.

Manheim et al. 2012. Empirical Political Analysis: Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods.

Rubin & Rubin. 2012. Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data.

Shively. 2013. The Craft of Political Research.

What our Students Say:

"Really interesting and stimulating module. Maria is a really helpful and nice lecturer."

"Good to run through the statistical techniques being used each week at the start of the seminar, really helpful."

"The module tutor was very helpful. She pointed out exactly what was the problem and encouraged me to do my best for the assignment."

"The way Maria encourages students were the best teaching methods that I experienced in Sheffield Univ. so far."