Postgraduate Modules: POL6265 - Philosophy and Methodology of Political Research

Module Code Module Title
POL6265 Philosophy and Methodology of Political Research
Level Semester Credits
Level 4 Semester 1 30 credits

Taught by:

Dr Tom Johnston

Module description:

This module introduces MA students to the main areas of philosophy of social science and research methodology. It starts with the main epistemological and ontological positions underlying research projects. It then discusses methodology and introduces some important qualitative approaches. Quantitative approaches are dealt with in a separate module, but are discussed here where appropriate for comparison. Discussions of these areas are related to practical examples drawn from politics and international relations.

Module aims:

  • To introduce students to the most significant issues and debates in philosophy of social science.
  • To introduce ontology and epistemology and explain how these issues underpin research projects and affect theory and case selection.
  • To explain what is meant by research methodology and methods.
  • To introduce a range of qualitative methods and approaches including interviewing, ethnography and discourse analysis.
  • To explain how philosophy and methodology fit into overall research design.

Module schedule:

Week Topic
1 Module Introduction
2 Positivism and the Birth of Social Science
3 Interpretivism and Social Constructivism
4 Critical Theory
5 Feminism
6 Poststructuralism
7 Scientific Realism
8 Quantitative and Qualitative Research in Context
9 Interviewing and Focus Groups
10 Ethnographic Research
11 Discourse and Documentary Analysis
12 The Research Process and Final Reflections

Teaching methods:
  • 12 x 2-hour seminars
  • Essay 1 (3000 words) - 50% of mark
  • Essay 2 (3000 words) - 50% of mark

Resources available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance from module tutor.
  • Detailed module handbook.
  • Dedicated module site on MOLE2.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Indicative reading:

  • Benton, Ted and Ian Craib (2001) Philosophy of Social Science, Basingstoke: Palgrave
  • Bryman, Alan (2012) Social Research Methods, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Delanty, Gerard (2005) Social Science: Philosophical and Methodological Foundations, Buckingham: Open University Press
  • Flick, Uwe (2009) An Introduction to Qualitative Research, London: Sage
  • Gilbert, Nigel (2008) Researching Social Life, London: Sage
  • Smith, Mark (1998) Social Science in Question, London: Sage