Undergraduate Modules: POL229 - Political Analysis: Research Design and Data Analysis

Module Code:

POL 229

Module Title:

Political Analysis: Research Design and Data Analysis


Level 2


Semester 1


20 Credits

Taught by:

Dr Alistair McMillan, Senior Lecturer in Politics

Module Description:

This module will familiarise students with a range of approaches and methods used in the study of contemporary political phenomena. It considers how we acquire knowledge about political ideas, institutions and practices. It concentrates on an understanding empirical political research, using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Particular attention is paid to the collection, analysis and utilisation of quantitative data, and to the role played by numerical and statistical claims in contemporary political argument.

Module Aims:

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a range of approaches and methods employed in the study of politics.
  • demonstrate the ability to interpret and to employ descriptive statistics, indicators, questionnaires and other quantitative data used in contemporary political argument and analysis, and to understand the relevance of more complex statistical methods for political studies.
  • demonstrate an understanding of the stages involved in the research process from specifying a research question to analysing empirical evidence.
  • demonstrate an understanding of the relationships between theory and data for political research.
  • demonstrate that they are capable of working effectively in groups.
  • demonstrate intellectual and practical skills, including understanding complex concepts and theories, working with numerical data, exercising critical judgement, utilising primary and secondary sources, contributing to an oral presentation and deepening the capacity for independent learning.
  • demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, including development of relevant study and research skills of locating, using and presenting quantitative data, library and electronic resources.

This module also equips students with a range of important transferrable skills, which are vital in terms of employability, including working independently and as part of a team; managing a varied workload; assimilating and synthesising multiple data sources; constructing coherent arguments; and preparing written reports and verbal presentations.

Module Schedule:

Week Topic
1 Introduction to the Module
2 Theory and research in politics
3 Questionnaire design
4 Representation and sampling in political analysis
5 Analysing and Interpreting data
6 Graphical presentation of data
7 Using SPSS to analyse political data
8 Variables and descriptive statistics
9 Basic inferential statistics
10 Multiple explanations and statistical control
11 Quantitative methods in political analysis

Teaching Methods:

  • 11 * 1 hour lectures
  • 11 * 1 hour seminars


  • Group Assignment – 40% of mark
  • Quantitative Methods Assignment – 60% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors.
  • Detailed 20-30 page module handbook.
  • Dedicated module intranet site.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Indicative Reading:

Carlson, J.M. and Hyde, M.S. (2002) Doing Empirical Political Research. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

Halperin, S. and Heath, O. (2012) Political Research: Methods and Skills. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kellstedt, P.M. and Whitten, G.D. (2009) The Fundamentals of Political Science Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

What Our Students Say

'The module provided an important perspective on political analysis, and I believe this will come in useful for future job applications'.

'The lectures were superb, making me feel confident in a subject which I had rarely even touched upon before.'

'The content was great as it provided a new and useful tool that seems to be asked for in social science careers and as a way to see how statistical data is produced and can be misused and misinterpreted by the media, politicians and other interested parties.'