Doctoral class: „Frontiers of populism research“

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Academic Year: 
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Description: 

In this doctoral class, we discuss innovative interdisciplinary research on populism. The seminar includes
original, not yet published research from a number of (sub-)disciplines, including area studies, media and
communication science, gender studies, political philosophy, sociology, history, international relations,
political science.

Learning Outcomes: 

Objectives and learning outcomes

- In this doctoral class, students discuss innovative research on populism from multiple fields.

- They develop their skills to critically discuss academic research, and engage in a scholarly
discussion with academics.

- They develop their skills to assess a problem from an interdisciplinary perspective, and, in
particular, selecting the most appropriate (disciplinary) methodology for a specific research


Course requirements and grading
Class participation – 25%
Reading responses – 30%
Literature review – 45%

1. Class participation
Students follow the debate, take a critical standpoint, and confront the authors with this

2. Reading responses
On six occasions, students hand in a critical comment (150-250 words) on the weekly reading
assignment. The critical comment entails a very brief summary of the main argument. The
students’ input builds on this summary discussion.

For instance, this input can address the theoretical argument, can entail an inter-disciplinary
perspective (e.g. confront the argument with the insights/methodology/approaches from a
different discipline), the methodology, the empirical discussion, confront the study with other
relevant empirical cases. Or it can make suggestions about the further (theoretical, empirical,
methodological, inter-disciplinary) development of the argument. Where possible, students refer
to relevant literature for their input..

The reading responses are graded
a) 6 individual contributions: appropriateness of the argument, rigorousness of the critique,
and references to the literature; and
b) in light of the diversity of approaches taken throughout the semester: can students take
different roles and perspectives in discussing academic research?
Deadline: on the day preceding the seminar (=usually Tuesday), 13.00h.

3. Literature review
Going beyond the body of literature in the syllabus, students read a recent research monograph
on populism (original work, published since 2015, minimum 150 pages), and discuss it from their
own, critical perspective.


-The essay includes a short summary (max. 1/3) of the main argument and findings of the
monograph, with an emphasis on the points that are subject to the critical discussion;

-the critical discussion capitalises from the theoretical and methodological approaches and
concepts encountered in the doctoral seminar, and refers explicitly to them;

-the essay formulates a minimum of three main claims/hypotheses/critiques, which are
clearly distinct from each other;

-these claims/hypotheses/critiques include a minimum of two of the following: critical
discussion of the theoretical argument, of the methodology, of the empirical cases, a
discussion of empirical cases not covered in the monograph, a confrontation with an
other disciplinary perspective on the same problem (with references to the relevant

-the essay is formally correct, where appropriate, arguments are built on references to the

-There is no need for a complete and comprehensive discussion or summary. (To the
contrary, comprehensiveness will rather deter from the main goal of the analysis.)

-Length: 2000-2500 words plus bibliography.
A list of suggested monographs will be provided by week 2; students can make their own

Grading criteria:

-For each of the (min.) 3 hypotheses/claims/critiques:
originality, rigour, appropriateness of the discussion;

-overall: diversity of the approaches and disciplinary approaches taken;

-overall: cohesiveness and structure of the essay;

-overall: embedment into the literature, and reflection of the relevant literature discussed
in the course of the seminar. (Note: the references to the literature can be very unequal
across the 3 points).

Deadline: will be announced
Depending on the number of students enrolled, and the agenda, an opportunity for an oral
presentation of a preliminary version will be offered. To be defined by week 2.