Methods and Research Design

Course Description: 

Mandatory course for ALL tracks

This course is designed for students who are beginning their dissertation projects.  The aim of the course is to give students the tools to conceptualize their theses in terms of research questions and design, methodology, data collection and empirical analysis. In doing so, this course focuses more narrowly on the issues, problems, and strategies related to theory development, conceptualizing analytical frameworks, surveying different strategies of “small-N” qualitative and “large-N” quantitative or statistical analysis. Many of these techniques can and should be further developed in subsequent courses in your PhD training, depending on the features of your specific project.  In class, students will read and discuss examples of both positivist and non-positivist research. Across both approaches, we unpack how to engage in theory formation and hypothesis testing; concept measurement; descriptive and causal inference; longitudinal, comparative and case study research; field data collection; working with texts and analyzing qualitative data; and, finally, the dissertation write-up.  Throughout the course, we do not avoid issues of epistemology—how we know what we know and how to adjudicate competing “truth” claims.  In doing so, however, the course aims to serve as a practicum or “how to” seminar aimed at seeing how research is actually conducted across varying sub-fields of the discipline. For the most part, we set aside or bracket epistemological and ontological debates in order to learn techniques for researching and analyzing social phenomena on a practical level.  This course is divided into four main parts focusing on the following topics: (1) the goals of social science and elements of research design; (2) selection and application of different methodologies for conducting research; (3) collection of primary and secondary data on the field; and (4) analysis and synthesis of qualitative data in the dissertation-writing process. 


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