Research Design

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Course Description: 

The course introduces students to epistemological frameworks, social science methodological tools and fundamental criteria of research design. The goal is to raise awareness of methodological alternatives, fallacies and opportunities, and the implications of methodological choices. We will be discussing both quantitative and qualitative approaches, focusing on dilemmas that are common to both of them. The principal pillars of the course are: formation of theory and concept, argument-building, the identification of evidence, measurement, descriptive and causal inference, case selection, scope conditions, levels of analysis, longitudinal, comparative and case study research and field data collection. We will pay considerable attention to the trade-offs concerning various methodological approaches and to the possibility of their combinations.

Learning Outcomes: 

Attending the course will help students to understand the stakes of methodological decisions and to conduct independent research. At the successful completion of the course, students will be well-prepared to identify research questions, select methods for addressing the research question, formulate theoretically justified arguments, apply the chosen methods to the research project, identify the relevant “universe” of cases and the units of analysis, assess the empirical support for the argument, and prepare an executable research plan. They will also be able to follow debates on social science methods, to understand the rationale behind methodological approaches used in various fields of political science and to borrow solutions from other subfields than their own.


Course Requirements

No prior knowledge is assumed, although students with solid background in social sciences will have an easier time than others.
Students are expected to be present at all meetings and to be able to reflect critically on the mandatory readings listed below. If one is unable to attend the class, (s)he should signal this via e-mail to the lecturer.

The final grade is determined by the following proportion of partial grades:
(1) Research question assignment: 15%, deadline 7 October
(2) Literature and theory-building assignment: 15%, deadline 18 October
(3) Comparison of two epistemological/methodological approaches, deadline 25 November: 15%
(4) Research proposal, deadline 10 January: 30%,
(5) Class activity: 25%

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