Research Design and Methods in IR II

Course Description: 

This course is the second part of the Research Design and Methods sequence that introduces the fundamentals of social science research design and familiarizes students with several approaches to social analysis and their respective methods. It begins by extending the overview of basic concepts and methodological techniques that are being currently used in the disciplines of International Relations and Political Science. Its first part continues to run on two parallel tracks, which could be conditionally labelled as ‘positivist’ and ‘interpretivist’ approaches to social research.

The positivist part includes i) reading of the latest scholarship from publications in major journals as examples and ii) hands-on practical sessions whereby students will acquire basic skills in Excel and/or R, an open-source programming language widely used in social sciences for statistical analysis. The interpretivist part offers i) focused readings of exemplary interpretivist and critical research projects and ii) in-class exercises and home assignments which encourage students to probe their own interpretive skills and draw on concrete examples of relevant methods.  

Both tracks are mandatory for all MA students. They aim to develop students’ abilities to read and evaluate existing research projects across different social scientific paradigms, invite students to select their niche, and equip them with knowledge necessary to craft their own projects that could be turned into high-quality MA theses and publications.

The final part of this course consists of a series of interactive workshops, where students will have a chance to present the drafts of their research proposals and receive feedback from instructors and peers. 

Learning Outcomes: 

After successfully completing the course, students should be able to:

  • understand how to design a qualified MA-level research project,
  • read and evaluate existing IR scholarship,
  • orient themselves within the IR academic community and participate meaningfully in the ongoing debates,
  • understand the basics of the most common statistical methods used in IR,
  • comprehend interpretivist and critical social research projects and acquire basic interpretive analytical skills


  • Note on data selection (15%) – should be submitted to Anatoly
  • Empirical exercise using R (15%)should be submitted to Andrew:
  • Written summary of research plan and methodological approach for MA thesis or policy paper (40%)

Attendance, pre-class activities, and active participation (10% of the final grade).

Given the cumulative nature of the material, attendance at the seminars is essential. If you are unable to attend a seminar, please, inform both instructors in advance via email. More than two unexcused absences result in a reduction of the participation grade and more than three unexcused absences results in failure of the course.