Research Skills and Methods in Political Science (M1045)

15 credits, Level 4

Spring teaching

This module is designed to introduce you to some of the fundamental issues faced by scholars as they try to analyse the political world around them.  We begin by examining the discipline of political science, what 'studying politics', and introduce some of the key terms such as epistemology, behaviouralism, quantitative methods.

You will be introduced to the basics of quantitative methods and the advantages and disadvantages of using surveys, questionnaires and statistical packages to analyse real world political activity. 

The next set of lectures analyse a completely different mode of enquiry; those based on interpretist understandings of political affairs. There are, obviously, all sorts of ways of collecting evidence to support your case/answer a question, and some of the most popular involve doing interviews, focus groups, simple participation etc. We discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of using these methods, analysing why they are chosen in the first place and how they link with more quantitative approaches. 

By the end of the module, you should have an enhanced understanding of what the political science discipline is, how political scholars conduct their research and how they reach the conclusions that they do. You should also be able to critically interpret many of the claims and counter-claims, often based on statistical indicators, that are a feature of contemporary political debate.

Most of the lectures will necessarily focus on presenting various, often rather abstract, concepts and procedures. However, the relevance of these in modern political analysis will be demonstrated by incorporating practical exercises in which the concepts and methods learnt will be applied in seminars and computer workshops.


52%: Lecture
24%: Practical (Workshop)
24%: Seminar


50%: Coursework (Report)
50%: Examination (Unseen examination)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 24 hours of contact time and 126 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2017/18. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: