Research Skills and Methods in Political Science

Module code: M1045
Level 4
15 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Seminar, Workshop, Lecture
Assessment modes: Unseen examination, Coursework

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.

Module learning outcomes

  • To provide an effective introduction to the concepts and principles that underpin the discipline of political science.
  • To enable students to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of particular forms of research design in the study of political affairs.
  • To understand basic theories of qualitative research and to interpret their value in understanding political behaviour.
  • To provide an effective introduction to some of the basic techniques of quantitative analysis.