MA Political Science - Political Theory Pathway (Standard Route) / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Philosophy of Politics Research

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI70771
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course introduces postgraduate Politics students to philosophical debates about the empirical study of politics.

We will consider the following questions: What counts as good evidence in politics research, and why does it matter? What is the status of values and norms within political research? What are the differences and similarities (if any) between natural and social sciences? Should feminist, poststructuralist, rationalist, and other philosophies inform the way we examine the political world? Throughout, we will focus on ontology (what exists), epistemology (how we can come to know what exists), and their implications for methodology (the various ways of studying what exists).


This course aims to introduce postgraduate students to philosophical debates about the empirical study of politics.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

·                  understand different philosophies of science;

·                  recognise how these philosophies apply to the study of politics;

·                  critically assess different approaches to the study of politics;

·                  understand key philosophical terms in social science and politics;

·                  reflect on the philosophical bases of their own research

·                  apply philosophical ideas to their own writing.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will take place through pre-recorded lectures, online group exercises, and weekly seminars. Short, introductory lectures will be offered online, available via Blackboard. Students will be assigned preparatory questions to discuss, based on the readings. Students will conduct discussions in advance of the class and come to class prepared to discuss them.

The readings for each week can be found most easily via the Library’s Reading List service.

Assessment methods


MA: 450 word essay plan (15%), 2250 word essay (85%);

PHD: 300 word essay plan (15%), 1800 word essay (85%)

Feedback methods

Formative feedback on assessments will be offered on essay drafts 2 weeks or more before the due date.

Recommended reading

The following are useful introductory works.

  • Baggini, J and Fosl, P. (2010) The Philosopher’s Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Stephen Hood Unit coordinator
Vittorio Gerosa Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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