MA Political Science - Philosophy and Political Theory

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Political Theory Research Training Seminar

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI70601
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
Offered by School of Social Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


Analytical political theory is a fundamentally dialectic, dialogical discipline: the best way of putting an argument to the test is to see whether it can survive the critical scrutiny of other theoretically trained scholars and students.  Our conviction is that this is one of the fundamental skills that post-graduate students in political theory must learn in depth: figuring out how to play the dialectical game at both ends – namely by learning, on the one hand, what is a good, helpful, fair way of probing someone else’s argument; and, on the other, how to revise one’s views, their presentation, or both on the basis of powerful challenges.



The course unit aims to:

  • Introduce students to the most important methodological disputes in analytical political theory and understand them
  • Introduce students to a range of methodologies employed in analytical political theory and understand them.
  • Help students adjudicate among these methods, and employ them by critically analysing examples of the latest work in political theory – not just by discussing specific pieces academic work, but also by engaging directly with their authors.
  • Introduce students to the fundamental dialectical nature of political theory/philosophy, where asking questions, probing and challenging someone’s work, revising one’s thinking on the basis of one’s reaction to challenges etc. is essential to the construction of sound, rigorous arguments.
  • Build students’ confidence and sharpen their capacity for critical thinking and dialectic engagement by encouraging them to critically engage with the authors of the academic pieces they have previously analysed in class.
  • Sharpen students’ critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Gain a better understanding of how to present a political theory paper.

Teaching and learning methods

The preparatory sessions will be accompanied by an online discussion forum to be set up on Blackboard, to which students will participate in the run up to the sessions (after the text has been circulated).

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 25%
Written assignment (inc essay) 75%

Essay of 2,000 words (50%), Short Article Review of 1000 words (25%), participation of in-class and discussion forum (25%).

Recommended reading

  • Blau (ed.), Methods in Analytical Political Theory, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
  • D. Leopold and M. Stears (eds.), Political Theory: Methods and Approaches (Oxford: OUP, 2008).
  • Jo Wolff, “Analytic Political Philosophy”, p. 795-822 in Beaney ed. The Oxford Handbook to the History of Analytic Philosophy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • M. Timmons, 1987, ‘Foundationalism and the Structure of Ethical Justification’, Ethics, 97 (1987): 595-609.
  • Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, ‘Thought Experiments’
  • Sally Haslanger, “Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them to Be?” in Resisting Reality, 221–47 also in Noûs, 34: 31–55.
  • James, A. ‘Constructivism, Intuitionism and Ecumenism’, in Olsaretti, S. ed. The Oxford Handbook on Distributive Justice, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Liam Shields Unit coordinator
Miriam Ronzoni Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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