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MA Political Science - European Politics & Policy Pathway (Research Route) / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:

Unit code POLI70022
Credit rating 5
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Every movement is comprised of individuals, and each of those individuals has something to say about the nature of that movement and their own involvement in it. Interviews can therefore tell us something about the origins, character and motivation of different forms of social and political engagement. But they can also offer insight into the workings of the movement or the institution itself, particularly those practices and relationships that may not otherwise be recorded for the researcher. This course focuses specifically on activists and office-holders, from the most grassroots level to the elite, and explores a social science approach to interviewing these activists. It draws on the extensive experience of the presenter in interviewing political and social movement activists in Britain, primarily of the left, and ranging from parliamentary leaders to political campaigners at local level.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course students will have reflected on the particular uses of the interview in the researching of social and political movement and will have considered strategies for organising, conducting and drawing upon interview materials. Students will also have had the opportunity to gain initial practical experience of interviewing activists, and develop skills in summarising material and reporting findings.

Teaching and learning methods

Through an interactive lecture and group work the first session will introduce the two key dimensions of any interviewing project, broadly corresponding to the two alternative ways in which you are invited to approach the coursework assignment. In the first half of the session we will consider the interviewing project as a whole and such questions as the identification of interviewees, depth against breadth, forms of interview, representativeness, the role of key informants, and the balance of ‘giving voice’ and ‘seeking information’. In the second half of the session we will consider the individual interview and the most productive ways of preparing, conducting and making use of the interview from the point of view of different research projects.


The second session will then provide the opportunity to present and compare notes on issues arising from the individual assignment and the organising and conducting of an interviewing project (see immediately below).



Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Assessment is based on a 1,500-word report on the project which may include as appendices (not included in the word count) any preparatory notes or questions for interviews conducted and any notes or summary transcripts.


The object of the written assignment is to demonstrate your grasp of the methodology and practice of the successful interviewing project at the level either of the project itself or of the individual interview. For this you are free to identify any movement, campaign or institution, however informal and at any level, and to think in terms of an interviewing project that will normally be addressed to issues of its culture and/or structure and internal power relations. Where practicable, you are encouraged to conduct one or two interviews by whichever method is most appropriate (face-to-face, telephone, Skype) and to reflect upon these in the assignment. In some cases, this will not be immediately practicable and in these cases you will focus on those key research issues which register more at the level of the project than of the individual interview. In case of necessity, the coursework assignment may focus primarily on this aspect, but please be sure to speak to me about this first.


Interviews and/or any other preparatory work for the written assignment should be carried out between the introductory session and the second feedback session. Between the two sessions, there will also be appointment slots allowing the opportunity of one-to-one consultations.

Deadline for submission of assignment:   26 March 2020, 2pm


Recommended reading

  • ·         Kim Lacy Rogers, ‘Memory, struggle and power: on interviewing political activists’, Oral History Review, 15, 1987, 165-84

    ·         Irving Seidman, Interviewing as qualitative research : a guide for researchers in education and the social sciences, 3rd edn, 2006

    ·         Ronald J Grele, ‘History and the Languages of History in the Oral History Interview: Who Answers Whose Questions and Why?’ from Eva M. McMahan and Kim Lacy Rogers (eds), Interactive Oral History Interviewing (1994)

    ·         Robert Atkinson, The Life History Interview (1998)


    A wide range of alternative readings will also be included in the course materials to give a sense of the different issues and experiences confronted by researchers working on social movements of widely varying types.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 44

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Louise Thompson Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Friday 31 January


Friday  28 February





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