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BA Politics and Russian / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
How to Conduct Politics Research

Unit code POLI20902
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


A topic of student's own choosing that is related to at least one of his/her second or first year politics (POLI) course units


POLI20900 Co- and Pre requisits


This course allows students to develop their research skills preparing them to conduct an independent research project in politics, with the aim of writing a 4000-4550 word Research Project in year two. This course will build on modules offered in year one (Making Sense of Politics and Study Skills), and will prepare students for their third year dissertations. Students will exercise some intellectual independence and will be provided with an opportunity to investigate the benefits and drawback of different research methods and sources in a rigorous manner.

Students will learn the main elements of research design and how to set up and conduct an independent research project. In lectures and in tutorials students will be taught different theoretical and methodological approaches and will be exposed to a variety of primary and secondary sources employed by scholars of Politics. Tutorials will be specifically employed to debate and discuss the different elements of research design and practice using and assess different sources and methods. Thus, participation will count for 10% of their final mark.

Midway through the course the students will be asked to select one question out of a set list of possible topics covering a wide range of themes across Politics and IR taught at the Politics DA (incl. Normative and Critical Political Theory, IR/IPE, and Comparative Politics) and write an short analytical explanation why they selected the question, its significance for the study of politics, what sort of puzzle it is and how it may guide the type of research method, sources and analysis they employ. Students will also write a short annotated bibliography to accompany this analytical report, that can be later used for the literature review in the final assignment. Getting to know the broader spectrum of key themes in Politics and IR will be exciting and highly relevant to both Politics students as well as students from other disciplines and pathways (who will in no way be disadvantaged and are eligible to take the course).

For their final assignment students, after having previously selected their research question, will write an extended analytical research essay exploring how best to design a research project answering this question. They will be asked to include a literature review discussing the different approaches/perspectives on the topic and will assess how to navigate this debate. Students will then choose a methodological approach and explain how and why they made this choice (why this is the best manner in which to answer their chosen question) and will also address why other approaches are less useful. Next, students will be responsible for identifying and finding three sources (such as [but not exclusively] documents and reports, media sources, video interviews, surveys and primary texts). They will be asked to analyze the sources and assess their strengths and weakness, elucidating how they could be employed in a stand-alone research project, how they may be complimented how they help answer they chosen question. Based on this mini-analysis they will be asked to draw some preliminary conclusions.

Learning outcomes

Student should/will

Develop a deeper understanding of the various methodological approaches in politics and a better understanding of the drawbacks and benefits of these approaches and of different sources used in research analysis.

Develop their ability to assess, contrast and compare primary and secondary sources used for independent research.

Develop their analytical skills including an ability to assess, contrast and compare primary and secondary sources used for independent research.

Develop communication skills including an ability to effectively articulate coherent, critically-informed analysis to a small and larger groups as well as the ability to interact with colleagues in a constructive manner.

Develop their writing skills including an ability to express concise, logical arguments in written form.

Learning how to analyze and collect empirical data is a very sought after skill in the modern workplace, in most lines of work that a Politics graduate may engage in. Even for those pursuing Research Projects in Political Theory, some engagement with empirical research skills will be expected.

Teaching and learning methods

Black Board

Netivist – debate site

Transferable skills and personal qualities

“How to Conduct Politics Research” encourages the development of research skills as well as transferable skills such as time management, problem solving and other organizational skills. These skills help develop the students’ CVs with the view to increase their employability in a wide range of careers.

Employability skills

Problem solving
Time management and organisational skills

Assessment methods

Final Project: 4,000 - 4,550 word worth 65%

Question selection assignemtn and annotated bibliography:1,500-1,750 words (no 10% leeway) due in week 5 worth 25%

Participation: 10%

Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission.

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff

Recommended reading

Gschwend, Thomas, and Frank Schimmelfennig. 2007. Research Design in Political Science: How to Practice What They Preach. Palgrave Macmillan.

King, Gary, Robert Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton¿; Chichester: Princeton University Press.

Ragin, Charles C. 1989. The Comparative Method: Moving beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. University of California.

Rossi, Peter H., James D. Wright, and Andy B. Anderson. 2013. Handbook of Survey Research. Academic Press.

Thomas, Gary. 2013. How to Do Your Research Project: A Guide for Students in Education and Applied Social Sciences. Second Edition edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Yoram Gorlizki Unit coordinator

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