BA Politics and French / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
How to Conduct Politics Research

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI20902
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


In this module students are taught the basics of research design across the different sub-disciplines within politics and IR – political theory, comparative politics, and international politics.  When we ask questions about the world, each of these fields have developed distinctive approaches to answering questions in ways that seem valid on their terms.  We will look into the different ways that each branch of political science has tried to generate ‘good’ knowledge on major issues in politics and IR.  The module is also a chance to try out some of your own preliminary empirical research on a topic that students chose.

This will include; selecting research questions, conducting literature reviews and engaging with academic literature, core research methodologies in international, comparative and political theory, quantitative and qualitative research techniques. Students on this module will choose a research question, learn how to analyse different sources and data, and write an independent research report on their chosen  topic. This topic can be drawn from a wide range of themes across Politics and IR. It is taught by a team of academics across the Politics department with specialisms in the sub-fields.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Introduction to International Politics POLI10601 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Introduction to Political Theory POLI10702 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Introduction to Comparative Politics POLI10201 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Introduction to Comparative Politics POLI10202 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
POLI20900 Co- and Pre requisits


The aims of the module are to develop understanding of core research design and methods. Students will start to develop their intellectual independence by choosing a topic from a proposed list.  The module offers an opportunity to investigate the benefits and drawbacks of different research methods.  This could help later on when choosing what to do for 3rd year dissertation. It is also fascinating to learn how differently scholars have approached how to produce knowledge. 

Students will learn the main elements of research design and how to set up and conduct
an independent research project. Through large group lectures and smaller tutorials
students will be exposed to a selection of theoretical and methodological approaches as
well as different 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.

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. They will write a short rationale for
selecting the question, its significance for the study of politics and the type of research
method, sources and analysis they intend to employ. This is a necessary step, but is not part of the final grade.

Students will then write a short annotated bibliography that will help them write the literature review in the final assignment. This is worth 25% of the final mark.

For their final assignment (worth 75%) students will write an extended analytical research essay exploring how best to design a research project answering their chosen 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 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. Students will identify relevant
sources (such as documents and reports, media sources, video interviews, surveys and
primary texts and consider their inclusion in a research project. They may make 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.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

The module 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 3000 (75%)

Annotated Bibliography 1000 (25%)

Feedback methods

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

Assessments submitted through Turnitin will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future

Recommended reading

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.

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.


Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Elizabeth Richardson Unit coordinator

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