Fact, Evidence, Knowledge and Power - PO661

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 3)
Spring 5 15 (7.5) DR E Morgan-Jones checkmark-circle


This course introduces students to the nature and purposes of descriptive and causal analysis in politics and international relations. Students will develop skills in choosing, using and evaluating different research designs and the techniques for the collection and analysis of data.

In addition to developing a conceptual and theoretical understanding of different approaches to evidence gathering and data analysis, students will also have the opportunity to extend their skills in practical data analysis. The course builds on their knowledge of the approaches and methods used in the study of politics and international relations introduced in the first year of the degree program and the foundation in the analysis of quantitative data established in the second year. Because of the focus in prior modules on quantitative research techniques this module pays particular attention to qualitative data and how it can be used alongside quantitative approaches. Emphasis will therefore be placed on a mixed-methods approach to political analysis that enables students to integrate, analyse and evaluate both qualitative and quantitative data. Students will notably practice skills in thinking about process tracing and how this method may allow for the identifcation of causal relationships.
The first part of the course will focus on general questions and problems in the empirical study of politics and international relations. Moodle quizzes will support the consolidation of knowledge of these issues. The second part will focus on the application of different research designs to understand specific examples of research. In this second part of the course students will be asked to read carefully an article employing a particular research design and method of data analysis in order to understand and develop a practical sense of how these research designs and methods are used to generate knowledge. These readings can become the basis of the critical evaluation that students are expected to develop in the first part of the coursework project.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150

Method of assessment

Moodle quizzes x3 (15%)
Project, 3000 words (85%)

Indicative reading

Landman, T. (2008). Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics. Routledge [available through library website].
Van Evera, S. (1997). Guide to methods for students of political science. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.
Bennett, A., & Checkel, J. T. (Eds.). (2014). Process tracing: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dunning, T. (2012). Natural Experiments in the Social Sciences: A Design-Based Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gerring, J. (2004). 'What Is a Case Study and What Is It Good For?', American Political Science Review, 98(2), 341-54.
Gerring, J. (2006). Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Brady, H. E., & Collier, D. (eds.). (2010). Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
King, G., Keohane, R. O., & Verba, S. (1994). Designing social inquiry: Scientific inference in qualitative research. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Geddes, B. (2003). Paradigms and Sand Castles: Theory Building and Research Design in Comparative Politics. Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Demonstrate knowledge of the purposes of descriptive and causal analysis in politics and international relations
Demonstrate knowledge of the main research designs used in politics and international relations and the ability to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as they are employed to investigate substantive questions of interest
Demonstrate knowledge of some of the main ways that researchers collect and analyse data in politics and international relations
Demonstrate some of the skills in data collection and analysis used by researchers in politics and international relations


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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