Philosophy & Methodology of Politics and International Relations - PO825

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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7 20 (10) DR F Grundig







Students of politics ‘have not been, in general, sufficiently reflective about the nature and scope of their discipline. They just do it rather than talk about it'’ (G.Stoker). Given that political scientists study people – individuals, groups, states, nations, cultures – rather than ‘things’, PO825 moves from the assumption that politics students ought to be reflective about their research. The module aims to provide an opportunity for reflection by presenting some of the key theoretical and methodological debates in politics and international relations. These debates deal with issues such as: the concept of ‘the political’ and the concept of power; the relationship between structure and agency; the causal and constitutive role of ideas and discourse; positivism and post-positivism; critical theory, emancipation, and the importance of normative questions; an introduction to quantitative and qualitative research, to research design and research ethics.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

11 two hour lecture/seminars

Method of assessment

100% Coursework (1 2500 word collective essay (usually in groups of 3 or 4), and one 2500 word individual essay. The essays are each worth 50% of the final mark.)

Indicative reading

Abbott, A Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences
Gilbert, N (ed) Researching Social Life
Delantey, G. Social Science
Marsh, D. & Stoker, G. (eds) Theory and Methods in Political Science
Hollis, M. & Smith, S. Explaining and Understanding International Relations
Smith M Social Science in Question

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of the module students will be able to:
• identify, summarise and critically assess the main positions in key debates within the philosophy of the social and political sciences.
• identify and deal with the ethical and normative questions involved in social and political inquiry
• reflect on the ontological and epistemological aspects of social and political inquiry
• appreciate the contested nature of knowledge in social and political science
• reflect on the relationship between 'theory' and 'practice' in social and political inquiry
• identify, summarise and critically assess some of the most important approaches and methods employed in the study of politics and international relations
• discuss the philosophical and methodological issues at stake in relation to both their own research and that of others.
• To enable students to understand and be able to apply to research questions the basic principles of research design in politics and IR

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