Dissertation in Politics and International Relations - POLI9970

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2023 to 2024
Combined Autumn Spring Summer & Vacation 7 60 (30) Tom Casier checkmark-circle
Year 7 60 (30) Tom Casier checkmark-circle


The module is built around 16 hours of lectures and 24 hours of seminars over the course of one term. Following on from Fundamentals of Dissertation and Research in Politics and International Relations (PO9971) which addressed the ontological, epistemological, and methodological issues in the social sciences; the main approaches to social science; analytical approaches, modes of reasoning (deduction, induction) and levels of analysis (agency, structure, co-determination); this module will demonstrate how these concepts are used differently in different subject-specific contexts which represent the main fields of inquiry at BSIS, including legal analysis, political analysis, historical analysis, and economic analysis. The module then moves on to practical questions of research and writing the dissertation, including the construction of the dissertation proposal and the dissertation itself, the use of research materials (qualitative and quantitative data), using research and resources (libraries, documentation, and the internet); and drafting and writing, including the use of appropriate academic style and format.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 47
Private study hours: 553
Total study hours: 600

Students will be allocated a supervisor who will help the students to gain momentum in their research. Meetings would normally be expected to take place on a regular basis and could be arranged via office hours and/or email. The supervisor will guide the students towards the relevant (general and specialised) literature, help with the design of the project and offer subject-specific advice.


All Politics and International Relations postgraduate taught MA programmes delivered in Brussels

Method of assessment

Dissertation Proposal, 1500 words (10%)
Group Project (5%)
Dissertation, 14000 words (85%)

Reassessment methods: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Reading list (Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually)

Banakar, R. and Travers M. (eds.), An Introduction to Law and Social Theory, Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2002.

Hollis M., The Philosophy of Social Science: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994.

Hollis M. and Smith S., Explaining and Understanding in International Relations, Clarendon, Oxford, 1990.

King, G., Keohane, R. and Verba S., Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research, Princeton University Press, 1996.

May, T., Social Research: Issues, Methods and Processes, Sage, London, 1997.

Potter, S. (Ed), Doing Postgraduate Research (Sage/Open University, 2002)

Webb, K., An Introduction to Problems in the Philosophy of Social Sciences, Pinter, London, 1996.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding the ontological, epistemological, and methodological issues involved in the research design of projects in international relations, and the relationship between these concepts.

2. Conceptualise a question for investigation, and to design the appropriate research methodology.

3. Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the relationship between a problem, theoretical approach, research design, and analysis.

4. Deploy and operationalise successfully the appropriate concepts in the philosophy of social science to inform a research design leading to a successful conclusion in the production of a dissertation

5. Follow logically the research design, overcoming any anticipated and unanticipated problems in the empirical research, realising the successful conclusion of the product in the form of a dissertation

6. Apply theoretical perspectives in law, politics and international relations to case studies

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Work with complex theoretical knowledge and critically apply theory to practical issues.

2. Demonstrate a critical awareness of the ethical, metaphysical, theoretical, epistemological, and methodological dimensions of the scholarly work done in their discipline in general and in their own work.

3. Undertake an analysis of complex, incomplete or contradictory areas of knowledge and make carefully constructed arguments.

4. Demonstrate a level of conceptual understanding that will allow them to critically evaluate research, policies, and practices.

5. Be reflective and self-critical in their work

6. Use the libraries, the internet, bibliographic search engines, online resources, and effectively conduct complex research

7. Engage in sophisticated academic and professional communication with others

8. Demonstrate a highly developed independent learning ability required for further study or professional work


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  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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