Advanced Research Design in Politics and International Relations - POLI8108

Looking for a different module?

Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2023 to 2024
Autumn Term 7 20 (10) Andrew Wroe checkmark-circle


The purpose of this module is to provide students with an understanding of the foundations and practices of research and research design in politics and international relations at an advanced level. It will enable students to understand the connections between research questions and the theory and methods used to explore them; and to understand the rationales and contexts that shape different choices about research questions, research designs and research methods, including epistemological, ontological and practical issues. Upon finishing the module students will be able to make and defend their own choices on research design and understand the menu of choices available to them as they develop their research careers. In pursuit of these goals the module will in its core section introduce students to debates about the main approaches to investigation in politics and international relations as well as an understanding of the main elements of different research designs, including the intellectual and practical issues that need to be addressed when making choices about these elements. Following this core section, students will have a choice to develop their understanding of different forms of research design along specialist pathways including causal analysis, interpretative analysis and normative and critical political theory. These elements have been chosen because they represent the three research traditions which are most broadly represented in political science, international relations and political theory. Students will be encouraged to attend sessions beyond their own specialisation to gain a wider perspective on their own work and to facilitate their understanding of other research approaches within the profession.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 178
Total study hours: 200


The module is an optional module for all Master's and Phd programs in the School of Politics and International Relations

Method of assessment

Poster focussing on Research Question, including Literature Review and Theoretical Argument, 40%
Outline of research design and methods, 2500 words, 60%

Reassessment methods: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

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

Abbott, A. (2004). Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences, Norton (Contemporary Societies Series).

Brady, H. E., & Collier, D. (Eds.). (2010). Rethinking social inquiry: Diverse tools, shared standards. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Toshkov, D. (2016). Research Design in Political Science. Palgrave Macmillan.

Jackson, P. T. (2010). The conduct of inquiry in international relations: philosophy of science and its implications for the study of world politics. Routledge.

Leopold, D., & Stears, M. (2008). Political theory: methods and approaches. Oxford University Press.

Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine & Yanow, Dvora. (2012). Interpretive research design: concepts and processes. Routledge

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:

8.1: Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the foundations and practice of research and research design, including the philosophy of research methods, in politics and international relations

8.2: Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the role of research questions, and possess the ability to identify an advanced-level researchable question in politics and international relations

8.3: Build and defend a theoretical argument in politics and international relations at an advanced level

8.4: Understand the strengthens and weaknesses of different ways of testing theoretical arguments in politics and international relations, including scientific hypothesis testing

8.5: Understand the rationale for, and identify different ways of using, quantitative and qualitative data, from a wide range of methods including, but not limited to, narratives, interviews, observational, ethnographic, and mixed methods, to assess theoretical propositions in politics and international relations and assess the strengths and weaknesses of research designs and methods using these forms of data

8.6: Write an advanced level research proposal in politics and international relations which reflects critically on how the research design and methods chosen answer the chosen research question

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

9.1 work with theoretical knowledge at the forefront of their discipline

9.2: Have a comprehensive understanding of methods and methodologies in their discipline

9.3: undertake analysis of complex, incomplete or contradictory areas of knowledge

9.4: Be reflective and self-critical in their research work

9.5: engage in oral and written academic and professional communication with others, demonstrating skill in analysing and presenting scholarly information in the appropriate form including posters, literature reviews and appropriate referencing formats

9.6: Have independent learning ability required for continuing professional study


  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.
Back to top

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.