Issues and Trends in Research Methods
Credits: 4 ECTS
This course provides a wholistic approach to research methods in the social sciences with broad application to the field of international studies. Its starting point is the distinction between causal and interpretive methods. Whereas the former take their model from the natural sciences, the latter were specifically tailored to the reflective character of human behaviour. Since causal models are nowadays dominant, much more time is devoted to them. The examination of causal models starts from distinguishing two major approaches to developing causal theory; the inductive and the deductive approaches. All causal methods can be approached from an inductive or a deductive perspective, but the meaning of empirical facts differs depending on the approach being taken. Another preliminary session to the study of causal methods is devoted to the different types of validity we must consider when designing research and interpreting results. This discussion is especially relevant to inductive approaches to causal modelling. Different causal methods differ in how well they meet different validity criteria (e.g. internal vs. external validity). After these preliminaries, several sessions are devoted to causal methods that aim to increase internal validity, the experiment, quasi-experiments and the comparative method and to the design of research projects that aim to maximize external validity, what are known as opinion surveys.
Evaluation for this course will be based on participation (attendance, and questions in class) (30% of the grade) and three methodological critiques based on actual publications (70%).