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Research Methods in International Development


Credits: 6 ECTS

First semester

Compulsory courses




What is a good argument, how do I know one when I see one, and how do I make one? These questions underpin good research and are also highly relevant in the world beyond academia. This course teaches the skills students require to answer these questions. In this way, students will learn how to evaluate research and also to design and produce their own research. The course will give students the fundamentals of various different methods of research and explain the advantages and disadvantages of each one. At the end students will be capable of producing academically valid course papers and a master’s thesis.

In today’s world getting information is not a problem. What is increasingly important is the ability to evaluate and filter information. This course trains students in analytical skills that enable them to be discerning consumers and creators of information in the world of the future. Through this course, they will learn both the skills and the attitude to understand and produce evidence-based policy and research.

The course will cover the basic elements of research design in political science and international relations: formulating a research question, producing valuable literature reviews, defining and operationalizing concepts, transforming concepts into measurable variables, drawing hypotheses and causal mechanisms, and selecting the appropriate method to test for the hypotheses depending on the data constraints.

Students will be also given basic notions of statistical hypothesis testing and regression analysis. By the end of the semester, students should be able to appreciate the differences between descriptive and causal claims, and critically assess research in political science and international relations.


Since the class is about learning methods by doing methods, the most important part of the assessment will evaluate the student’s participation in the in-class exercises and the student-led reviews of materials. Participation counts for 40% of the final grade. To score full points, students should come prepared for the class by having done the readings, actively take part in the exercises, actively take part in the student-led explanations of materials and reviews of materials and contribute interesting extrapolations from the examples discussed. To score an average number of points, students must take part in the activities in a concentrated, assiduous and responsible way. Students who do not make a conscientious effort to prepare for the classes by reading the set texts and actively taking part in the activities will score 0 points for participation.

During the semester, there will be five short quizzes that will be given randomly through the course on designated readings to assess students’ comprehension of the covered topics. Quizzes will take place at the beginning of class, and will include multiple choice questions, short questions or gap-filling exercises based on the readings.

Students must write up two of the critiques they prepare of existing research. The critiques will be judged on the ability to apply the concept in question to the existing research and the ability to show critical thinking.

There will be a final exam that will last two hours. This will comprise a combination of ten (10) thought-provoking multiple choice questions (‘MCQs’), plus two short essays of 250 words each. Each MCQ carries 6 points; each short essay carries 20 points. To answer MCQs students need to do some preliminary thinking and/or calculations. To avoid lottery-playing, wrong answers take off 2 points from each correct answer. Thus, for example, a copy with 6 correct answers (+36 points), three wrong answers (-6 points), one blank answer (0 points), and two essays of average quality (e.g. 10/20 in each = 20 points) scores 50%. The short essays should be clearly structured, and they should demonstrate both knowledge of social science methodology and the capacity for critical thinking.

The final project for the class is to be a research proposal that includes a research question on comparative politics or international relations, a brief literature review highlighting current theories, a research hypothesis, a causal mechanism, a presentation of the ideal data to test for it, and a list of potential causality issues, if any. All these topics will be thoroughly covered during the course. The proposal should be about 5,000 words (+/- 10%) in length (Times New Roman 12 point, 1,5 spaced).

Therefore, the final grade will be based on:

  • Participation: 40%
  • 5 x Quizzes: 10%
  • 2 x Critiques: 6%
  • Final exam: 20%
  • Final project: 24%