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Research Seminar in International Development


Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Compulsory courses




This course will equip students with the necessary methodological tools to move from consumers to being producers of research in international development. In doing so, it also provides students with a platform for advancing their final research project. The course builds and expands on the introductory Research Methods (first semester) and addresses issues of research design that confront both quantitative and qualitative research alike. Specifically, we will discuss what makes for a good research proposal and, based on that, explore how to come up with exciting (but doable) research questions, how to translate concepts and theories into empirical research, how to select cases, and how to make causal inferences. Moreover, students will have the chance to acquaint themselves with different qualitative research approaches (e.g., case studies, comparative-historical analysis) and data-collection techniques (e.g., interviewing, document analysis). In tackling these issues the course combines readings on methodology with recent works on international development that illustrate how (not) to do methodologically sound research.


Class participation and readings. The course is structured in 12 sessions. Some class time will be devoted to brief lectures that situate the assigned readings within the broader context of research methods. The content of the lectures presume that you have done the required readings assigned for that week carefully (The syllabus equally contains recommended readings for those who wish to go into greater depth on a given topic).

The course also puts a strong emphasis on active student participation through general discussions and group work. The latter (in combination with take-home exercises, and the final research proposal presentations) are designed to support you in advancing your final thesis project. Class participation (which will be judged by the quality, not the quantity of your contributions, yet is also influenced by your attendance rate) will count for 10% of your final grade.

Short take-home exercises. These are three short (double-spaced, not more than 500 words) that focus on applying some of the methodological issues discussed in class towards the design of your own thesis project. The three exercises will count for 45% (15% each of them) of the final grade. They are only accepted in printed format, during class, not as file, via email.

Discussion of final thesis project. During Weeks 9-12 each student’ final thesis project will be discussed. We have 20 minutes per student. All students will circulate a first draft of a written research proposal (1,000-1,500 words, excluding bibliography) that includes (a) a research question, (b) its theoretical and substantive justification, (c) a brief literature review, (d) a discussion of how you want to go about answering your question (i.e., your research design). The written proposal draft must be circulated via email to the whole class one week in advance of the discussion date. Everyone is expected to carefully read and come prepared to discuss the circulated proposals in class (there will be no presentation). Two classmates who will act as discussants for each proposal (see below).

Summary of/critical comments for two other final projects. During Weeks 9-12 each student will also act twice as a discussant for other final thesis projects. This role requires you to carefully study the research proposal submitted to you and provide constructive and fair criticism, together with suggestions of how to further strengthen the respective project. In class one of the two discussants will summarize the proposal in 3 minutes max, the other discussant has 3 minutes to provide her most relevant comments. But both discussants should also provide the presenter with written comments via email (cc-ed to me as well). This assignment will count for 15% (7.5% each) of the final grade.

Final version of research proposal. One June a substantially revised version of your thesis project (i.e., a revised version of your research proposal, or, if you have already advanced your project significantly, a draft of the introduction and the theory chapter) is due, via email (mvomhau@ibei.org). The maximal length of this written document is 2,000 words, excluding bibliography. This part of the course will count for 30%.   

Evaluation details.

  • Class participation: 10%
  • Take-home exercises: 45%
  • Comments for other final projects: 15%
  • Final proposal: 30%