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Research Seminar in International Security


Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Compulsory courses




This course deepens the introduction of students to both qualitative and quantitative research in the social sciences, with special emphasis on issues of research design. It offers hands-on guidance for the drafting of literature reviews, dissertation proposals and the writing up of students’ final research projects. The course is less concerned with introducing specific techniques (e.g. interviewing, archival work, or collecting and generalising numerical data) although these will briefly be covered and relevant resources will be provided. Rather, it highlights the purpose of research design and the logics underpinning social scientific research. Students will explore in significant depth the research process from creating a hook for their projects to analysing and interpreting the data. They will learn how to identify and deal with context-specific challenges along the way, such as limited access to relevant data or biases in research. They will also think about a research strategy. Students will discuss how to come up with a good research question in relation to an observed puzzle or challenge in international security, how to use theory, how to select methods that are appropriate to answer their research question, how to conduct ethical research, how to move from idea to data and from data to idea, and how to draw inferences.

During the first eight weeks of the course, we will have regular seminar classes covering the different building blocks of research design. While much of this focuses on qualitative research, we will also be discussing statistical methods. During this time, students will produce a draft research proposal for their dissertation. We will further discuss practical advice related to the management and completion of the final research projects. During the last four weeks, students will receive and offer feedback on their proposals. This course builds on the methods course students will have taken in the first semester. Specifically, it emphasises the application of what students are studying for their final research projects.

In addition to the mandatory readings listed on Virtual Campus for each week, students are expected to read two articles of their choice related to their own dissertation topic for each of the first eight sessions. This additional reading is essential to building a strong research design and as such essential to all of the assignments. In the last four weeks of the course, all students are expected to come to class having read the dissertation proposals under discussion. This is essential to their active participation and learning during these last four classes. Engaging with other proposals and providing constructive feedback will be beneficial for everyone involved.


Student deliverables and assessment:

  • Dissertation research proposal (2000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography) (50%)
  • Presentation of draft dissertation proposal (20%)
  • Class participation: based on active participation throughout the semester (15%) and discussion of other students’ draft dissertation proposals (15%)

Full guidance for the preparation of deliverables will be provided, and expectations will be transparently discussed. Students who may feel less comfortable participating orally in class are welcome to contribute in other ways, e.g. by providing brief written comments.

Competences, learning outcomes and teaching activities (PDF)


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