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Research Seminar in International Security


Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Compulsory courses




This course introduces students to qualitative research in the social sciences, with special emphasis on issues of research design. It offers practical guidance for the drafting of dissertation proposals and the writing up of students’ final research projects. The course is less concerned with introducing students to specific qualitative techniques (e.g. interviewing, archival work, participant observation) although these will briefly be covered and relevant resources will be provided. Rather, it highlights the purpose of research design and the logic underpinning social scientific research. Students will learn more about 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. They will also think about a research strategy. Students will discuss how to come up with a 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 move from idea to data and from data to idea, how to draw inferences, and how to conduct ethical research.

During the first eight weeks of the course, students will have regular seminar classes covering the different building blocks of research design. During this time, they will produce a draft literature review and research proposal for their dissertation. During the last four weeks, students will receive and offer feedback on their proposals. This course builds on the methods course students will have already taken in the first semester in two ways. First, it focuses on qualitative rather than quantitative research design and methods while also discussing how both can be combined. Second, it emphasises the application of what students are studying for their own final research projects.

In addition to the mandatory readings listed below, 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 most of the assignments. In the last four weeks of the course, all students must come to class having read the dissertation proposals under discussion. This is essential to their active participation during these last four classes.


Student deliverables and assessment:

  • Literature review for your dissertation (2000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography): 30%
  • Dissertation research proposal (2000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography): 40%
  • Discussion of another student’s dissertation proposal: 15%
  • Class participation (based on active participation throughout the semester): 15%

Competences, learning outcomes and teaching activities (PDF)