GV513      Half Unit
Qualitative Methods in the Study of Politics

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Steffen Hertog CON4.01


This course is available on the MRes Political Science. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Other PhD students must request permission from the class teacher, which is routinely granted subject to capacity.

Course content

This course introduces and critically evaluates, at the advanced postgraduate level, a key range of qualitative techniques and methods in political science. It aims to build students' capability to evaluate such methods and to select, reject, and deploy them in research design and practice.

The course begins with debates over the place of qualitative methods in political science, and the question of how to match ideas to methods. The rest of the course is devoted to exploring a range of qualitative techniques, including case selection, case studies and process tracing, comparisons, interviews and field research, qualitative comparative analysis, and "mixed methods". The content of each week will be integrated as closely as possible with participants' own research projects (even if qualitative work constitutes only a small part thereof). The course is relevant for political scientists, but also students of development and international relations.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Critiques of articles or books that use the various methodologies discussed in the course.

Indicative reading

G. King, R. Keohane, and S. Verba, Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific inference in qualitative research (Princeton, 1994). Antoinette Burton ed., Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History (Duke University Press, 2006). Paul Rabinow, Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco, first published 1977 (University of California Press, 2007); David Collier and Henry Brady, Rethinking Social Inquiry (Rowman and Littlefield 2010); John Gerring, Case Study Research: Principles and Practices (Cambridge University Press 2007).


Essay (30%, 2500 words) in the LT.
Project (70%, 3000 words) in the ST.

(1) A thorough critique of an article which uses one of the methods discussed in the course (2500 words) and (2) EITHER a complete "mock" research design, preferably (although not necessarily) on their own research question (3000 words) OR a discussion of the advantages and limitations of a specific empirical technique, based on a review of at least two pieces of published research (3000 words).


Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2016/17: 5

Average class size 2016/17: 3

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2013/14 - 2014/15 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 56%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)