Research Design in Political Science

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Thomas Leeper


This course is available on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course will introduce students to the fundamentals of research design in political science. The course will cover a range of topics, starting from the formulation of research topics and research questions, the development of theory and empirically testable hypotheses, the design of data collection activities, and basic qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques. The course will address a variety of approaches to empirical political science research including experimental and quasi-experimental designs, large-n survey research, small-n case selection, and comparative/historical comparisons. As a result, topics covered in the course will be varied and span all areas of political science including political behaviour, institutions, comparative politics, international relations, and public administration.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

There will be a Week 6 reading week in both terms.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 8 problem sets in the MT and LT.

Approximately every other week throughout the course, students will complete a short "problem set" that allows them to apply material from the course to concrete political science examples (e.g., identifying design elements of a published research paper; proposing strategies for answering a given research question, etc.).

Indicative reading

Adcock, R. & Collier, D. 2001. “Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research.” American Political Science Review 95: 529-546.

Campbell, D. T. & Ross, H. L. 1968. “The Connecticut Crackdown on Speeding: Time-Series Data in Quasi-Experimental Analysis.” Law & Society Review 3: 33-54.

Gerber, A. S. & Green, D. P. 2008. “Field Experiments and Natural Experiments.” In Box-Steffensmeier, J. M.; Brady, H. E. & Collier, D. (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology, Oxford University Press.

Kellstedt, P. M. & Whitten, G. D. 2013. The Fundamentals of Political Science Research. Cambridge University Press.

King, G.; Keohane, R. O. & Verba, S. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry. Princeton University Press.

Mahoney, J. & Goertz, G. 2006. "A Tale of Two Cultures: Contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative Research." Political Analysis 14: 227-249.

Toshkov, D. 2016. Research Design in Political Science. Palgrave.


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (50%, 3000 words).

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
First 27.5
2:1 62.3
2:2 8.7
Third 1.4
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2016/17: 20

Average class size 2016/17: 11

Capped 2016/17: No

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

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

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 59%



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)