Empirical Research in Government

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Edward Page


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, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.


This course is capped at one group. The deadline for enrolments is 12:00 noon on Friday 4 October 2019.

Course content

The course introduces a variety of techniques and issues in the empirical study of political science and applies them to a practical research project in which students participate throughout the year. No prior knowledge of statistics or research methods is required. The focus of the course will be the practical research project. At the theoretical level the course will cover questions relating to the utilization of policy research, forms of research design, sampling, questionnaire construction, coding and converting non-quantitative to quantitative indicators, response rates, elite interviewing and research ethics. As the practical research project progresses classes will cover the development of practical skills such as, principles of research report writing and, where appropriate for the project, use of text processing programmes, and basic routines in the widely-used Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), such as those used for compiling crosstabulations.


20 hours of seminars and 2 hours of workshops in the MT. 20 hours of seminars and 2 hours of workshops in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

The two workshops will take place in the reading weeks (week 6 of MT and LT) and will consist of additional teaching activities to extend students' familiarity with the course content at which attendance will be voluntary.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

Indicative reading

Sandra Halperin and Oliver Heath, Political Research. Methods and Political Skills (2012);  Floyd J. Fowler Survey Research Methods, 5th edn (2013); Alan Buckingham and Peter Saunders, The Survey Methods Workbook (2004); Tim May, Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process, 3rd edn, (2001); Claus Moser and Graham Kalton, Survey Methods in Social Investigation, 2nd edn, (1985); Melanie Mauthner et al (eds), Ethics in Qualitative Research, (2002).


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (25%, 2500 words) and research project (25%).

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2018/19: 15

Average class size 2018/19: 15

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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