Philosophy, Politics and Economics: Capstone and Research Project

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Patrick Dunleavy


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

This course is exclusively for fourth year BSc PPE students.

Course content

Course content, Teaching and Assessment: 

Michaelmas term

The course introduces students to team-based and individual research work. The MT will focus on the capstone project. The initial weeks of the course will introduce students to the requirements of capstone projects, key research strategies and essential questions. At the same time, from Week 1 students will begin to research in small teams problems for clients in public and private sector organisations. Students are also expected to work steadily throughout the term with members of their team and with their advisors. The completed research has to be presented to the client organisation by Week 11 MT, both in the form of a team presentation and as a team research report.

Further details: There will be a two-hour seminar in week 0 of MT to introduce the projects available to the students and students will then be able to list their preferences, which will be taken into account so far as possible in deciding allocations. This session will also explain key issues and demands on the students. The seminars in weeks 1 and 2 of MT will discuss key research methods and presentation skills needed for short, sharp team research projects. The seminar in week 5 of MT will be a “course correction” session for teams to get guidance on the planned final shape of their reports. Help sessions with advisors will occur regularly through term to support student teams' research efforts. Student teams will present their Capstone research project findings to fellow students, staff and commissioning organisations in a workshop or workshops in week 11 of MT.

MT Formative Coursework:  Student teams must produce 1 team presentation for the ‘course correction’ session in Week 5 MT.  Student teams must also produce a poster or presentation output from their final (assessed) presentation for a final Showcase workshop, held in Week 1 of Summer Term.

MT Summative Assessment:  

-  10% of marks for the team final presentation in Week 11 MT.

-  40% of marks for the team final Capstone project report (maximum 8,000 words) submitted by Thursday of Week 11 in MT

Lent term

In the LT, the focus shifts to the production of an individual academic paper or research report. Students will be encouraged to develop an interdisciplinary research question. They must complete a presentation and a poster on their key conclusions by the end of the LT; and submit a Research Report or paper by Week 1 of ST. The initial weeks' seminars during the LT will be focused on students outlining their plans, and on key questions for research design. Individual consultation and up to five feedback sessions with advisors take place regularly throughout term. The workshop in ST week 1 will be a 'poster exhibition' that allows all students to exhibit and discuss their research projects.

LT Formative coursework: Students must prepare a draft outline synopsis for their individual project by Thursday of Week 1 Lent Term, and present on it in a workshop/seminar in Week 2. Students must then present a detailed Plan or Storyboard for their LT Report to their supervisor and get their approval by Week 6 of LT.

LT Summative Assessment:  

-  10% of marks for a presentation and draft poster, submitted by Week 11 LT.

-  40% of marks for an individual Research Report (maximum 5,000 words) submitted by Tuesday of Week 1 in Summer Term.



8 hours of seminars, 5 hours of workshops and 5 hours of help sessions in the MT. 2 hours of workshops and 5 hours of help sessions in the LT. 2 hours of workshops in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students should refer to 'course content' above for details.

Indicative reading

Charles E. Lindblom and David K. Cohen, Useable Knowledge: Social Science and Social Problem Solving (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979;

Martha S. Feldman, Order Without Design: Information Production and Policy-making (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989);

Ray Pawson, Evidence-based Policy: A Realist Perspective (London: Sage, 2006);

C. R. Cook, Just Enough Project Management (McGraw-Hill, 2004);

J. E. McGrath and F. Tschan, Dynamics in Groups and Teams: Groups as Complex Action Systems, chapter three in M. S. Poole and A. H. Van de Ven (eds) Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation (Oxford University Press, 2004).

An extensive list of readings will be made available on Moodle.


Project (40%, 8000 words) and presentation (10%) in the MT.
Presentation (10%) in the LT.
Research project (40%) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2018/19: 31

Average class size 2018/19: 20

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
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills