GV249GC      Half Unit
Research Design in Political Science (Spring Semester)

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Florian Foos


This course is available with permission to General Course ‘Spring Semester’ students.

Course content

The course introduces students to the design, conduct and analysis of research in empirical political science spanning different subfields. We will discuss the distinction between description and causal inference, as well as research ethics, and basic quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis strategies. LT (Spring Semester) covers specific research designs and methods including ethnographic research, comparative case studies, as well as large-n observational studies, and experimental/quasi-experimental designs.

Basic knowledge of the statistical programming language R (which is taught in MT) or a willingness to catch up with R in your own time, is a requirement if you want to take GV249 in Spring Semester only.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 26 and a half hours across Lent Term and Summer Term. Some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and classes.There will be a Week 6 reading week in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will complete two problem sets in LT that allow 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.). One of these problem sets will involve basic R programming.

Indicative reading

Bueno de Mesquita, E. & Fowler, A. 2019. Thinking Clearly in a Data-Driven Age.

Geddes, B. 2003. Paradigms and Sand Castles: Theory building and research design in comparative politics. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

Gerber, A. S., and D. P. Green. 2008. Field experiments and natural experiments. The Oxford Handbook of Political Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Healy, K. 2017. Fuck nuance, Sociological Theory 35(2): 118–127.

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

Mill, J.S. 1882. A System of Logic, Chapter VIII. On the four methods of experimental inquiry. 8th edition. Harper and Brothers.

Welden, L. 2010. Reflections on ethnographic work in political science. Annual Review of Political Science 13: 255-272.


Coursework (50%, 2000 words) in the LT.
Online assessment (50%) in the ST.

The coursework in LT will consist of a Research Design Proposal (2000 words).

The Class Summary Grade for General Course Spring Semester students will be calculated as follows: 50% Problem Set 1, 50% Problem Set 2.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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