Methods in International Relations Research

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Milli Lake CBG.8.03 and Prof Benjamin Dodge CBG.9.02


This course is compulsory on the MPhil/PhD in International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The main objective of this course is to offer students an introduction to and route map through the principal approaches to contemporary research in the main branches of International Relations and to help students identify the appropriate methods for their own thesis. The course will investigate the relationship between theory and method in the conduct of research. It will encourage students to think about the trade- offs and tensions involved in choosing specific methods and research designs. Our aim is to facilitate student learning so that each research student can comprehend, critically interrogate and engage with scholarship employing diverse methodological toolkits.  The end result aimed for is well-rounded and professional academics that are familiar and hence intellectually at ease with the plurality of methodological and theoretical approaches available to those conducting cutting edge research in International Relations.

The course therefore aims to expose students to, and generate awareness of, a variety of research methods in the discipline irrespective of the particular approach students employ in their doctoral work, and at the same time help them develop a detailed research plan for their own research. The course will aim to promote an environment of mutual support and encouragement amongst first year research students, maximising the potential for cross fertilization between different projects. The course will also develop students’ presentational skills in a group setting.


14 hours of seminars and 9 hours of workshops in the MT. 14 hours of seminars and 9 hours of workshops in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to draft and present sections of their research plan in the Michaelmas Term and to prepare and present a full research plan at the end of the Lent Term.

Indicative reading

• Calerco, Jessica McCrory. 2020. The Field Guide to Grad School; Uncovering the Hidden Curriculm. Princeton University Press.

• Gerring, John. 2012. Social Science Methodology: A Unified Framework, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

• Luker, Kristin. 2008. Salsa Dancing Into the Social Sciences. Harvard University Press.

• Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine, and Dvora Yanow. 2012. Interpretative Research Design: Concept and Processes. London: Routledge.

• Goertz, Gary, and James Mahoney. 2012. A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

• Kapiscewski, Diana, Lauren MacLean, and Benjamin Read. 2015. Field Research in Political Science: Practices and Principles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

• Yanow, Dvora, and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea (eds.). 2014. Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn, 2nd edition. New York: M E Sharpe.


This course is not assessed.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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: International Relations

Total students 2020/21: 9

Average class size 2020/21: 9

Value: Non-credit bearing

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information