Research Design in International Development

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Kate Meagher


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

Course content

This course is designed for engagement with methodological and research design issues in International Development research. Sessions are organized around methodological research design and practical issues (eg. case studies, inference, fieldwork, and ethics), and presentations of research projects. The aim of this course is to help PhD students engage with research design in development contexts. Students will learn how to develop their research question, choose a feasible strategy for engaging with data, and match data collection and analytic methods to the aims of the PhD project.  Students will also reflect on the relation of their project to wider development theory.  The course will help students turn research ideas into well-structured projects that make a valuable contribution to knowledge.

Students will have opportunities to present their own research proposals and get feedback from peers and teaching staff.  In making their presentations students are asked to provide (a) background material about the particular issue at hand, (b) a clear statement of the research questions and/or hypotheses that are being addressed, and (c) discussion of the research methods to be employed. Students should inform their supervisor(s) of the date when they are scheduled to make a presentation.


15 hours of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

Up to 10 hours of proposal workshops in the ST

Indicative reading

Borgman, C. L. (2015). Big data, little data, no data: Scholarship in the networked world. MIT press.

Brady, Henry E., and David Collier. (Eds.) 2010. Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. 2nd edition.

Crawford, G., Jaspersen, L. J., Kruckenberg, L., Loubere, N., & Morgan, R. (Eds.). (2017). Understanding global development research: fieldwork issues, experiences and reflections. Sage.

Geddes, Barbara. 2003. Paradigms and Sand Castles: Theory Building and Research Design in Comparative Politics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Merry, S. E., Davis, K. E., & Kingsbury, B. (Eds.). (2015). The quiet power of indicators: measuring governance, corruption, and rule of law. Cambridge University Press.

Mkandawire, T. (2005). African intellectuals: Rethinking politics, language, gender and development. Zed Books.

Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, I. S. (2011). Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data. sage.

Schensul, J and LeCompte, M. (2016) The Ethnographer's Toolkit (Ethnographer's Toolkit, Second Edition), 7 Volumes (paperback), AltaMira Press.


Essay (30%) in January.
Research design (70%) in the ST.

This is a PhD level research design course. Students submit two summative pieces of work: a methodology essay (2500 words), and an analysis of their research design (3000 words). They will also give presentations and receive extensive feedback on their work in progress. The presentations are part of formative rather than summative work and are an important part of professional development. The main learning outcomes are to help the PhD students develop a high-quality research design.


Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2021/22: 6

Average class size 2021/22: 6

Value: One Unit

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