Not available in 2022/23
GV513      Half Unit
Qualitative Methods in the Study of Politics

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible



This course is available on the MRes/PhD in Political Science. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Other PhD students must request permission from the class teacher, which is routinely granted subject to capacity.

Course content

This course introduces and critically evaluates a range of qualitative techniques and methods in political science. It builds students' capability to select, reject, and deploy them in research design and practice.

The course begins with debates over the place of qualitative methods in political science, and the question of how to match ideas to methods. The rest of the course is devoted to exploring a range of qualitative techniques, including case selection, case studies and process tracing, comparisons, interviews and field research, qualitative comparative analysis, and "mixed methods". The content of each week will be integrated as closely as possible with participants' own research projects (even if qualitative work constitutes only a small part thereof). The course is relevant for political scientists, but also students of development and international relations.


20 hours of seminars in the Lent Term, complemented by small-group work outside of the seminars. This course includes a reading week in LT Week 6. This year, some or all of this teaching may be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus seminars.

Indicative reading

G. King, R. Keohane, and S. Verba, Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific inference in qualitative research (Princeton, 1994). Antoinette Burton ed., Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History (Duke University Press, 2006); David Collier and Henry Brady, Rethinking Social Inquiry (Rowman and Littlefield 2010); John Gerring, Case Study Research: Principles and Practices (Cambridge University Press 2007).


Essay (30%, 2500 words) in the LT.
Project (70%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Students are assessed by two pieces of work:

(1) An essay answering one question from a list to be provided in Lent Term (up to 2500 words)

The deadline for this work will fall into Week 9 of Lent Term. It will be worth 30% of the final mark.

(2) A thorough critique of an article applying one or more of the methods discussed in this course, focused

on its research design and execution (3000 words).

The deadline for this work will fall into the first week of Summer Term. It will be worth 70% of the

final mark.


Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills