MY4IR      Half Unit
Research Design for International Relations

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Audrey Alejandro COL 7.10 and Dr Alasdair Jones COL 8.12

Audrey Alejandro will be the convenor for the MY4IR seminars and Alasdair Jones will be the convenor of MY400 (which is the course that MY4IR will share the lectures with).


This course is compulsory on the MSc in International Political Economy (Research) and MSc in International Relations (Research). This course is available on the MSc in International Relations and MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po). This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

Research design represents a key dimension of knowledge production in the social sciences. This course aims to explore the challenges of research design and introduce the broad range of design options for students in International Relations. Drawing on a variety of examples putting into perspective the literature focusing on world politics into the broader context of social science research methods, this course will explore design considerations and options across quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods research. At the end of the course, students will be able to read a wide variety of empirical social science with a critical and balanced perspective, assess trade-offs between the strengths and weaknesses of different feasible options, and be better equipped to implement and make arguments defending the methods they use in their dissertations.


15 hours of lectures and 13 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT.

The lectures for this course are shared with the course MY400 Fundamentals of Social Science Research Design.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 exercise in the MT.

Due at the start of week 6, the formative assessment is oriented towards understanding approaches to the construction of research questions from existing literature in the social sciences. Each student will be asked to identify an IR research topic that interests them and to justify and construct (using their understanding of the relevant IR and research methods literature) a research question relating to that topic. The important issue of research question construction in the social sciences will be covered at the start of the course, and students are expected to apply this learning in the formative assessment exercise. Detailed instructions for completing this assignment will be posted on Moodle and assignments will be subject to peer assessment in the Michaelmas Term Week 7 seminar

Indicative reading

  • Babbie, E. (2016) The Practice of Social Research [14th edition]. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. Blaikie, N. and Priest, J. (2019) Designing Social Research [3rd edition]. Polity Press.
  • Cresswell, J.W. and Cresswell, J.D. (2017) Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches [5th edition]. SAGE.
  • Devin, Guillaume (eds.) (2018) Resources and Applied Methods in International Relations, Palgrave.
  • Luigi Curini, Robert Franzese (eds.) (2020) The SAGE Handbook of Research Methods in Political Science and International Relations. SAGE.
  • Robson, C. and McCartan, K. (2016, 4th edition). Real World Research. John Wiley.
  • Williams, M. (2003) Making Sense of Social Research. London: SAGE
  • 6, Perri and Bellamy, C. (2011) Principles of Methodology: Research Design in Social Science. SAGE.


Coursework (40%, 1500 words) in the MT Week 11.
Coursework (60%, 4000 words) in the ST.

Research Proposal (40%): Due in week 11 of Michaelmas Term. Each student will be asked to identify a question that their proposed research project is expected to answer. The paper, not to exceed 1,500 words (excluding title/contents page and bibliography, but including text in tables and footnotes), will include a research question/set of research questions, an indication of the proposed design, and a brief explanation as to why this is an important question with brief reference to relevant literature. This assignment is required, and if the assignment was submitted on time you should receive feedback by the end of Week 5 of Lent Term.

Research Design (60%): Due in week 1 of the Summer Term. This extended research proposal will define the problem to be investigated, outline alternative explanations, and set out a fully-developed research design that addresses issues of testing, data collection and analysis. There should be a statement of the research topic and brief ‘state of the art’ (slightly expanded literature review if appropriate), and a clear research question or set of research questions. This should now include a concrete statement of your ‘point of departure’ (i.e. what you would propose to do), and early identification of any difficulties that may arise, be they methodological or data-related. This provisional research design should be no more than 4,000 words (excluding title/contents page and bibliography, but including text in tables and footnotes). This assignment is required, and you will receive feedback by the start of Week 6 of Summer Term.

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.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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