GV4N1      Half Unit
Qualitative Analysis for Political Science

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Steffen Hertog


This course is available on the MRes/PhD in Political Science, MSc in Political Science (Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics) and MSc in Political Science (Global Politics). This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course gives a practical overview of the major mainstream qualitative methods used in political science, including case studies and process-tracing, small-n comparisons, systematic case selection, and approaches for combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. It will be grounded in current debates about causal inference, how it can be achieved through qualitative methods, and how doing so is complementary to or rival to statistically based causal inference. Particular emphasis will be put on understanding how various authors apply various qualitative methods in practice (both implicitly and explicitly) and on how students can choose and deploy them in their own research projects. It will also discuss practical aspects of generating qualitative data through techniques such as interviews and archival research.


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the AT.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of the Autumn Term.

Formative coursework

The course will involve two shorter formative assignments in AT (750 words each) that will:

a) critique the methods of a given research article or paper, allowing students to deepen and demonstrate their understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of different methods and the challenges in applying them in practice, and;

b) present a short mock research design addressing a research question of the their own choosing (subject to seminar teacher approval).

Indicative reading

  • Henry E Brady and David Collier, Rethinking Social Inquiry Diverse Tools, Shared Standards (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010).
  • John Gerring, Case Study Research: Principles and Practices (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • Gary Goertz and James Mahoney, A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences (Princeton University Press, 2012).
  • Tasha Fairfield and Andrew E. Charman, “Explicit Bayesian Analysis for Process Tracing: Guidelines, Opportunities, and Caveats,” Political Analysis 25, no. 3 (July 2017): 363-380.
  • Nina Tannenwald, “The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Normative Basis of Nuclear Non-Use,” International Organization 53, no. 3 (Summer, 1999), pp. 433-468.
  • Anthony W. Marx, “Race-Making and the Nation-State,” World Politics 48, no. 2 (1996): 180–208.


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the January exam period.
Essay (50%, 2000 words) in the WT.

The summative assignments will consist of a 2000 word in-depth review of a published piece of research (due in early WT, 50%) and an exam (January, 50%) in which students will demonstrate the breadth of their knowledge of qualitative methods.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

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

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