Research Design Seminar

Course Code :2700FSWRDS
Study domain:Political Sciences
Academic year:2017-2018
Semester:1st semester
Contact hours:45
Study load (hours):168
Contract restrictions: Credit and exam contract not possible
Language of instruction:English
Exam period:exam in the 1st semester
Lecturer(s)Dirk De Bièvre
Inger Baller

3. Course contents *

This schedule includes an overview of our meetings and of the mandatory readings. Each week, we will work with the book Research Design in Political Science by Dimiter Toshkov of Leiden University. The chapters from this book are supplemented with articles and chapters from other books, which we will provide you with via Blackboard. The readings should be read in their entirety before we meet, regardless of whether you have been assigned a presentation on that reading.

We expect you to be present at each meeting and to participate actively. When you cannot be present at a meeting, we expect you to send us an e-mail in advance stating the reason for your absence. Since designing your Master Thesis is a process, missing 1 or more meetings without providing sound reasons will result in failing the course. As stated also in the online course description, attendance and active participation are prerequisites to be able to submit a paper and obtain credits.

Handbook: Toshkov, Dimiter (2016), Research Design in Political Science, London: Palgrave Macmillan (available via ACCO).

The meetings are scheduled on Friday from 9:30 till 12:30 in S.M.104. If an extra group is created, their meetings will take place in S.M.106.

Meeting 1 / 29 September 2017

Theme: Introduction to the course

Meeting 2 / 6 October 2017

Theme: Selecting and narrowing down your topic & Literature review


  • Toshkov 2016, Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Toshkov 2016, Chapter 2: Types of Research and Research Questions
  • Gschwend & Schimmelfennig 2007, Chapter 1: Introduction: Designing Research in Political Science – A Dialogue between Theory and Data

Meeting 3 / 13 October 2017

Theme: Research Questions & Hypotheses


  • Toshkov 2016, Chapter 3 Theory in the Research Process
  • Dür in Gschwend & Schimmelfennig 2007, Chapter 10: Discriminating among Rival Explanations: Some Tools for Small-n Researchers
  • De Bièvre in Gschwend & Schimmelfennig 2007, Chapter 11:Falsification in Theory-Guided Empirical Social Research: How to Change a Tire while Riding Your Bicycle

20 October 2017: NO CLASS (Prof. De Bièvre in Oslo)

Meeting 4 / 27 October 2017

Theme: Conceptualization & operationalization


  • Toshkov 2016, Chapter 4: Concepts and Operationalization
  • Wonka in Gschwend & Schimmelfennig 2007, Chapter 3: Concept Specification in Political Science Research
  • Miller in Gschwend & Schimmelfennig 2007, Chapter 4: Making Measures Capture Concepts: Tools for Securing Correspondence between Theoretical Ideas and Observations

Meeting 5 / 10 November 2017

Theme: Case selection, measurement and description


  • Toshkov 2016, Chapter 5: Measurement and Description
  • Thiem in Gschwend & Schimmelfennig 2007, Chapter 7: Dealing Effectively with Selection Bias in Large-n Research
  • Leuffen in Gschwend & Schimmelfennig 2007: Chapter 8: Case Selecction and Selection Bias in Small-n Research

Feedback on the ‘November-version’ will be given in the weeks of 13 and 20 November. These feedback meetings take place in smaller groups. The composition and moment of the meeting will be decided upon in class. You will be expected to read and comment on the November papers of your peers.

Suggested readings:

  • Van Evera, S. (1997) Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. New York: Cornell University Press. Appendix: How to Write a Paper, pp. 123-128
  • Schimmelfennig, Frank en Thomas Gschwend (Ed.) (2007), How to practice what they preach. Research Design in Political Science, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • (In Dutch) Mortelmans, D., P. Spooren, en O. Chandesais (2013), ‘Hoofdstuk 2: Informatie zoeken en beoordelen’ in Mortelmans, D., P. Spooren, en O. Chandesais, Naar de bron. Informatie zoeken en gebruiken in de sociale en humane wetenschappen, Leuven: Acco, pp.13-68.

Meeting format

Every meeting will follow the same format. Each reading will be assigned to a student to start of the discussion. The student will present the required reading by (quite briefly) summarizing the content (everyone has read it, so don’t elaborate too much). Subsequently, the student will apply the content to her or his own master thesis project: give an update of where you are at and use the reading to discuss your research design systematically. The presentation may last a maximum of 20 minutes.

After the introduction of a reading, we will discuss the difficult parts collectively. This means good preparation requires you to write down your questions and bring them to class. This will enable us to help you to make progress on your research design. It also means that, even when you are not assigned to introduce a reading, we expect you to come to class well-prepared.