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Regular version of the site
Master 2021/2022

Research Seminar "Design and Methodology"

Type: Compulsory course (Comparative Politics of Eurasia)
Area of studies: Political Science
When: 2 year, 1-3 module
Mode of studies: offline
Instructors: András Gál
Master’s programme: Comparative Politics of Eurasia
Language: English
ECTS credits: 4

Course Syllabus

Abstract

The core objective of the course is to facilitate the thesis writing of second-year MA students, building on the skills and knowledge acquired in the first year of their program. In the first four sessions, the logistical, formatting, and ethical issues around thesis writing are discussed, alongside potential avenues for further developing one’s research project (PhD proposals, publications). The second part of the course (sessions 3-8) addresses various content-specific issues. This includes issues that can be crystallized in the progress of thesis writing (such as trade-offs and pitfalls, or data collection), as well as research methods and strategies that have been addressed to a lesser extent in the first year (like set-theoretic methods or process-tracing). In the final, third stage of the course, students will present their MA thesis research, and discuss the projects in a workshop format.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The core objective of the course is to facilitate the thesis writing of second-year MA students, building on the skills and knowledge acquired in the first year of their program
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • has a firm grasp on the essential practical guidelines of research design and planning
  • is able to effectively communicate their research results
  • becomes familiar with the essential features of academic publishing procedures
  • has avenues of applying research skills outside academia
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • The fundamental features of academic research and genres of academic writing
    The key formal and substantive requirements of the MA thesis, the major stages of the procedure, and key consideration in planning the project will be discussed
  • Avoiding the “So what?” question: puzzles, problems and research questions
    This seminar focuses on how various audiences (departmental, academic, professional) perceive research questions and projects, helping students formulating their own inquiries in a way that matters beyond the academic procedures of the program.
  • Writing a PhD application
    Session on the strategic and logistical sides of PhD applications, including discussion on the relevance of MA thesis in PhD applications.
  • An introduction to the basics of academic publishing
    How does the process of academic publishing look like? In what regards are journal articles different from MA theses, or academic monographs different from PhD theses? Preliminary insights from junior academics.
  • Trade-offs and pitfalls
    The most major trade-offs (holism vs parsimony, validity vs reliability, etc.) and common pitfalls (ecological and individualistic fallacies, spurious vs over specified models, etc.) will be addressed in a hands-on fashion.
  • Mixed-methods research
    This session will be dedicated to the discussion of various mixed-methods research strategies, their potential risks and returns, addressing both the epistemic and more practical aspects of these issues.
  • Process-tracing & QCA
    In this session, a brief introduction will be provided to two qualitative research methods which were addressed to a lesser extent in the earlier methodological classes, process-tracing and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA).
  • Qualitative data-collections (essentials)
    The most common qualitative data collection methods, such as interviews, fieldwork, participant observation, and discourse analysis will be discussed from a practical angle. The core questions of the class session will be: what kind of research questions do these methods fit; on what scale can one plan using these methods within the framework of an MA thesis project; and which are the primary trade-offs linked to each method? Within this session, students will share their qualitative data collection plans with the opportunity for an open and constructive discussion over this matter.
  • Presentation workshops (10 sessions)
    In the last ten sessions, students will share their preliminary plans for their MA thesis and present it in a conference-style presentation and discussion.
  • Short assignments
  • Research question essay
  • Reaction paper
  • Thesis presentation
  • Discussing other thesis project
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Short assignments
    The short assignments are brief exercises, following up on specific aspects of a given class, e.g. discerning cases of academic dishonesty and plagiarism, transgressing boundaries in academic genres, etc. Depending on the discussions within the class sessions, 2-4 of these will be assigned throughout the semester, always touching upon specific practical matters.
  • non-blocking Research question essay
    The research question essay should be a 400-600 words-long (including foot/endnotes, excluding bibliography) explication of the student’s central research question in her/his MA thesis, reflecting on its justification, academic relevance, and feasibility.
  • non-blocking Reaction paper
    The reaction paper has to explicate how the methodological considerations introduced in one of the mandatory readings contributes to her/his MA thesis. The reactions paper should be 600-800 words-long, including foot/endnotes, excluding bibliography.
  • non-blocking Thesis presentation
    The presentation should be a preliminary proposal on the student’s major research project within the program, the MA thesis. Beyond presenting their works, students will also have to comment on other research proposals in a constructive style.
  • non-blocking Participation in the general class sessions
    In both class participation components, the following qualities can result in a maximal grade: • frequency and concision of class participations • originality of class contribution • connection between preparation materials and class contributions • contribution to class discussion dynamics • participation in maintaining an inspiring class environment
  • non-blocking Participation in thesis workshop sessions
    In both class participation components, the following qualities can result in a maximal grade: • frequency and concision of class participations • originality of class contribution • connection between preparation materials and class contributions • contribution to class discussion dynamics • participation in maintaining an inspiring class environment
  • non-blocking Discussing another thesis presentation
    Beyond presenting their works, students will also have to comment on other research proposals in a constructive fashion.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (3 module)
    0.1 * Discussing another thesis presentation + 0.1 * Participation in the general class sessions + 0.1 * Participation in thesis workshop sessions + 0.15 * Reaction paper + 0.15 * Research question essay + 0.1 * Short assignments + 0.3 * Thesis presentation
Bibliography

Bibliography

Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Bob Hancké. (2009). Intelligent Research Design : A Guide for Beginning Researchers in the Social Sciences. OUP Oxford.
  • King, G. (DE-588)135604311, (DE-627)568593324, (DE-576)166299405, aut. (1994). Designing social inquiry scientific inference in qualitative research Gary King; Robert O. Keohane; Sidney Verba.

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Eco, U., Farina, G., & Mongiat Farina, C. (2015). How to Write a Thesis. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=963778
  • Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier, Henry E. Brady, & David Collier. (2008). The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology. OUP Oxford.
  • Todd Landman. (2003). Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics : An Introduction: Vol. 2nd ed. Routledge.