This course introduces graduate students to the logic of research design and comparative case study methods. It provides an introduction to the variety of small N case study methods used in political and social scientific research. The aim of the course is to provide you with the necessary tools to identify the appropriate strategy for your research question; assess the options for empirical data collection; and make use of the relevant analytical techniques. It also aims to expand your knowledge of the ideas and assumptions underpinning the philosophy of the social science(s). Students will emerge better equipped to undertake comparative case study research that will produce valid descriptive and casual inferences about the political and social world.

The course is in two parts and consists of the following 12 seminars:

  • How to think about research questions and design
  • How to build a causal explanation
  • How to operationalize concepts and construct typologies
  • How to analyse and measure empirical data
  • How to select cases and comparisons
  • Taking stock: constructing intelligent research design
  • The new methodology of qualitative research: theory testing
  • How to do causal process-tracing analysis (a) – historical
  • How to do causal process-tracing analysis (b) – empirical
  • How to use discourse/content analysis
  • How to use formal game theory methods
  • How to do elite interviews

The core reading/textbook is Bob Hancké (2009) Intelligent Research Design; A Guide for Beginning Researchers in the Social Sciences, OUP.


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