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Regular version of the site

Research Seminar

2021/2022
Academic Year
ENG
Instruction in English
6
ECTS credits
Course type:
Compulsory course
When:
2 year, 1-3 module

Instructors

Course Syllabus

Abstract

The primary aim of the course is to facilitate the thesis writing process of second-year MA students, in three principal parts. First, core issues around academic writing are addressed, ranging from academic integrity to the clear and persuasive manner of communicating research results (sessions 1-6). Second, critical issues in thesis-writing projects, such as data collection, trade-offs in research design, or case selections strategies are discussed (sessions 7-16). Third, students will discuss their thesis projects in a workshop format (sessions 17-23).
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
  • is able to confidently mobilize external sources in their research, fully aware of the boundaries between sound academic writing and plagiarism or academic dishonesty
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
  • Research ethics and the use of supporting tools
    An introduction is given to the international standards or academic writing, data-collection, and publishing. In order to help students safely navigate their research activities within these standards, they will be familiarized with reference managers (e.g. Mendeley, Zotero) and data collection softwares (e.g. NVivo, supporting tools in MS Office).
  • 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.
  • A practical guide to thesis writing
    Discussion on the planning of thesis writing and the potential challenges on the way. Particular emphasis on which stages of the process are dependent on each other, and the major risks at critical junctures.
  • 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.
  • Critical junctures in research
    Key differences between small-N and large-N, positivistic and non-positivistic, etc. research strategies, and the limitations these strategic choices entail on further research design issues.
  • 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.
  • Essentials of quantitative research
    What kind of research questions can be best answered by quantitative methods? What are the prerequisites of a quantitative research design? How should be research questions formulated in large-N research designs?
  • Case selection strategies
    In this session, the essential differences between descriptive and inferential case studies, cross-case and within-case inferences, and various comparative case research strategies will be discussed.
  • 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.
  • Qualitative data-collection: workshop
    In this session, students will share their qualitative data collection plans with the opportunity for an open and constructive discussion over this matter.
  • Communicating in academic contexts: presentations and conference discussions
    The essential features of academic presentations are introduced, like presenting projects in classrooms, presenting research at a conference, or mentally preparing for a so-called ‘elevator pitch’.
  • The use of research skills in non-academic contexts
    The job market perspectives of students with research-oriented profiles are discussed in this session, preparing students to develop their methodological skills with a sense of strategic planning. A virtual roundtable session will be held in the second part of the class, with some graduates of the program and some researchers with a PhD degree currently working in applied research or consultancy positions (at international, governmental and non-governmental organizations) sharing their experiences.
  • Presentation workshops (9 sessions)
    In the last nine 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.