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Regular version of the site

Research Seminar

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Compulsory course
1 year, 1-4 module


Course Syllabus


The course offers an introduction to the practice of social scientific research on a graduate level. Considering the interdisciplinary character of the MA program and the diverse background of the student body, the course aims to familiarize students with international standards of linking empirical and conceptual approaches, data-collection, academic writing, and communicating research results. The course comprises of three major parts. First (sessions 1-4 and 14-15), the formal and logistical sides of scholarly inquiry and academic writing are addressed. Second (sessions 5-13), students will be familiarized with major epistemic and methodological concepts and will receive an introduction to the major research design strategies in social sciences. Finally (sessions 16-21), students will present their term paper proposals, followed by a workshop-style discussion in the class.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The main goal of the research seminar is to teach research methodology, analysis and review methods, scientific literature, methods and means of professional presentation and special information.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • has a firm grasp on the essential practical guidelines of research design and planning
  • is able to confidently mobilize external sources in their research, fully aware of the boundaries between sound academic writing and plagiarism or academic dishonesty
  • 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 core features of position papers, literature reviews, review articles, journal articles, theses, and monographic works are introduced. By preparing students to their assignments in the MA program, a particular emphasis will be given to position papers, literature reviews, and theses.
  • 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 planning research: term papers, thesis outlines, PhD proposals
    The essential elements and steps of planning research procedures are introduced. While in cases of term papers and theses both the preparatory, data-collecting, and writing phases are discussed, for PhD proposals only the planning is introduced, considering that some students may plan to continue their studies on a doctoral level.
  • Ontology, epistemology, and methodology
    In this class session, the major approaches of ontology, epistemology, and methodology will be presented with a specific discussion on how these are connected, and what does a choice between these entail.
  • Major research traditions
    The primary epistemic traditions will be introduced in this class session, together with a discussion on the concept of ‘research programs’.
  • Inferential vs descriptive studies
    The core differences between descriptive (or explorative) and inferential research will be discussed, stressing the following questions: are there research questions that could be addressed only with one of them; what are the prerequisites of inferential research; and can descriptive research be seen as ‘inferior’ (in any ways) to inferential inquiries?
  • Case study strategies
    This session will be dedicated to the discussion of single- and comparative case study strategies, with a particular emphasis on the latter.
  • A quick guide to accommodating quantitative research in your design?
    What kind of questions can be best answered through statistical methods? What are the pre-requisites of choosing a quantitative research design? How should a qualitative researcher read an academic publication utilizing quantitative methods?
  • Qualitative data collection strategies
    This session will provide an overview on the major qualitative data collection strategies, including interviews, focus groups, and fieldwork.
  • Set-theoretic methods
    This session will familiarize students with the core features of set-theoretic methods (with a particular emphasis on Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)), touching upon the type of research questions they can meaningfully address, their core-advantages for medium-N research designs, and their limitations.
  • Process-tracing
    This session will provide an introduction to an emerging case study method, process-tracing. This method has a comparative advantage in single case research designs, or research projects focusing on within-case variations, or the temporal dimensions of social phenomena.
  • Pluralistic traditions, mixed methods? Navigating between epistemic and methodological traditions
    This session will focus on the substantive part of research design, providing some guidelines for students to navigate their research ideas among the different traditions they are exposed to in the first stage of the program.
  • 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 workshop (6 sessions)
    In the last six sessions, students will share their preliminary plans for their MA thesis and present it in a conference-style presentation and discussion.
  • Position paper
  • Literature review
  • Presentation
  • Written exercises
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Position paper
    The position paper shall be a problem-based, argumentative text demonstrating the student’s capacity to identify academically relevant problems, finding avenues to tackle it, and communicating her/his arguments in a persuasive, transparent, and succinct manner. The position paper should also demonstrate the student’s firm understanding on the differences between epistemic and methodological traditions. The position paper’s extent shall not exceed 1,000 words, including foot/endnotes, excluding the bibliography.
  • non-blocking Literature review
    The literature review should be a narrative text demonstrating the student’s ability to identify the relevant sources for her/his research, to identify various positions and debates in the relevant literature, and to situate her/his own research within these debates. The literature review’s extent shall not exceed 600 words, including foot/endnotes, excluding the bibliography.
  • non-blocking Term paper proposal
    The term paper proposal should be a preliminary outline on the student’s major research project within the program, the MA thesis. The proposal’s extent shall not exceed 1,000 words, including foot/endnotes, excluding the bibliography, and should reflect on the student’s research question, methodological choices, and logistical plans. The presentation should outline this written proposal in an accessible fashion; beyond presenting their works, students will also have to comment on other research proposals in a constructive way.
  • non-blocking Written tasks
    The written tasks are short 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 In-class participation
    In the class participation component, 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 Presentation
    The presentation should outline written proposal in an accessible fashion; beyond presenting their works, students will also have to comment on other research proposals in a constructive way.
  • non-blocking Exam
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (2 module)
    0.2 * Exam + 0.1 * In-class participation + 0.15 * Literature review + 0.15 * Position paper + 0.15 * Presentation + 0.15 * Term paper proposal + 0.1 * Written tasks
  • Interim assessment (4 module)
    0.2 * Exam + 0.1 * In-class participation + 0.15 * Literature review + 0.15 * Position paper + 0.15 * Presentation + 0.15 * Term paper proposal + 0.1 * Written tasks


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
  • Henry E. Brady, & David Collier. (2010). Rethinking Social Inquiry : Diverse Tools, Shared Standards: Vol. 2nd ed. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Landman, T. (2008). Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics : An Introduction (Vol. 3rd ed). Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=222321
  • The Oxford handbook of political methodology / ed. by Janet Box-Steffensmeier . (2008). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.253060168