Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

The course is designed for both beginner and advanced graduate students in political science. At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to understand the logic of the research process, to understand many of the different approaches used in the study of politics, and be familiar with several themes central to political research. The course is designed to improve students’ abilities to both identify and use evidence as well as be able to choose among a wide range of approaches to develop their own methods to explore substantive research questions.

Course contents

What are the philosophical and practical bases for scientific inquiry? How are the methods of inquiry used to pursue research in Political Science? This course introduces students to the wide range of different methodologies commonly employed in political science and confronts the nature of science as a distinctive form of human inquiry. We begin with the scientific method – including the nature of inquiry, methods of comparison, and the use of data, theory and hypotheses – and move to quantitative, formal, experimental and empirically qualitative methods forms of research. Students will also be introduced to problematic concepts such as equivalence, selection bias, spuriousness, value bias and the ecological and individualist fallacies. Pedagogically, the module integrates these components to create an awareness of the breadth of political science and its approaches - as well as a foundation to assess, engage, and ultimately contribute to the study of politics with their own work.


The full list of readings for students who regularly attend classes will be circulated on the first day of class and posted on the class website on “Insegnamenti Online” at iol.unibo.it. The expectation is that students will have done the assigned readings before the meetings. Required readings are indicated in the syllabus although other readings are included for additional consultation (for example, if the topic interests you).

Students who do not regularly attend classes should make themselves (very) familiar with…

Johnson, Janet B., H. T. Reynolds, and Jason D. Mycoff. 2015. Political Science Research Methods. CQ Press; 8th ed.

…and at least one of the following:

King, Gary. Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton University Press.

Marsh, David and Gerry Stoker (eds.). 2010. Theory and Methods in Political Science. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 3rd ed.

Moses, Jonathon and Torbjørn Knutsen. 2019. Ways of Knowing: Competing Methodologies in Social and Political Research: Competing Methodologies and Methods in Social and Political Research. Palgrave Macmillan. 3rd ed.

Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., Henry E. Brady, and David Collier (eds.). 2008. The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Teaching methods

The module will be taught as a seminar, including formal lectures by the instructor and participatory seminars. This approach provides opportunities for students to openly assess the topics in the lectures and improve their own skills with guided discussions and exercises. In particular, students will improve their understanding of the concepts and methods introduced in the lectures by evaluating arguments in the discussions as well as applying the concepts and methods in the analysis of existing work. Students will explore in greater detail aspects and issues introduced in the lectures; link them to wider issues in political research; and reflect critically on them. In order to make the most of the course, there will be requisite independent study in which students will read the recommended texts, assimilate and reflect on the lecture material, and prepare for seminars as well as research.

Assessment methods

The final exam will require students to assess core concepts from the course as well as apply empirical, methodological, and critical analytical skills learned in the course to original problems (2 hours, 3 questions; for students who do not attend class regularly (2 hours, 4 questions).

Teaching tools

The slides of the lectures will be provided.

Office hours

See the website of Paul Matthew Loveless