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Reflexivity and Methodologies in Africanist Research


Admission requirements

Free and compulsory for students enrolled in the ResMA African Studies program. Those from other MA programs may be admitted with prior registration (contact coordinator).


African studies is an interdisciplinary field. It combines disciplines from the social sciences, humanities and to a lesser extent the natural sciences. In this course of 15 ECTS the students will be introduced to the practice of interdisciplinary research, which is often a collaborative work. The students will get acquainted with different research methods, that may be combined in an interdisciplinary research (mixed methods) and in the last block the students will be introduced into the operationalization of research, where a research problematic will be linked to methodologies and techniques; how do we operationalize a research question into practical research? The course has three major parts.

Part I:

In the first two weeks of this course the students will be familiarized with the various interdisciplinary approaches that have formed African Studies in the 20iest century. Two historical examples of research programmes in Africa and three examples from the past two decades will introduce the students not only to interdisciplinary fields but also to their methodologies. It will become clear that a study in this field often uses various methods. Interdisciplinarity goes with mixed methods. The examples combine quantitative and qualitative methods or they combine historical methods and ethnography. As such, they help to demonstrate that research is guided by the type of data collected which in turn shapes the analysis to a certain extent.

At the end of the first five lectures the students present an interdisciplinary research plan/programme, that they have prepared based on the reading of literature that are the outcomes of an existing interdisciplinary research programme (this is an assignment made in groups of 4-5 students).

Part II:

This comprises three weeks during which students are introduced to various techniques of research methods. The presentations from research of the lecturers are combined with practical exercises and assignments.

Part III:

The third block of three lectures and three assignment presentations deals with the operationalization of research problematic and questions. How to translate data into knowledge? What can be learnt from the various types of data gathered with the variable techniques that are part of the mixed methods in relation to research questions?

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students

  • know how to situate research groups, research agenda’s and methodological choices in their historical and social contexts.

  • understand in what way epistemology differs from, but relates to “methods and techniques”;

  • can explain the differences between qualitative and quantitative research (validity vs. representatively);

  • understand specific relevance of these methodological issues for research in/on Africa.


African Studies research

Mode of instruction

Lectures and Seminar:

The course consists of three major parts:

Part I will focus on interdisciplinarity and it will be studied in the first two weeks, in six consecutive lectures of 3 hours and one seminar day at the end of the module in which students’ assignment papers are presented and discussed.

Part II deals with techniques and methods and it will have a duration of two and half weeks. This part comprises six lectures and one paper presentation by students.

Part III is on operationalization and it involves three lectures and two seminar afternoons (14.00 – 17.00 hrs) on papers for assignment three and a group research proposal.

Course Load

  • The course comprises 15 EC and the total course load is thus 420 hrs

  • 78 hrs of these will be spent attending lectures and seminars (~11 hrs per week x 7 weeks)

  • 150 hrs to be spent on studying literature: 120 pages literature per week

  • 180 hrs research and writing assignment papers

  • 10 hrs will be spent in group discussion and feedback sessions

  • 2 hrs. mentor sessions

Assessment method

  • Assessment of three individual assignment papers, one groups research proposal plus presentation skills. All papers will be presented in class before submission for evaluation.

  • The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of marks for the three individual papers and one group assignment on writing a research proposal.

  • If the weighted average for the course is insufficient (i.e. less than 6) students can resit for examination by rewriting the papers for the parts that are evaluated as insufficient. This will be done in consultation with the course instructor.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Students registered for the course will be enrolled. Course information, teaching material, assignment papers and feedback are exchanged via Blackboard.

Reading list

The booktitles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where it can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand.

A list of compulsory and recommended articles is stated in the detailed course programme for each lecture (the programme is made available via Blackboard, latest a week before the courses start). The material are available in the different libraries of the University and the African Studies Centre. Students must study the compulsory literature of each lecture beforehand.


Enrollment through uSis for the course and the examination or paper is mandatory.
Prospective students, please check the Study Abroad/Exchange website for information on how to apply.


Marcel Rutten

Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats:

Coordinator of Studies: P.C. Lai LL.M. MSc


Among the instructors listed above, one will be the course instructor and s/he will streamline the link among the various guest lectures and look into the evaluation of students’ papers and make sure they get comprehensive and timely feedback on their essays.