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New Frontiers in Africanist Research


Admission requirements



African studies is an interdisciplinary field. In answering research questions African Studies combines disciplines from the social sciences, humanities and to a lesser extent the natural sciences. In this course, the students will be introduced to the practices of interdisciplinary research.

The students will get acquainted with different research methodologies and methods, that are often combined in interdisciplinary research (mixed methods) and the students will be introduced to the operationalization (i.e. ‘how to go about all this in ‘the field’’), where trying to find answers to the research question will be linked to methodologies and techniques and to questions of how to operationalize a research question into practical research. They will be working on their own epistemological position and writing a consistent research proposal in a group of three to four persons, based on a self-developed research question.

This course mainly presents the spectrum of what can be considered in Africanist research. The course ‘Methods and Skills in Africanist Research’ in the second semester is focused on training actual methods to be used in the field. ‘Methodologies’ present a broad analysis of methods and procedures of research, while ‘methods’ are the actual tools selected for fieldwork.

Course objectives

Students will learn (a) in what ways epistemology differs from, but relates to “methodology and methods”; (b) how they can think about the differences between and combinations of qualitative and quantitative research; (c) specific relevance of these methodological issues for research in Africa; (d) how to write and present an integrated research proposal based on a well thought through research question.

Learning outcomes
At the end of the course:
1) Students have a basic understanding of the research process and the links between epistemology, ontology and methodological choices;
2) Students have understanding of the differences between different ontological and epistemological positions;
3) Students have learned the basic differences between the various disciplines involved in African studies and are able to read, understand and debate about these;
4) Students have learned to write and present about epistemological issues and their own choices in this regard;
5) Students have knowledge of the relevance of these issues for the study of Africa
6) Students have learned to work with others from different disciplines and to write a research/tender proposal for an international organization/donor;
7) Students have a basic knowledge of the process of knowledge production


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of Instruction

Lectures/seminars, all in the Pieter de la Court Building. The course consists of a kaleidoscope of topics related to Reflexivity and Methodologies with three individual assignments, plus a group assignment. Students have a role to play in every aspect of the course: In lectures they chair the class, introduce guest lecturers, discuss the literature extensively, and discuss the progress of their individual and group assignments.

Assessment method

The classes and literature are examined by a group assignment, presentations and by two individual assignments (see below). Group assignment counts for 50% and individual assignments count for 50% (equal weight) of the final mark.

Group Assignment ‘Fieldwork’ is a key ingredient and for many students the highlight of this Research Master African Studies. In order to prepare for fieldwork everybody is required to write a Research Proposal based on a solid research question. Following the chosen research question choices have to be made in terms of theoretical and methodological orientations. This has to come together in a Research Proposal that must be feasible and in which a planning for the field work is also included. The group assignment during this course takes you through the process of research proposal writing and confronts the students with the many choices that have to be made (theoretically and methodologically) ánd scientifically justified in preparation of fieldwork.

Individual assignment I: select two ‘path-breaking’ papers in your own discipline: one from the 1960s and one published after 2015 and analyse the assumptions, research methodologies and methods in these papers. Write an essay on the different approaches (2,500 words).

Individual assignment II: Select two papers from two different disciplines that focus on the same issue (e.g. land tenure security, the roots of violent conflict, the working of the media or any other topic that might interest you), and make a systematic comparison between assumptions and the methodologies used and write an essay about it (2,500 words).
Hand in:

Group assignment: draft Research Proposal
Hand in: 19 November 2021

Group assignment: Final Research Proposal
Hand in: 30 December 2021

Reading List



Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.


For questions related to the content of the course, please contact the lecturer, you can find their contact information by clicking on their name in the sidebar.

For questions regarding enrollment please contact the Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats

For questions regarding your studyprogress please contact the Coordinator of Studies