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Political Research Design


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



Political Research Design is a practical course introducing students to the key considerations for designing a research project and drafting an appropriate proposal. Knowledge from this course will be directly relevant for successful advancement in the capstone process, and will also prepare students for conducting systematic research in further study and when working for employers such as government agencies and research institutes. Research design and proposal writing are vital and indispensable parts of academic work – they are what put the “science” into social science.

The main approach of this course is to guide students through the successive stages of drafting their proposals: from composing and refining an appropriate research question, to evaluating the ethical implications of different research design alternatives, to learning how to justify convincingly any particular method chosen. In the process of designing their projects and writing their proposals, students will also grasp the vital relationship between epistemological positions and research design choices/outcomes. In short, this course will provide a roadmap of best practices, as well as offer an array of helpful literature, that students can refer to and apply later in their education. It will also train students to critique more astutely the approaches and findings of existing scholarship they encounter in other courses. While there are many fascinating, wide-ranging conceptual debates about each aspect of research design, the emphasis in this course is on those that have direct practical relevance for basic research at the Bachelor level. There is also less focus on specific methods, of which there will only be select examples. Students must supplement the knowledge gained in this course by taking further methods courses in the WP programme.

Political Research Design is a prerequisite for enrolment in the capstone course.

Course Objectives

In successfully completing this course, students will be able to:


  • Synthesise the key components of successful research design, e.g., research questions, ethical standards, and methods, into an epistemologically coherent strategy for research

  • Summarise, compare, and evaluate different research design alternatives in light of chosen epistemological positions, and explain their strengths and weaknesses in terms of their impact on findings


  • Formulate an original research proposal that is justified in line with social scientific best practices

  • Demonstrate independent working and reflexive integration of course materials – readings, lecture videos, guidance from supervisor – into their feedback to other students and their own research proposals

  • Reflect on their positionality, structural power in research, and other (inter)subjective experiences of the research process


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will consist of 14 sessions and will include a combination of general discussion, workshop-style presentations, and small group exercises. Course materials, including lectures, will be available on Brightspace. Lectures are provided as 30-50 minutes pre-recorded streams available to view on Brightspace. Please watch these before the session. Participation is important for the vitality and effectiveness of the course, meaning students should come prepared with analytical questions and engage seriously with the ideas of their fellow class mates. Each session has a short list of required and recommended readings. Required readings, like the lectures, are mandatory in order to participate in the seminars; recommended readings offer more depth to the topic and are helpful starting points for the written assignments, but are by no means exhaustive.

Assessment Method

  • Draft proposal (20%)

  • Reading journal (20%)

  • Final research proposal (60%)

Reading list

The list of readings will be made available upon commencement of the course.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Densua Mumford,