nl en

Theories and Methods of Middle East and Islamic Studies 2


Note: the first meeting for this course will take place on Monday, September 7, 15-17 hs, in the basement of building Matthias de Vrieshof 3.

Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or the MA International Relations, specialisation International Studies is required. Students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies have priority. Students from the other MA programmes can only be admitted if there are places left. Please, contact the student advisor or the course convener, if you are interested in taking this course but NOT a student of one of the above-mentioned MA programmes.


This course is designed to introduce students to the theoretical foundations, methodological debates, and methods engaged in Middle East studies. This course has two central aims. The first aim is to encourage students to think about broad questions related to epistemology, ontology and methodology in relation to the design of their own thesis projects in particular, and research on the Middle East more broadly. The second aim is to train students in the research design process, with the ultimate outcome being a proposal for their individual theses. In addition to preparing them for their own research, the research methods course exposes students to methodological debates and approaches in order to help them develop the ability to critically assess academic work. Crucially, the course encourages students to engage and confront the methodological challenges which arise in a multidisciplinary context and think constructively on the historical evolution and trajectory of research on the modern Middle East.

Course objectives

  • Understand epistemological, ontological, and methodological divides and issues in research on the Middle East

  • Write and present clear research questions and summaries

  • Learn how to design an effective and feasible research project that contributes to studies on the Middle East

  • Recognize appropriate methods for diverse research projects

  • Utilise ontological and methodological debates in critiquing research on the Middle East



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and participation are obligatory. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the conveners and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

EC: 10 (= 280 hours)

  • Attending seminars: 30 hours

  • Reading / studying material: 125 hours

  • Completing assignments: 125 hours

Assessment method

I. Engagement 40% (Ongoing)
a. Participation (15%)
b. Research Question Workshop (10%)
c. Method Selection Workshop (15%)
II. 2 Short Reaction Papers 20%
III. Paper: Methodological Book Review 40%

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A new version of the methodological book review (40%) may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” or lower. If students take this option, they must choose an alternative book from the list of approved books to review. They will not be permitted to resubmit the same book review. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.



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.


  1. Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East, Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2010
    1. Alan Bryman, Social Research Methods 4th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012
    2. Other course readings are available in electronic format through the library catalogue or online.


  • This course assumes students have read Edward Said’s Orientalism. If you have not read this text, you will need to finish it before week two.

1. Introduction: Demystifying Methods
2. The Philosophy of Science, and Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences
3. Formulating the Research Question: Causal Ontologies
4. Unpacking the Research Question: On Exceptionalism, Structure and Agency in the Studying the Middle East
5. Western Power and Knowledge of the Middle East
6. Approaching the Middle East I: Gender and Orientalism
7. Approaching the Middle East II: Area Studies and the Social Sciences
8. Approaching the Middle East III: Qualitative and Quantitative Research on the Region
9. Problem Solving and Critical Theory / Proposal writing and the Literature review
10. Analysing Research I: Case Studies, Process Tracing, and Historical Analysis
11. Analysing Research II: From Interviews to Ethnography
12. Research Ethics and Course Summary


Students of the MA program Middle Eastern Studies are required to register through uSis August/January 15. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Other students are requested to send an email to the study co-ordinator including their name, student ID number, course title and prospectus or catalog number. Depending on the availability of places, the study co-ordinator will register these students after August/January 15. By September/February 1 at the latest the student will be able to see in uSis whether (s)he is registered or not.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Studeren à la carte nor Contractonderwijs is possible for this course.


Dr. C.A. Ennis


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on “plagiarism and academic integrity”: Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).