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Research Design (February intake)


Admission requirements

Only students admitted to the February Intake of the Master’s programme ‘Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology’ specialisations Policy in Practice and Global Ethnograpy can take part in this course.

Course Description

This course aims to prepare MSc students for writing their research proposals and to reflect on the practical and epistemological complexities of conducting ethnographic fieldwork. The course is centred on three-hour tutorials. Issues related to epistemology, ethics, and fieldwork practice will be discussed in the tutorials by means of ethnographic exercises in which students link literature and in-class discussion to their individual fieldwork topics. Emphasis will be given to formulating the main research questions, operationalization, methodology, ethics, and the organization of each student’s fieldwork. Consideration will also be given to the roles students take in the field, as well as to the academic adaptability needed to write a good research proposal – and to health care. The course is intended to make students aware of the epistemological dimension of fieldwork practice, in framing the student’s personal research interests, skills, and possibilities, and to help each student to prepare discussions on these issues with their individual thesis supervisor. The course is intended to guide students in the writing of their Research Proposal (in which they are primarily coached by their individual supervisors).

A list of research/internships topics is available on our website. The list is continually updated.

The course ‘Research Design’ encompasses a mandatory ‘Methodology in Practice’ (MiP) week, which is intended to provide students with practical training in ethnographic method. See details below, under Timetable.

Course objectives

  1. Helping the student to formulate systematically the questions that are central to their MSc research, positioned in relation to relevant academic debates.
  2. Providing practical preparation for the complexities of fieldwork, given the operationalization of research questions.
  3. Critically exploring the possibilities for conducting anthropological fieldwork through rapport with research interlocutors at a time when both face-to-face communication and online communication via a variety of media have become common means for producing empirically-based research data.


Please see the schedule

Methodology in Practice
The course ‘Research Design’ encompasses a mandatory ‘Methodology in Practice’ (MiP) week, which is intended to provide students with practical training in ethnographic method. The MiP week will take place in October and lasts four full days (including evenings) from Monday morning until Thursday evening, with two additional daytime sessions on the Friday. Typically, mornings will be used for short lectures in methodology and ethics, and afternoons will be dedicated to individual methodological exercises which will be evaluated in the evenings. Further details will be announced early September.

Mode of instruction

Total: 5 ECTS = 140 study hours (sbu)

o Tutorials
o Hands-on workshops
o Student screening/feedback sessions
o Written assignments
o Peer review

Assessment method

Examination of the course will be through weekly written assignments that connect the literature to the individual’s research plans, thus giving ample space for reflection on possibilities and impossibilities, on expectations and worries, on ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’. Each week’s assignment will be discussed in the tutorials. All assignments will be graded. Grades count proportionally towards the final grade for the course (80% of the final grade). Participation is class counts for 20% of the final grade. Failure to submit an assignment on time automatically implies ‘failure’ for that assignment. Twice failing to submit an assignment on time results in exclusion from the course. Only submitted and completed assignments can be resubmitted if necessary, up to a maximum of two assignments for the entire course (blank papers will not be accepted). Assignments should be submitted as Word documents. Presence at all classes is mandatory from the start of the course. Students not present at the first lecture will not be allowed to participate.


Students are required to register for this course in uSis. (Registration for the exam in uSis is not required since there is no sit-down examination.)


Brightspace is the digital learning environment of Leiden University. The Brightspace module for this course will be available by the end of December.

Reading list

Robben, A.C.G.M., and J.A. Sluka (eds.)

2012 Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader. Malden MA, Blackwell.

An additional selection of relevant journal articles. These will be available for downloading through the university library or via Brightspace (to be announced).


Dr. Erik de Maaker