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Research Methods: Critical Theories and Practices


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
The number of participants is limited to 23.
Some topics may have more than one group to choose from.


Why do we conduct research and what are the possibilities and limitations of research in international studies? What does a good research question look like and how can I make sure I am designing and conducting a research project properly? These are common questions that students have and this course is designed with these questions in mind.
Understanding and conducting research are key components of the BA International Studies programme and this course introduces students to research methods within a specific theme. Building on skills gained in courses such as Academic Reading and Writing, the aim of this course is threefold: to provide an understanding of the philosophical assumptions behind doing academic research; to equip students with key practical strategies and techniques for different types and processes of data collection, analysis, and interpretation; and to merge theory and practice by having students design, conduct, and write-up a small research project.
The course utilises a combination of general lectures and seminars. The lectures are attended by all students and are broadly applicable to research in the humanities and social sciences. They are meant to provide an overview of academic research, the logic and limitations of qualitative and quantitative methods, and the basics of research design. The seminars provide a focused engagement based upon the research expertise of the seminar leader. The seminar meetings are meant to assist students in designing a small research project and writing up the tentative results in a research report. While each seminar is unique, all students will be introduced to field specific research design issues, multiple data collection and analysis methods, research ethics, operationalising research questions, issues of verification and reliability, and how to structure and write a research report.

Theme of Seminar

This seminar employs critical pedagogy to introduce critical theories and research methods to motivate a reflection on the situatedness of knowledge (re)production. Its emphasis lies in understanding how the process of research works, unpacking the history and assumptions of existing methodologies and discussing the role of critical theories and approaches to research. Students will become aware of their possible biases, differences and privileges and will be guided throughout this process through constructive in-class inputs and critical discussion. Students will also learn how to provide constructive feedback to and engage with fellow researchers. The final assignment will allow students to understand different perspectives when doing research, their positionality, and how to critically approach the research topic using various available methods (both qualitative and quantitative).

The sessions are designed to allow students the space needed to reflect on their positionality—their background and motivation for doing research and select specific topics of interest, and how their positionality might reflect on their contribution to the co-cultivation of knowledge on their chosen topic/area. In-class interaction will offer a space for intellectual exchange and expose students to a plurality of views as well as diverse research methods, their limitations and materials. Through a critical engagement with methods, students will understand how beliefs work, question ethics, and develop an active sense of social responsibility emerging from self-reflection. The seminar will allow students to engage with critical theories and methods that can support them in understanding their place in a changing world and their social responsibility towards their communities.

Students are expected to develop a self-reflective attitude when engaging with the world and contemporary problems as dealt with in the various fields that they are studying: politics, economy, history, culture, as well as interconnected fields such as the political economy and international relations. At the same time, the critical approach to methods will allow students to experience different ways of gathering knowledge, practice knowledge sharing and co-cultivation of knowledge, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Course objectives

The purpose of this course is to prepare students to understand, design, and conduct academic research. After successfully completing the course students will:

  • Understand the importance of academic research in acquiring knowledge and how this relates to philosophical issues of ontology, epistemology, and the position of the researcher.

  • Be able to explain the logic and limitations of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research.

  • Possess the practical skills necessary for designing research, conducting research, and writing up a research report.

  • Understand how to formulate and operationalise research questions, address issues in research ethics, collect different types of data, identify and address issues of verification and reliability, and learn how to analyse and interpret collected data.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


The three lectures will take place during weeks 36, 39, and 40.


There are six seminar sessions in this course (weeks 37, 38, 41, 44, 45, and 49). Attending all seminar sessions is compulsory. If you are unable to attend a session, please inform your tutor in advance. Being absent at more than two of the seminar sessions will result in a lowering of your Research Report grade (75% of the end grade) with 0,5 point for each session missed after the first two sessions.

Assessment method

Assessment & Weighing

Partial Grade Weighing
Research Design 25%
Research Report 75%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The End Grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of the Research Design and Research Report.

  • Please note that if the Research Report is lower than 5.5, you will not pass the course, regardless of the Research Design grade.


If the End Grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the Research Report is lower than 5.5, there is a possibility of retaking the 75% of the Research Report. No resit for the Research Design is possible.
Please note that if the Resit Report grade is lower than 5.5, you will not pass the course, regardless of the Research Design grade.

Students who score an overall insufficient grade for the course, are allowed resubmit a reworked version of the Research Report. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the report and subsequent feedback. In case of resubmission of the report, the final grade for the report will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.

Students who fail to hand in their Research Report on or before the original deadline, but still within 5 working days of that deadline, will receive a grade and feedback on their report. This will be considered a first submission of the report, however, the grade will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.

Students who fail to hand in their Research Report on or before the original deadline, and also fail to hand in their report within 5 working days of that deadline, get 10 working days, counting from the original deadline, to hand in the first version of their report. However, this first version counts as a resubmitted report with consequential lowering of the grade, and there will be no option of handing in a reworked version based on feedback from the lecturer.

Retaking a passing grade

Retaking a passing grade is not possible for this course.
Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2020 – 2021.

Exam review and feedback

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 organised.

Reading list

  • W. Lawrence Neuman, Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches (7th Edition).

    ISBN: 9781292020235

This text will be utilised for the lectures. While some thematic seminars may also use this text, any additional literature will be announced on Brightspace before the start of the course.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 7 July 2020:

1) On 7 July 2020 you will receive a message with a link to the survey.
2) Indicate there which are your 5 preferred Research Methods courses, in order of preference.
3) Based on preferences indicated by 21 July the Coordinator will assign you to one specific Research Methods course by 11 August.
4) Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.
5) All students are required to enrol for their group in Brightspace to access all course information.

Students cannot register in uSis for the Research Methods courses, or be allowed into a Research Methods course in any other way.


For lectures:

Dr. C.L. Williams

For this seminar:

Dr. M.G. Palacio Ludeña

T.M.Y. Soukotta

When contacting lecturers or tutors, please include your full name, student number, and tutorial group number.
Please use your University email-address (uMail) when communicating with any person or department within Leiden University.

Student Affairs Office for BA International Studies


The deadline for submission of the Research Report is Friday, 8 January 2021.