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Research in Public Administration (SPOC)


Admission requirements

Students who are admitted to the PA pre-master programme. Students in the MPS pre-master need to take Bestuurskundig Onderzoek (Nederlandstalig);


What makes research academic? What is the role of theory development in the social sciences? How does one translate abstract concepts into observable indicators? This course offers an introduction to the fundamentals of social science research, with a particular focus on the field of public administration. We will discuss the role of theory, ideas about causality, and issues of measurement. We will also discuss a range of research techniques employed in the social sciences. Finally, we will consider the importance of research design, including the formulation of a strong research question, the development of a theoretical framework, and the selection of an appropriate methodology to carry out the project. This course will not only help students develop the skills to critically assess the methodological underpinnings of research presented in academic books and articles, but also introduces them to the methodological skills required for future research projects.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify the basic principles of academic research;

  • identify different types of theory development and how they relate to specific methodologies;

  • situate a research project within quantitative and qualitative traditions of social research;

  • explain the advantages and disadvantages of various research techniques;

  • critically assess the methodological underpinnings of a social scientific research project; and

  • prospectively apply basis research methodologies.


On the right side of programme front page of the Prospectus you will find links to the website, timetables and uSis.

Mode of instruction

The total course load is 140 hours:

  • Seminars: 12 hours

  • Miscellaneous: 2 hours

  • Self-study: 126 hours

Assessment method

Assessment for this course consists of a smaller assignment (30%) and a larger assignment (70% in weight). The total grade is the weighted average of the final grades for the two components. Students need to earn a grade of 5,5 or higher for each of the assignments. It is not possible to compensate for partial grades within the course.

Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on the online platform. More information about participation in exams can be found in the Rules & Regulations.

Partial grades will not remain valid after the exam and the resit of the course.

Reading list



Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. For this course, students will be enrolled by the programme. In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results.

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in uSis you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


Block 2: E.H. Sullivan MSc
Block 4: dr. M.M. Young


In block 2, this course is part of the virtual exchange.