Due to the Corona virus education methods or examination can deviate. For the latest news please check the course page in Brightspace.


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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 course will consist of seven lectures. The lectures will focus on selected issues from the material for each session. Do not expect the lectures to cover every topic from the assigned readings. Instead, the lectures will be mostly focused on the more difficult and controversial issues. It is therefore essential that you read the assigned literature in advance of the sessions

Assessment method

The assignments include a final exam and a final paper, which is a research proposal:

  • Final exam (50%)

  • Research proposal (50%)

The final grade will be calculated as the weighted average of the final exam and the final proposal. Both components need to receive a passing grade for the student to pass the class.
Partial grades are only valid in the current academic year; partial grades will not remain valid after the exam and the resit of the course.

Reading list

Singleton, RA and Straits, BC (2017). Approaches to Social Research (6th ed). Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN-13 9780190614249.

Additional readings consist of articles that will be communicated prior to the start of the course via Brightspace, and should be located through the university library catalogue.


Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration for courses in uSis is possible from 15 July, 13.00h after registration for the minor. Registration for workgroups is possible from 4 weeks before the start of a course (from 9 August, 13.00h)

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.


E.H. Sullivan MSc e.h.sullivan@fgga.leidenuniv.nl
Dr. M.M. Young m.m.young@fgga.leidenuniv.nl


This course is part of the virtual exchange.