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Research Design


Admission requirements

This course is for Master students Public Administration only.


The aim of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the basic principles of research design in the social sciences, and public administration in particular. Students will get the fundamental skills needed to critically evaluate existing research. They will also learn how to discover interesting and doable research questions, sharpen the theories they use, and develop sound designs for empirical research.

The course will provide an overview of experimental, comparative, large-N, and various case study designs. Case-selection strategies and common threats to internal and external validity of different research approaches will also be covered. Students will have ample opportunities to discuss and critique the research design of state-of-the-art academic articles in public administration and related fields, and to develop their own research proposal.

The course will review different research methodologies and discuss their strengths and weaknesses but this is not a course in any specific method. The end product of the course is an individual research proposal that can serve as a basis for writing the master thesis.

Course objectives

The main goals of the course are:

  • to learn how to write a proposal for an empirical research project / master thesis

  • to learn to critically assess empirical public administration research

  • to understand the advantages and disadvantages of different designs for empirical research in public administration

Labour market
The course contributes to analytical skills that are crucial for effective participation in the labour market. The students learn to plan and execute research projects, as well as to critically assess existing research.


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

Mode of instruction

The course is based on a combination of (online) lectures, class discussions and some practical exercises. The lectures will focus on selected issues from the material for each session.

Assessment method

The assignments include a midterm exam and a final exam. The final grade will be determined on the basis of:

  • midterm exam (25%)

  • final exam (75%)

Students need to receive a passing grade for the final exam to complete the course. The grade for the midterm exam can be compensated. There is no retake for the midterm exam. There is a retake opportunity for the final exam.

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

Toshkov, Dimiter. 2016. Research Design in Political Science. Palgrave Macmillan.


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams). Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.

Block 4: Registration for this course is possible from Wednesday 14 December 13.00h.

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

After registration for an exam you still need to confirm your attendance via MyStudymap. If you do not confirm, you will ultimately be de-registered and you will not be allowed to take the exam.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.

Please note: guest-/contract-/exchange students do not register via MyStudymap but via uSis. Guest-/contract-/exchange students also do not have to confirm their participation for exams via MyStudymap.


Dr. D.D. Toshkov
Dr. B.J. Carroll