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Research Design for Policy in Practice


Admission requirements

Only students who are admitted to the master’s programme Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, specialisation Sociology of Policy in Practice can take part in this course.

N.B.: Completing this course is required to start your Policy Oriented Research Internship, Thesis Seminar CADS PIP and Master Thesis Project CADS.

Course description

This course aims to prepare students for the practical and epistemological complexities of conducting ethnographic research. The course centres on three-hour tutorials. In these tutorials, issues related to epistemology, ethics and fieldwork practice will be discussed by means of ethnographic exercises in which students link literature and in-class discussions 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 fieldwork identities, health and self care, and academic adaptability needed to write a good research proposal that meets both academic and societal agendas.

The course is intended to guide students in the writing of their Research proposal (in which they are coached primarily by their individual supervisor). It aims to make students aware of the epistemological dimension of fieldwork practice, in framing students’ personal research interests, skills, and possibilities, and to help them prepare discussions on these issues with their individual thesis supervisor.

A list of Sociology of Policy in Practice Research internships is available on our website tab Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology (MSc) and is being permanently updated.

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

Course Objectives

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

Financial matters

The Methods-in-Practice week is a mandatory part of the course Research Design. It will take place from Monday 24 October until Friday 28 October 2022 and will demand a full-time participation, from 08:00 AM - evening.

The MiP week includes a four-day stay in Amsterdam (Tuesday - Friday). During the stay food (vegan/vegetarian) and drinks (non-alcoholic) will be provided by the Institute CADS. 6-10 bed dormitories on location are available and will be (substantially) sponsored by the Institute CADS. If you want to make use of this accommodation, we demand a contribution of 50 euro per person (for three nights), to be paid before 20 October 2022. Further details will follow in September 2022.


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 hands-on training in the 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 sessions on Friday at daytime. Typically, mornings will be used for short lectures in methodology and ethics, while afternoons will be dedicated to individual methodological exercises, which are then evaluated in the evenings. Further details will be announced in 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

Course Structure and Participation

The course consists of three parts:

  • Six weekly three-hour tutorials. These sessions center on the steps that need to be taken to prepare the research proposal as well as the weekly assignments. The tutorials are directed towards the discussion of these assignments and allow for a further linking of the literature to the emerging individual research projects. Participation of the tutorials is mandatory. More than two absences will result in failure of the course.

  • A four-day (10-13 October) full-time mandatory training in fieldwork methods (Methods-in-Practice [MIP] week).

  • A three-hour meeting (9 October) in which issues of plagiarism and authenticity are discussed and assessed. This meeting is mandatory.


  • Five mandatory weekly assignments, using literature. The first two assignments are graded with pass/fail, the remaining three assignments are graded and form 60% of the final grade. The weekly written assignments connect the literature to the individual research projects, thus giving ample space for reflection on possibilities and impossibilities, on expectations and worries, on do’s and don’ts.

  • A mandatory 2,000 word report of the MiP week forms 30% of the final grade for the course.

  • 10% of the final grade is based on the grade for the plagiarism and authenticity assessment. A pass for this assessment test is mandatory.

Registration in My Studymap

Registration for the lectures in My Studymap is mandatory for all students. Registration closes 5 days before the start of the course. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Confirming your exams

Students need not register for the examination via My Studymap, because this course does not include a single final examination.


Brightspace is the digital learning environment of Leiden University. The Brightspace module for this course will be available for registration by the end of August. Brightspace gives access to course announcements and electronic study material. Assignments will also be submitted in Brightspace. Brightspace informs students about announcements and changes in the course. Students are advised to check Brightspace on a daily base to remain informed about rooms, schedules, deadlines, and details regarding assignments. Lecturers assume that all students read information posted on Brightspace.

  • How to login
    The homepage for Brightspace is:
    Please log in with your ULCN-account and personal password. On the left you will see an overview of My Courses.
    To get access to your courses in Brightspace you need to be registered in My Studymap for these courses.

Course Literature

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).


Prof.dr. M.J. Spierenburg