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Research Methods: Methodology and the Problem of Difference: Cross-Cultural Research and Critical Discourse Analysis


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
The number of participants is limited to 24.
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 and ethically? 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 a basic understanding of the philosophical assumptions and ethical principles of 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 a brief introduction to the philosophy of science and research ethics. 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, operationalising research questions, and how to structure and write a research report.

Theme of Seminar

This seminar will have a focus on qualitative research methods, looking at the intersection of history, discourse, and foreign policy in International Relations. These are all analysed in the context of postpositivism and/or the ‘constructed’ nature of these focal areas. A further theme that is underscored in these seminars are the limits of generalizability in international studies, as well as the challenges of single case study approaches (context-circumscribed research). We will discuss the importance of cultural factors in research methodology as well as positionality and how this influences our research. Questions asked in this regard are whether neutral research is possible, and if so, how? In particular the focus will be on non-western International Relations and how this presents challenges and opportunities for the research methods we use. The readings will cover a wide range of topics, approaches, and regions, with a focus on the western/non-western divide insofar as methodology and research is concerned, as well as using examples from relations between China, Africa, and EU/US. This triangular engagement will serve as the basis for discussion of the above mentioned issues.

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 the philosophy of science 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, and learn how to analyse and interpret collected data.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


The three lectures will take place during weeks 36, 40, and 41.


There are seven seminar sessions in this course (weeks 37, 38, 39, 42, 43, 45, and 49). Attending all seminar sessions is compulsory. If you are unable to attend a session, please inform your Tutorial-lecturer 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 2023 – 2024.

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

Dates and structure of the list of readings will be announced in the first seminar.


  • Little, A. (2018). Contextualizing Concepts: The Methodology of Comparative Political Theory. The Review of Politics, 80(1), 87-113

  • Trownsell, Tamara A., et al. "Differing about Difference: Relational IR from around the World." International Studies Perspectives 22.1 (2021): 25-64.

  • Inayatullah, Naeem, and David L. Blaney. International relations and the problem of difference. Routledge, 2004.

  • Ryuko Kubota, Confronting Epistemological Racism, Decolonizing Scholarly Knowledge: Race and Gender in Applied Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Volume 41, Issue 5, October 2020, Pages 712–732,

Discourse Analysis:

  • MILLIKEN, JENNIFER. “The Study of Discourse in International Relations:: A Critique of Research and Methods.” European Journal of International Relations 5, no. 2 (June 1999): 225–54.

  • Fairclough, Norman. "Critical discourse analysis." In The Routledge handbook of discourse analysis, pp. 9-20. Routledge, 2013

  • Yunana Ahmed (2021) Political discourse analysis: a decolonial approach, Critical Discourse Studies, 18:1, 139-155

Non-Western Approaches:

  • Pinar Bilgin (2008) Thinking past ‘Western’ IR?, Third World Quarterly, 29:1, 5-23

  • Eun Y-S. Opening up the debate over ‘non-western’ international relations. Politics. 2019;39(1):4-17

Cross-cultural knowledge production:

  • June Wang & Xu Zhang (2020) The geopolitics of knowledge circulation: the situated agency of mimicking in/beyond China, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 61:6, 740-762,

  • Xin Xu (2022) Epistemic diversity and cross-cultural comparative research: ontology, challenges, and outcomes, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 20:1, 36-48

  • White, L.T. (2013). Chinese Political Studies: Overview of the State of the Field. In: Guo, S. (eds) Political Science and Chinese Political Studies. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 17 July 2023:

1) On 17 July 2023 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 31 July 2023 the Coordinator will assign you to one specific Research Methods course by 21 August 2023.
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.



The deadline for submission of the Research Report is Friday, 5 January 2024.