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Designing Academic Inquiry




Admission Requirements

None. This is a required course for first-year students.


This course introduces students to the process of academic research. In line with the various qualities of an honours education in the liberal arts and sciences, students will participate in the development of a research project proposal in preparation for future coursework, their capstone experience, and life after LUC. This course will guide students through the phases of research beginning with research questions, explorations of the existing literature, identifying appropriate methodologies, data sources, and analysis, and finishing with the dissemination of resulting information. Through both individual and group work students will explore different lines of research questioning in both the arts and sciences, and come to understand the differences between, yet complementary nature of, quantitative and qualitative data and methodologies. Students will not only be exposed to the theoretical ideas unpinning research design, but will have the opportunity to present their projects to a wide audience using oral presentations and conferences style posters, as well as continued practice in writing.

Course Objectives

Upon the completion of this course student will be able to:

  • Formulate research questions;

  • Distinguish between and conduct the various discrete stages of a research project;

  • Present coherent and convincing project results;

  • Discriminate among different types of research design and select the methods appropriate for specific research questions; and

  • Explain and evaluate the different methodologies available in academic research.

Mode of Instruction

This course meets in the form of one two-hour seminar per week, during which students will examine, conduct, and discuss elements of the research process and design from multi-disciplinary angles.

Running in parallel to students’ individual engagement with different modes of academic inquiry, each seminar group will divided into project teams (groups). Each team will develop a research project using the skills emphasized during seminar focused on the 2013 United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation. The results of these projects will be presented as an oral presentation and conference-style poster during a symposium to be held at the end of the term.

Students are responsible for the assigned readings and completing the assignments specific to the topics covered in the course. Assignments are to be submitted on the blackboard site for assessment by seminar instructors, who also evaluate the progress and results of the group project per seminar.


Assessment: In-class participation and preparation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Individual assignments
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Weeks: 4, 6, 8

Assessment: Group project development
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1-14

Assessment: Oral and Poster presentation at symposium
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Week 16


Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th Edition. London: The University of Chicago Press, 2007.

All other readings will be distributed in class or electronically.

Contact Information

Dr. Sarah E. Hinman: s.e.hinman@umail.leidenuniv.nl (convenor)

Weekly Overview

Week 1 Introduction – course and project overview
Week 2 Research questions and the premise of research design
Week 3 Finding useful secondary sources
Week 4 What have authors written about your topic
Week 5 Literature Reviews, part II
Week 6 Methodologies: The nature of quantitative and qualitative research
Week 7 Mixed methods research
Week 8 Reading Week
Week 9 Data analysis
Week 10 The ethics and politics of conducting research
Week 11 Incorporating visual materials & Designing a conference poster
Week 12 Practice run of oral presentations
Week 13 Writing up research; Ascension – no class! (Thursday Group)
Week 14 Course wrap up (Monday); Writing up research (Thursday)
Week 15 Pentecost – no class (Monday Group); Course wrap up (Thursday)
Block 4 Reading Week Presentation and Poster Symposium

Preparation for first session