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Research Design



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.

Learning 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



Methods of instruction

The course is based on a combination of lectures, class discussions and some practical exercises.

Study load

Total study load 140 hrs

  • contact hours: 21

  • self-study hours: 119

Method of assessment

The assignments include (1) midterm exam (25%), (2) final exam (35%), a draft research proposal (pass/fail) and a final complete research proposal (40%).

You can find more information about assessments and the timetable exams on the website.
Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Blackboard.
On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website, uSis and Blackboard.

Students will be permitted to resit an examination if they have taken the first sit and have a mark lower than 5.5 or with permission of the Board of Examiners.

Resit written exam
Students that want to take part in a resit for a written exam, are required to register via uSis. Use the activity number that can be found on the ‘timetable exams’.


Instructors use Blackboard. Blackboard is indispensable for this course. All assignments will be made available and need to be handed in via Blackboard. This page is available approximately two weeks before the course starts.

Other course materials/literature

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


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.
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 in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.
Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted here.


Sarah Giest
Dimiter Toshkov