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Research design


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management can take this course.


This course will provide students with an understanding of the principles and basic requirements of developing a research design that can be of use in the master thesis process. This is not a methods course. We assume that students are familiar with methods in social sciences from the BA. This course develops the different stages in elaborating an interesting (knowledge gap) and feasible (thesis process of 4 months) research design. The different scientific requirements of the design will be addressed (validity, replicability, reliability, representativity) and their specific meaning as well in qualitative as in quantitative research.

Each lecture will address a different stage of the research design, as well from a theoretical point of view as from a practical (exercise in smaller groups perspective. The stages are:

  • Formulation of the research question based on an in-depth analysis of the body of knowledge in the field of crisis and security management (scientific literature review).

  • Defining the concepts and constructs used

  • Operationalization of the research question into measurable variables or indicators (construct, indexes, norms and values) (pointing out independent and dependent variables).

  • Finding accessible and interesting data sources.

In order to develop a research design meeting the scientific standards, this course will provide students with an understanding of sampling as well in quantitative as in qualitative design, with specific attention for the case study design, as many CSM students chose this design for their master thesis. In order to get insights in how to research ‘impact’ or ‘effects’ (of policies and interventions) a specific lecture will be dedicated to evaluation research and measuring effects (experimental research design -MSS standards).

Theoretical lectures will be alternated by guest speakers going through the body of knowledge within their own field of expertise, interesting research themes within these fields and facts and pitfalls of specific methodologies.

This is a mandatory course, where an active input (class discussions, take home assignments, practical exercises, reviews and presentations) is required. The individual output of each student will be a research design paper that can serve as a basic proposal for the master thesis.

Course objectives

  • Students are able to construct a significant, meaningful, valid and feasible research design in the social sciences that can be of use for the master thesis.

  • Students are able to formulate an innovative, interesting and feasible research question and point out the scientific (knowledge gap) and societal relevance of the research domain of their choice.

  • Students are able to detect and develop the best suitable method to research the RQ of their choice, taken into account theoretical methodological issues and practical constraints (feasibility).

  • Students are able to develop a correct operationalization link the RQ to topics (or sub RQ’s), detect and develop indicators to be measured in the empirical setting and make an inventory of suitable sources.

  • Students are able to analyze and evaluate empirical research findings from other scholars in the broad security field.

  • Students develop analytical and critical writing skills by writing a research proposal of use for the master thesis.

  • Students learn how to evaluate other proposals by writing a peer-review of a draft research proposal of a fellow student.


On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

The course will exist of 7 lectures. During the lectures 1 group presentation (graded) will be organized together with mandatory non-graded exercises in small groups. By this means the different stages of the process of writing a research proposal will be practiced. Guest lecturers will be invited (academics as well as practitioners).

Course Load

140 hours

Hours required for lectures and guest lecturers: 7 weeks X 3 hours/week = 21
Self-study hours: 119 hours

Assessment method

The assignments include a draft research proposal (pass/fail), a peer review of a draft research proposal, a group presentation (10%) and a final research proposal (90%). A passing grade for the draft is required for the submission of the final paper.

The final grade will be determined on the basis of:

  • First draft of the individual research proposal (pass/fail)

  • Participation in peer review of a fellow student (non-graded)

  • Group presentation (10%)

  • Final version of the individual research proposal (90%)

The total grade has to be 5,5/10 AND the final research proposal has to be 5,5%. If this last grade is lower than 5,5, students will be permitted to resit the final research proposal.


Blackboard is indispensable for this course, so register in Blackboard. All assignments will be made available and need to be handed in via Turn-it-in. This page is available approximately two weeks before the course starts.

Other course materials/literature

Course material is mandatory for the final proposal as far as it is set out in sheets, handouts and other information media.
Toshkov, Dimiter. 2015. Research Design in Political Science. (to be provided)
Swanborn, P.G. (2010) Case study research : what, why and how? Los Angeles: Sage. (ISBN: 9781849206112/ 9781849206129)
Extra literature list will be put in the Coursebook.


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.


E. Devroe:
e.devroe@fgga.leidenuniv.nl (office B207)
Office hours: Tuesday – Thursday 09-18 h