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Qualitative Methods I



The goal of this course is to help students develop research skills in qualitative methods, as well as the ability to critique and evaluate academic works employing such methods. The course covers three broad topics. First, we will briefly review the history of the political science and public administration disciplines and consider how the debate between quantitative and qualitative methods has evolved in the post-war period. Second, we will evaluate various strategies for the design of qualitative studies, including co-variational analysis and causal process-tracing. Finally, we will interrogate the practicalities of doing qualitative research in light of various research techniques, such as in-depth interviewing and archival research. The required readings of the course consist of journal articles and book chapters. We will read both theoretical articles on qualitative methodology and empirical articles in which such methods are employed.

Course objectives
After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Show proficiency in critically reading, analyzing, evaluating and discussing scholarly contributions to qualitative political science and public administration;

  • Position scholarly work within the methodological debates regarding quantitative and qualitative social science research;

  • Identify the appropriate method of analysis and data collection technique to investigate social science research questions;

  • Produce a critical analysis that evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of a qualitative methodological approach.

Mode of instruction

Seminars and self-study.

Course load

Total course load is 140 hours, of which 21 contact hours, 49 hours for assignments and 70 self-study hours.

Assessment method

Assessment consists of two written assignments (40% each) and class participation (20%). Each assignment needs to be completed with a grade of 5.5 or higher to pass the course. The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the partial grades. Compensation of partial grades is not possible.


A Blackboard website for this course will be made available one week prior to the start of the course. Blackboard will be used for course communication, the distribution of course information (syllabus, readings, assignments) and for the submission of assignments.

Reading list

Course readings will consist of academic journal articles and book chapters. Readings will be announced on Blackboard one week prior to the start of the course.


See Preliminary Information




Dr. Natascha van der Zwan