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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.

Course objectives

The main goals of the course are:

  1. to learn how to write a proposal for an empirical research project / master thesis
  2. to learn to critically assess empirical public administration research
  3. to understand the advantages and disadvantages of different designs for empirical research in public administration


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

Mode of instruction

The course is based on a combination of lectures, class discussions and some practical exercises. The lectures will focus on selected issues from the material for each session. Do not expect the lectures to cover each and every topic from the assigned readings. Instead, the lectures will be mostly focused on the more difficult and controversial issues. Hence, it is essential that you read the assigned literature in advance of the sessions.

Course Load

Total course load is 140 hours. From these, attending lectures accounts for 21 hours, examination 5 hours and 57 hours for studying the literature, 57 hours for writing the research proposal.

Assessment method

The assignments include a final exam and a final paper, which is a research proposal. The final grade will be determined on the basis of:

Final exam (50%)
Research proposal (50%)

The final grade will be calculated as the weighted average of the final exam and the final proposal. Both components need to receive a passing grade for the student to pass the class. There will be opportunities for retake of both the exam and the research proposal


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.

Reading list

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.


Brendan Carroll