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Foundations of Research Design




Admissions requirements

  • Statistics and Mathematical Modelling/Mathematical Reasoning, or (an) equivalent course(s);

  • Academic Writing or an equivalent course.

  • Introduction to Comparative Politics or an equivalent social science course (from sociology, economics, etc.) that shows you have basic familiarity with different approaches in social sciences is highly recommended.

The Registrar and/or the instructor will check whether you satisfy the pre-requisites to make sure you don’t accidentally take a course for which you are not prepared (and could perform poorly).


This course aims to help those pursuing a social research project (whether a course paper or capstone) weave together the philosophy, concepts, methodologies and methods used in social science research into a coherent whole they need at the outset – a detailed outline referred to as research design.

What is research design? It can be thought of as a detailed “plan” that “specifies exactly who or what is to be studied when, how, and for what purpose” (Babbie, 2003: 87). Why is it important? Because without it, one faces a much higher risk of problems during and after research, such as answering a “wrong” question, applying an inappropriate methodology, getting the “wrong” evidence, choosing an inappropriate method, reinventing the wheel, filling a “gap” that exists there for a good reason, or (as happens frequently) a combination of those. In short, instead of producing an ikebana, you end up building a sand castle at best or Petrobras Headquarters at worst.

Given the introductory nature of the course, the coverage of topics is by no means exhaustive, but is rather meant to lay the foundation for further study and practice. Still, key lessons should stick, provided you do your work diligently.

Recommended student profile:

  • you’re genuinely curious about social phenomena, particularly governance, economics and development-related; otherwise, you’ll be bored;

  • you’re genuinely motivated to understand or explain these phenomena rigorously; otherwise, you’ll lag behind;

  • you’re ready to take the challenges to your core assumptions about how the world “works” with Socratic humility; why bother descending from an intellectual Olympus otherwise?

  • you’re persevering; otherwise, well, you simply won’t learn.

Course objectives

This is an applied course. Although it does contain a discussion of philosophy, theories and concepts in research design with which you need familiarity (objective 1), the emphasis is on developing your methodological skills in producing top-notch proposals for original, interesting and rigorous social research projects at LUC and beyond (objective 2) and on enabling you to critically evaluate the design of various studies you come across (objective 3).

Apart from satisfying your curiously, developing methodological skills for (understanding and succeeding in) other courses and earning credits, if you complete this course successfully, you’ll be in a better position to produce an excellent capstone project. Developing your skills or familiarity with some topics, such as survey, field or (the very popular among practitioners) evaluation research, is aimed at aiding your career preparation as well.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

We will meet for two 2-hour seminars each week. Come with a topic in mind that you want to explore throughout this class right from the start.

  • Each class will start with a brief summary of previously learned material followed by a structured interactive discussion of a specific topic based on assigned readings.

  • Your preparation, research, contribution and reflection are essential for your success in this course, for the quality of our interaction and, ultimately, the learning of the whole group. It’ll be quite easy to spot those who are unprepared.

  • As this is a course that aims to develop skills, the classroom mode will be that of a workshop. We will strive to apply our knowledge and hone analytical skills through individual and group work, with your topic(s) in mind.

  • Don’t miss a class – if you do, you’re at a high risk of lagging behind as each class builds on the previous.


Contribution to class discussions and exercises, 15%
Research proposal outline, 15%
Group referee report, 20%
Exam, 20%
Research proposal, 30%


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The required book:

Babbie, Earl, 2003. The Practice of Social Research (10th Edition). Wadsworth. Later editions are good as well.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. K.M. Makszin


Preparation before first class:

  1. Please read the chapter 1 of Babbie book.
  2. Come with a topic in mind that you want to explore throughout this class.