nl en

Research Design and Measurement in the Social Sciences



Political science is strongly (but not exclusively) empirically oriented. This can be seen in particular from the research activities of many political scientists. This course is therefore meant for those who have had no (or very little) prior experience with such empirical research. After having followed this course you will have more than enough ideas about how to set up and do your own empirical research.

We will start our course with an orientation on knowledge, and how to obtain knowledge from the world around us. We will see that knowledge relates closely to such concepts as measurement, reliability and validity, but also to theory, testing and subsequently reconsidering your own ideas concerning the ideas you had on the relations under investigation.
But talking about investigation how do we set up an empirical research, for instance on how many ‘units’ should we collect information. If you are doing research on ‘world system theory’, then the number of units might seem to be restricted to one, given that there is only one world, but suppose we are doing research on democracy on small island, such as Wouter Veenendaal (dep. of Political Science, Leiden), then there are many more ‘units’ to consider. Let alone if you analyse ‘speech acts’ on the Internet, uttered for instance on Facebook or Twitter. And what does it mean to generalize your results, where are the limits of your generalizations?!

And even more, how do we analyse data from these units, given this variation on number of units in different studies. In this course we will also go into these methodological issues, theoretically but also very practically by doing exercises with the data analysis program SPSS which is used here in Leiden. However, given that the world is larger than Leiden, we will also do these exercises in R, which is an open source software package downloadable for free from the Internet.
You will be working on all these principles in your homework assignments which are subsequently discussed in class. The practically working through the illustrating exercises will also be done in class, which is the reason that all course meetings take place first in a lecture room, and subsequently we move to a computer room, giving you the opportunity to immediately do things yourselves.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, Assignments, exercises and discussions



Assessment method

Six homework assignments that will be graded, and participation during the computer meetings that follow the more theoretical meeting. Your final grade will be the average of the six assignments.


From 4 September 2019 - 23 October 2019
Wednesdays 14:15 - 15:00 in room 1A22 (FSW building)
Wednesdays 15:15 - 17.:00 in computer room 2B04 (FSW building)


Students can register themselves via uSis from 8 July 2019, 10:00 - 25 August 2019, 23:59h.

Registration Exchange and Study Abroad students

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Exchange students website for information on how to apply.

Please note that there is very limited capacity for this course (24 people)