Research Design


Catherine Moury
MA and PhD in Comparative and European Politics, Assistant professor at NOVA FCSH.
Research interests: Institutional change in the European Union and on coalition governments.

To be announced
1. Objectives
This class is aimed at students willing to develop a basic understanding of how to conduct and evaluate social science research. By the end of the course, students should be able to critically review the state of the scholarly literature; to frame interesting and relevant research questions; to compare the strengths and weaknesses of different research methods; to formulate feasible designs for empirical research.
2. Useful applications
This course provides a general toolkit (plus some useful tips) to design a successful and feasible research project. It will cover a variety of research approaches, giving examples of both quantitative and qualitative research strategies, but it will not delve into the technicalities of any of these methods. The ultimate goal is to get a basic understanding of how to turn interesting and worthwhile research questions into systematic research projects.
3. Specific requirements to attend the course
Students are expected to submit a document before the start of the course.
They can choose between one of the two options:
1) presenting their own research project proposal (it can be provisional);
2) choose one influential book related to their research field and present the research design of the author.
Their proposal/book presentation shall include the following components: an illustration of the research problem, identification of the research questions and/or hypotheses and a thorough description of the method. It should be between 1000 and 2000 words (excluding bibliography). A template may be provided to guide the student. The assignment should be sent to the instructor at least one week before the start of the course.
4. Syllabus and day-to-day schedule
Each class will begin with a lecture delivered by the instructor. The lecture does not replace the compulsory readings but supplement them. Students are required to come to class with questions about subjects in the readings that were not clear. In the second section, a group of students will be asked to give a short presentation on their research design paper/proposal, which will be followed by a class discussion. The purpose of these presentations is to receive
feedback and to learn from each other. For this to work out as intended, all participants should read the research proposals (which are to be presented on the day before Day 1) and come up with constructive questions/observations. The first session sets the scene by introducing what it means to do research in the social sciences and by giving an overview
over the topics that will be dealt with in the course. Students will learn how to find a topic, sharpen the relevant research question and how to set it within the extant literature. In the second session, students will learn about what makes a good theory and how to move from theoretical ideas to empirical observations. In the third session, students will learn about the challenges of measurement and will be introduced to what it means to carry out descriptive and explanatory research. The fourth session will provide students with an overview of the most used research designs in the social sciences: experimental, large-N, comparative, single- case study and mixed designs.
Day 1. Research topics, research questions and literature review
Readings: Schmitter (2016).
Day 2. From theories to concepts
Readings: Sartori (1970).
Day 3. From description to explanation
Readings: Flyvbjerg (2006).
Day 4. An overview over research designs
Readings: Lieberman (2005).
5. Assessment
At the end of the last class, students will be evaluated on the material given in class and on
the mandatory readings through a written multiple-choice test.
6. ECTS Certificate
2 ECTS, for students having successfully made the assessment.
N.B. – In order to have a presence certificate, an attendance >50% is required.

7. Bibliography
Compulsory readings – All available via a shared Dropbox folder:

FLYVBJERG, Bent (2006) Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research. Qualitative Inquiry. 12, 2: 219–245.
LIEBERMAN, Evan S. (2005) Nested Analysis as a Mixed-Method Strategy for Comparative Research. American Political Science Review. 99, 3: 435–52.
SARTORI, Giovanni 1970. “Concept Misinformation in Comparative Politics.” American Political Science Review. 64, 4:1033-1053.
SHMITTER, Philippe C. 2016. “The Design of Social and Political Research.” Chinese Political Science Review. 1, 4: 577–609.
Other recommended readings:
GERRING, John Social Science Methodology: 2012. A Unified Framework. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2nd

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