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The University of Southampton

PAIR1005 Introduction to Political Inquiry

Module Overview

This module introduces the basic concepts required for evaluating and designing research on political phenomena. Students will be equipped with the vocabulary and basic logical framework required to critically assess academic research, and to design their dissertation research in an independent and rigorous fashion. Key concepts will include: theory, data, case, independent variable, dependent variable, scientific method, description, inference, causality, and methodology. This module will serve as a basis for a subsequent module on research methods

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Students will gain an understanding of the types of research questions which can be asked of political phenomena (knowledge and understanding; subject specific intellectual).
  • Students will learn the inherent problems and dilemmas of drawing inferences from data (knowledge and understanding; transferable and generic).
  • Students will gain the working vocabulary required to think and speak about the quality and limitations of previous research (knowledge and understanding; transferable and generic).
  • Students will gain a working knowledge of how to develop a research strategy given a research question (knowledge and understanding; transferable and generic).


Each week will be devoted to a conceptual issue related to political inquiry. Lectures will synthesize selected texts to guide the module through a logical sequence of issues, emphasising examples from various literatures in political research. Week 1: Introductory Week 2: What is research? Week 3: Political inquiry in journalism Week 4: Political inquiry in civil service Week 5: Political Inquiry in NGOs Week 6: Assessment 1 Week 7: Assessment 2 and Inquiry in International Relations Week 8: Inquiry in IR/Film as tool in IR research Week 9: Small-N Observational Week 10: Inquiry in Political Theory Week 11: Roundtable discussion /overview of political inquiry Week 12: Feedback and writing

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Focused, directed readings which students complete before each session will provide the core material around which each session will be organized. Each session will include a lecture providing a general overview of the main points which will be followed by discussion questions in response to which students will exercise their command of the material. These teaching and learning methods will achieve the aims and learning outcomes of the module by providing a focused, consistent, and supportive environment where students engage with the material in multiple ways (through reading, audible/visual lectures, and through their own speaking).

Independent Study138
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Michael Freeden; Oxford Handbook edited by Freeden and Stears. ‘The Morphological Analysis of Ideology’ in The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies. 

Quentin Skinner Visions of Politics (available electronically as ‘Regarding Method’). Man and Society. ,vol.1 (ch.5) .

Brown and Ainley (2009). Understanding International Relations (Chapter 3: International Relations Theory Today). 

Duck of Minerva blog.

Reus-Smit and Snidal (2011). Overview of International Relations: Between Utopia and Reality, In: The Oxford Handbook of Political Science. 

Washington Post ‘Monkey Cage’ blog.

Daniel McDermott (edited by David Leopold, and Marc Stears) (2008). ‘Analytical Political Philosophy’ in Political Theory: Methods and Approaches. 

LSE Politics Blog.


Assessment Strategy

Short research paper must be passed for successful completion of the module


MethodPercentage contribution
Research Design Proposal  (1500 words) 35%
Short Research Paper  (3000 words) 65%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s)  (1000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Library copies of textbooks have been requested. For students who wish to buy personal copies, the total sum for books does not exceed £60.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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