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The University of Southampton

PAIR2004 Research Skills in Politics & International Relations

Module Overview

Part of the assessment involves working in teams to produce a piece of research that is relevant to a real-world problem and presented as an academic research paper. Consequently, you will be introduced to a range of intellectual and technical skills addressing such central topics as formulating research questions, making choices of style, theory and method, the portfolio of methods most commonly used, writing abstracts/summaries, engaging in literature reviews and research design, using web-based search engines and reflecting critically on sources. Note that a central part of the design of this module is that students will engage in a collective learning process, mimicking the workplace. By the conclusion of this module, you should have an understanding of the research activities relevant to different projects in politics and international relations in conjunction with the organisational and practical techniques and skills associated with undertaking a significant research project, including the production of policy-relevant research Pre-requisite for PAIR3003

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Write a research paper as part of team.
  • Outline the research process in politics and international relations - from designing research questions to communication of results.
  • Demonstrate the ability to use analytical skills in written and oral work.
  • Critically evaluate research methods deployed in published research.
  • Apply knowledge of the research process to a real life research problem.
  • Present coherent arguments using systematic logic.


Indicative lecture topics: • Why methods matter • Questions of ontology and epistemology • Designing research questions • Interviews • Surveys • Experiments • Case studies / comparative method • Analysing secondary data • Document / discourse analysis • Participant observation • Making research relevant Seminar topics: Formulating a research question for dissertations Strong and weak dissertations compared Critically evaluating published research Workshops: Tailored advice for the production of a research paper. Tailored advice on dissertation approaches

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods


Independent Study124
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Halperin, Sandra and Oliver Heath (2011). Political Research. 

Burnham, Peter (2008). Research Methods in Politics. 

Pierce, Roger (2008). Research methods in Politics: A Practical Guide. 

King, Gary, Keohane, Robert. O., & Verba, Sidney (1994). Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Blackboard quizzes 20%
Group project report  (6000 words) 40%
Research poster  (1000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Research proposal  (2500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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