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The University of Southampton
Centre for Political Ethnography

Interpretive Political Science Intensive Course  Event

politics of waiting
09:00 - 17:00
15 - 17 June 2020
Building 39, Highfield Campus, University of Southampton

Event details

Many students in the social sciences, especially in political science, public policy and public administration who decide to undertake qualitative or interpretive research feel they are unqualified to do so. They express deep-seated confusion about the reliability and generalizability of data, results, and conclusions. In particular they feel that interpretive approaches lack the type of specialised training that has become commonplace in quantitative political science. The aim of this course is to redress this gap. We will equip students with a toolkit that will enable them to both conceptualise and execute an interpretive project.

The course covers:

  • Situating the interpretive approach in relation to other ways of doing political science research by reference to the philosophical, epistemological, and methodological assumptions on which these approaches are based;
  • The theoretical and analytical tools students need to design and conduct their research project;
  • The toolkit of methods used by interpretive scholars to collect data, including ethnographic and interview-based methods;
  • The standards that will both ensure results are reliable and maximise the impact of findings; and
  • Guidance on the norms and principles used to analyse data in an interpretive project.
  • An introduction to comparative interpretive research

By the end of the course participants will:

  • Be able to describe the particular strengths and features of the interpretive approach   
  • Be able to develop and justify a sophisticated design for interpretive research
  • Have experience interpreting rich qualitative data


*This course does not require access to computers for course participants.


The course is primarily aimed at PhD students and early career scholars of political science, public policy and public administration, but scholars of other social science disciplines, such as criminology, sociology, planning or legal studies, will also benefit from it. We welcome PhDs etc. from member institutions of the ECPR and researchers from NGOs and charitable organisations. For 2020, there will be a ceiling of 15 participants.

 We market the course via the Political Studies Association (PSA) Specialist Group on Interpretive Political Science—one of the largest groups in the PSA—and our broader ECPR network. We have access to funds from the ECPR, which we use to finance student travel, an international visiting speakers, and one social event.


The fee per teaching day is:

  • £30 per day for UK/EU registered students
  • £60 per day for staff at UK/EU academic institutions, UK/EU Research Councils researchers, UK/EU public sector staff and staff at UK/EU registered charity organisations and recognised UK/EU research institutions.
  • £220 per day for all other participants


All fees include event materials, lunch, morning and afternoon tea.  They do not include travel and accommodation costs.



Draft chapter from PhD or draft publications for group discussion

Preparatory Reading

  1. Rhodes, R. A. W. (2017) Interpretive Political Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  2. Boswell, John, Jack Corbett and Rhodes, R. A. W. (2019) The Art and Craft of Comparison Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Day 1

09.00-09.30                 Registration and Refreshments

09.30-11.15                 Interpretive theory

11.15-11.30                 Tea/Coffee break

11.30-12.30                 Comparison

12.30-13.30                 Lunch

13.30-15.30                 Individual sessions

15.30-15.45                 Tea/Coffee break

15.45-17.00                 Individual sessions

18:30                           Workshop dinner (Kohinoor of Kerala)


Day 2

09.00-10.30                Fieldwork

10.30-10.45                Tea/Coffee break

10.45-12.30                Design

12.30-13.30                Lunch

13:45-15.15                Individual sessions     

15.15-15.30                Tea/Coffee break

15:30-17:00                Individual sessions     


Day 3

09.00-10.30                Analysis I

10.30-10.45                Tea/Coffee break

10.45-12.30                Analysis II

12.30-13.30                Lunch

13:45-15.15                Craft of Writing

15.15-15.30                 Tea/Coffee break




Speaker information

Rod Rhodes,Rhodes has been at the forefront of reviving interpretive methods in political science.

John Boswell ,Boswell is keen proponents of interpretive methods and has published both substantive analyses and methodological arguments in public policy and area studies, respectively.

Jack Corbett ,Corbett is also a keen proponent of interpretive methods and has also published both substantive analyses and methodological arguments in public policy and area studies, respectively.

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