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The University of Southampton
Politics and International RelationsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

Research project: Making Methods Matter: Enhancing Employability, Embedding Experience

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At Southampton when we say research-led teaching we don’t just mean we will tell you about our research or tell you how to do it, we help you to go out and do it! That is why with our emphasis on curriculum innovation we are constantly learning from and pushing best-practice in teaching and learning. We want our research to have an impact and be of use far beyond universities and we want students to be an integral part of that. We also want to work closely with employers and other end-users of research who value research skills to help them to make a difference in the world. With Making Methods Matter we let show what our undergraduates are capable of when they gain experience and apply their knowledge to real-world problems.

Making Methods Matter started as a pedagogical research project, funded by the Higher Education Academy, designed to improve the teaching and learning of research methods in politics and international relations. The collaborative programme ran for the first time in 2012/13, led by Dr Clare Saunders (Senior Lecturer); Matthew Ryan (Teaching Fellow), Emily Rainsford (PhD student) and Emma Thompson (Learn with Us Transition Office, PhD student). This team, helped by colleagues throughout the department, have been behind a number of innovations in recent years which aim to bring the value of research methods alive for students. Students work in teams guided by staff to solve real-world research problems identified by end-users (from the media, government, think-tanks, social enterprises and charities, survey organisations and other NGOs). The students produce a short policy brief and a 5-minute visual presentation of their research and findings (just like we and other researchers do). We also asked the end-users to visit and speak to our students to explain the value of research methods training and skills in their various sectors. You can find these under the further details of the project below.

Nothing beats hands-on experience and this real-life project-based approach is now a crucial part of the research training that students receive in the second year of their undergraduate studies in Politics & International Relations at Southampton. Our approach gives our students experiential learning, a chance to contribute to knowledge and a chance to showcase their work. Research by our students was recently featured by the Cabinet Office , demonstrating that policy-makers do listen, and that we provide you the opportunity to make a difference. We hope this approach will eventually be taken up throughout the UK HE sector and have worked hard to continue to devise further improvements and innovations.

Further details of the project

What we did

What our students did

More information

Matt Ryan’s Prezi about the thinking behind Making Methods Matter

Making Methods Matter at the University of Exeter

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