Overview and aims

This module offers you the opportunity to produce a 12,000-word (+/-10%) dissertation, which is the summation of the MA coursework and is a major opportunity to do work which is at once creative – which stretches students’ imagination – and which meets rigorous standards for quality work in the chosen research area. Moreover, the skills gained when working on the project will be of crucial importance when you are considering your career and its development.

You can choose any topic which we agree within the broad field of politics and/or international relations, including topics which challenge the boundaries of the subject or critique its core approaches. Work is supported by core politics and international relations staff, with an emphasis on fostering your independence and ownership of your research.

The aims of the module are:

  • to provide you with a firm appreciation of the importance of methodological issues, building on work already done in core modules
  • to enable you to appreciate the range of available research methods
  • to furnish you with a sound understanding of how these research methods work in practice
  • to undertake a detailed exploration of a specific area, problem or issue within the field of studies
  • to support this exploration by independent study and research activity through the following: retrieval of information, location of evidence, analysis, interpretation and synthesis of materials, critical thought and evaluation, questioning of assumptions
  • to strengthen your employability profile by creating a solid writing sample and evidence of research and complex writing processes
  • to encourage you to consider research for MPhil/PhDs or for a professional career after the completion of the course

Module content

  • Introduction to social science research
  • Ethics in social science research
  • Quantitative and qualitative approaches
  • Documentary sources and analysis
  • Critical social research
  • Designing a research proposal

Learning outcomes

After studying this module you should be able to:

  • demonstrate detailed knowledge of a particular topic based on your own independent research, analysis and judgement
  • articulate a critical understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of the specific research approaches used in the dissertation
  • provide a critical analysis of specific areas of politics and/or international relations theories used in the dissertation and demonstrate the ability to contextualise that understanding
  • demonstrate a critical and reflexive knowledge of politics and/or international relations gained through the research process, including a confidence in your abilities and self-understanding to continue to learn from your research experience

This module will help you gain the skills and qualities to:

  • plan and execute a rigorous programme of research, evaluate and analyse a diversity of primary and secondary data, employing appropriate research techniques and approaches
  • synthesise and critically evaluate a wide range of information from varied sources
  • deliver written work to a given length, format, brief and deadline, properly referencing sources and ideas and making use, as appropriate, of a critical and reflexive problem-solving approach, with an adequate mastery of the English language appropriate for academic purposes

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