Methodologies in International Relations Research

Overview and aims

We often use simple forms of research in our everyday lives without really thinking about it. For instance, working out which is the best computer to buy based on our specific needs, or assessing the claims made by companies about the products they are trying to sell us. Proper academic research, however, demands a good deal more in terms of reflection, justification and rigour. What does it take for something to count as ‘knowledge’ in an academic sense; what assumptions can you afford to make, and what constitutes best practice in the field?

The aim of the Research Methods module is to facilitate the development of a comprehensive understanding of the principles, techniques and processes that underpin successful research in international relations. In this module you will study the philosophical basis of knowledge claims in the social sciences and consider emergent ethical issues. You will address the divergence that exists between various research paradigms and methodological traditions, and be able to explain these differences from first principles. You will gain knowledge of a wide range of contemporary research methods and practice their application in context.

Module content

Module topics

  • Philosophy and ethics in social science research
  • Research paradigms: positivism, post-positivism, critical theory and constructivism
  • Research design: theoretical approaches
  • Research design: empirical approaches
  • Quantitative and qualitative methodology and methods
  • Poststructuralist methodologies and discourse analysis

Learning outcomes

After studying this module you should be able to:

  • critically analyse research paradigms and methodologies in International Relations
  • be able to critically assess contemporary debates in International Relations research
  • critically evaluate advanced conceptual and methodological tools within an International Relations context
  • exhibit specialist and critical knowledge of select paradigms, methodologies and methods in International Relations research

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

  • survey, identify and evaluate qualitative and quantitative data using a range of advanced research techniques and methodologies from positivist and non-positivist approaches
  • master advanced research methods, methodologies and tools appropriate to conducting internationally-focused research
  • demonstrate initiative, personal responsibility and ethical discernment in decision-making and problem solving
  • manage time, develop efficient interpersonal communication skills and communicate complex ideas effectively

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