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Research Design in Political Science

These are course materials for GV249: Research Design in Political Science lecture series at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The course is taught for the full Academic Year 2016-2017.

The course will introduce students to the fundamentals of research design in political science. The course will cover a range of topics, starting from the formulation of research topics and research questions, the development of theory and empirically testable hypotheses, the design of data collection activities, and basic qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques. The course will address a variety of approaches to empirical political science research including experimental and quasi-experimental designs, large-n survey research, small-n case selection, and comparative/historical comparisons. As a result, topics covered in the course will be varied and span all areas of political science including political behaviour, institutions, comparative politics, international relations, and public administration.

A complete syllabus for the course is currently available. LSE Students can view the course on Moodle. Slides and other materials will be posted as they become available.


  1. Welcome and First Lecture (Sep. 30)
  2. Concepts: “I’ll know it when I see it” (Oct. 7)
  3. Measurement: Concepts in Practice (Oct. 14)
  4. Tabulation and Visualization (Oct. 21)
  5. Description and Evidence Gathering (Oct. 28)
  6. Translating Texts into Interpretations and Numbers (Nov. 11)
  7. Actually Talking to People (Nov. 18)
  8. Case Studies (Nov. 25)
  9. Sampling and Representativeness (Dec. 2)
  10. Ethics and Research Integrity (Dec. 9)
  11. Causality: Explanation versus Prediction (Jan. 11)
  12. Literature Review (Jan. 20)
  13. Theory Development and Hypothesis Generation (Jan. 27)
  14. Case Comparisons (Feb. 3)
  15. Causal Mechanisms (Feb. 10)
  16. Statistical Inference (Feb. 24) – No Slides
  17. Getting to Regression: The Workhorse of Quantitative Political Analysis (Mar. 3)
  18. Matching and Regression: Accounting for Rival Explanations (Mar. 10)
  19. Experimental Design and the Search for Quasi-Experiments (Mar. 17)
  20. Conclusion, Synthesis, and Exam Prep (Mar. 24)


  • Sessions 1-10 meet during Michaelmas Term and Sessions 11-20 meet during Lent Term.
  • There will be no lecture or class during Michaelmas and Lent Term reading weeks (Week 6 in each term; Oct. 31 - Nov.5; Feb. 15 – Feb. 19).

Problem Sets

There are eight problem sets for the course (four in each term).

Assignment Due Date
Identifying and Evaluating Claims Tuesday Oct. 11
Concepts and Measurement Tuesday Nov. 8
Data Collection I Tuesday Nov. 22
Data Collection II Tuesday Dec. 13
Causality Tuesday Jan. 17
Theory Evaluation Tuesday Feb. 14
Article Critique Tuesday Feb. 28
Statistics and Regression Tuesday Mar. 14

LT Reading Week Study Guide Assignment

We will use LT reading week to prepare for the exam. As part of this, students will draft a “study guide” for the course and provide peer and self-assessments that evaluate and reflect on learning thus far. Details of the assignment are available here.


Research Design Proposal

Due: Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 5:00pm

The 3000-word research design paper should outline the basic elements of a novel research project, namely a research question, theoretical contribution, testable hypotheses, and a description of the proposed data collection and analysis. Unlike the written exam, this paper should focus narrowly on a topic of the student’s choice and display a greater depth of understanding of a smaller set of ideas raised in the course. This will count for 50% of the final mark.

Click here for a more detailed assignment specification.

Written Exam

Summer Term, 2016

The 2-hour written exam covers the full breadth of material from the course and will test students’ knowledge of course content, including concept definition, the appraisal of political science theories, the generation of hypotheses, and — most importantly — the appropriateness of different research designs for answering specific research questions. This will count for 50% of the final mark.

The exam will consist of three parts: Part A, Part B, and Part C. Part A contains 5 “short-answer” questions requiring answers of no longer than 1-page of written text, of which students must answer 3. Part B contains 1 question, of which students must answer 1. Part C contains 3 question, of which students must answer 1. Part A is worth 15% of the total (each question worth 5%); Part B is worth 35% of the total; and Part C is worth 50% of the total.

A sample paper for the exam is available here.

Why GitHub?

Read more about why this course is on GitHub here.