Research Methods in International Relations

Module titleResearch Methods in International Relations
Module codePOC2048
Academic year2019/0
Module staff
Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will train you to design, justify, and plan independent research in International Relations. Conducting research in the field of International Relations poses unique challenges: how do we understand and access ‘the international’? What counts as data? What kind of causal claims can be made? What are the philosophical assumptions that underpin particular research processes, and how do they shape the questions that can be asked and answered?

 The module will begin by introducing the historical context in which methodological and research processes have been debated in International Relations scholarship. You will be introduced to the so-called ‘great debates’ of International Relations, key principles of the philosophy of social science, and the possibilities for pluralist understandings of causality. After this, several staff – experts in their fields – will provide an introduction to their research approach/methods and the philosophical assumptions contained therein. Each staff member will also guide you through an in-depth application of their approach/method in the context of their cutting-edge research.

 Through the module you will be taught how to generate your own research questions, design and plan an independent research project, and conduct a literature review.

While no prior knowledge skills or experience are required to take this module and it is suitable for specialist and non-specialist students. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will:

  1. Introduce you to traditional and critical methodologies for the study of International Relations.
  2. Encourage you to develop, apply, reflect upon the use of these methods
  3. Train you in the skills to design, justify and conduct independent research in International Relations

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe, contrast and analyse competing theoretical and methodological perspectives on research in IR.
  • 2. Develop and provide a rationale for a given research question, based on a critical review of scholarship.
  • 3. Apply methodological approaches to the analysis of empirical and normative issues in international relations, and display a competent awareness of the underlying philosophical assumptions, the limitations, and the implications of each approach.
  • 4. Use evidence to explain and defend the adoption of a particular methodological approach to the analysis of given research question.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Construct a logical academic argument supported by evidence.
  • 6. Apply abstract theoretical approaches to new contexts in order to make sense of real world problems.
  • 7. Identify and apply a conceptual framework from some academic sources in order to answer a question, and then explain the choice of this framework.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Formulate and present information and critical analysis, in both written and oral forms, in a coherent manner.
  • 9. Understand assessment criteria, engage in critical yet constructive peer-evaluation and produce feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • 10. Work effectively with peers in order to present ideas and facilitate discussions

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

The ‘Great Debates’ of International Relations

Philosophy of Social Science: Ontologies, Epistemologies and Methodologies

Pluralist causality in International Relations research

Feminist Methods in war and militarisation

Archival Research, Genealogy and Problematisation in security policy

Narrative representation in conflict areas

Materialism in diplomacy

Critical game theory and quantitative methods in foreign policy

Student research conference

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1111 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1010 x 1-hour seminars
Guided Independent Study38Reading assignments and preparing responses for seminar questions
Guided independent study38Research and preparation of data analysis
Guided independent study10Research and composition of Research Proposal Plan
Guided Independent Study40Research and composition of Essay
Guided Independent study3Composition of peer reviews


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation of Research Proposal10 minutes1-10Oral feedback from convenor and student peers
Data Analysis4x500 words1-9Oral feedback from convenor and student peers

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Literature Review552,000 words1-9Written
Research Proposal451,500 words1-9Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Literature ReviewLiterature Review (2000 words)1-9August/September assessment period
Research Proposal Research Proposal (1500 words)1-9August/September assessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative Basic reading:

Ackerly, Brooke A., Maria Stern, and Jacqui True, eds. Feminist methodologies for international relations. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Aradau, Claudia, et al. Critical security methods: New frameworks for analysis. Routledge, 2014.

Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus. The conduct of inquiry in international relations: philosophy of science and its implications for the study of world politics. Routledge, 2010.

Klotz, Audie, and Deepa Prakash, eds. Qualitative methods in international relations. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Kurki, Milja. Causation in international relations: reclaiming causal analysis. Vol. 108. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Lamont, Christopher. Research methods in international relations. Sage, 2015.

Lebow, Richard Ned. Constructing Cause in International Relations. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Rech, Matthew F., et al. "An Introduction to Military Research Methods." The Routledge Companion to Military Research Methods (2016)

Salter, Mark and Can Mutlu (eds). Research Methods in Critical Security Studies. Routledge, 2012.

Shepherd, Laura J. (ed) Critical Approaches to Security, Routledge, 2012. 

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Research, Methodology, International Relations, Causality, Philosophy of Social Science

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date