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Qualitative Methods (PO939)

Methods are central skills for analysing politics. The best way to justify an argument is to show how it was elaborated and that it is based on a strong methodological tradition. In this course we will examine several of these traditions and the methods they developed over time--only setting aside statistical methods, which are covered in 'Big Data Research: Hype or Revolution (QS906).

The course will follow two objectives: improving one's ability to read and discuss academic texts that include a range of distinct methods, as well as non-academic texts issued by the press, the administration or political organisations; acquiring, analysing and interpreting qualitative data, either from primary or secondary sources.

Programme content

We will explore core methodological families, their variants, as well as disagreements and on-going debates within the academic community. We will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each method, so as to help each student assess which one fits his/her research plans.

On our way, we will also discuss some specificities of social and political sciences, related to objectivity, social embedment or the influence of the observer. Is a science of politics possible or at least of a rigorous knowledge about politics? Are there rules to lead a good interview, observe political action efficiently, or analyse political archives?

The course will not consist in a list of do's and don’ts, like a cooking recipe. Instead you will be invited to taste a selection of dishes and listen to real cooking experiences, from which you will build your own skills as a (future) chef researcher. The final essay will consist in a research project on a personal topic, involving one or two of the methods discussed in the module, and taking into account personal and in-class readings and discussions.