Module Catalogue 2023/24

POL2017 : Becoming a Political Researcher

POL2017 : Becoming a Political Researcher

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Skyler Hawkins
  • Co-Module Leader: Dr Brian Boyle
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Pre Requisite Comment



Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment



Politics research can take many forms and use a wide variety of data. This course introduces students to key concepts used in both quantitative and qualitative research, as well as range of research methods and methodologies. It covers both the theoretical underpinnings of different approaches, and the practical steps to collect and analyse various sorts of data. Lectures introduce key topics, ideas and debates. Seminars provide students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience developing a research design, collecting, and analysing data. The course will equip students with knowledge and skills which are applicable to both their undergraduate dissertation in Politics and subsequent careers.

Outline Of Syllabus

In any given year, topics covered may include:
•       Theoretical approaches
•       Research questions and hypotheses
•       Surveys
•       Interviews and focus groups
•       Ethnography
•       Ethics and research methods
•       Case studies and comparative method
•       Content analysis
•       Discourse analysis
•       Reporting findings and writing up

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
•       Understand different theoretical approaches to research, such as positivism, interpretivism and poststructuralism.
•       Understand and engage with key concepts, such as independent and dependent variables, objectivity, reflexivity and discourse.
•       Understand a variety of methods used to collect and analyse data in the study of politics, such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, comparative case studies, content analysis and discourse analysis.
•       Be aware of the importance of research ethics and understand how to integrate ethics into a research design.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
•       Explain the relationship between theory and research.
•       Critically analyse published research, assessing both the methods and the findings.
•       Formulate appropriate research questions and hypotheses to address questions related to the study of politics.
•       Develop an effective research design, justifying the theory as well as the practical decisions, such as sampling and measurement.
•       Collect and analyse different types of data using a variety of methods.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00Lectures in preparation for readings and seminars (PIP)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00PIP Seminars
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities113:0033:00Annotated guided reading
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1134:00134:00Assessment preparation and completion
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures introduce students to the key terms, concepts, and methods associated with researching politics. They also help contextualize data collection and analysis methods within e.g. positivism and poststructuralism. Seminars provide a live, synchronous environment in which students can discuss essential readings and specific methods. The in-person module talk gives students the opportunity to ask questions of the ML regarding the on demand lecture. The time may also be used to expand on recorded lectures and clarify key themes. Structured, guided learning activities such as annotated readings encourage students to engage consistently with the essential readings and specific methods taught.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Digital Examination1052A65To test students’ understanding of general course content and learning outcomes, and will do so through an open-note essay based exam
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M251000 words
Prof skill assessmnt2M10Seminar preparation and engagement
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 1000-word mid-semester essay (25%) is designed to develop and assess students’ skills in identifying and designing an independent research project. Using the understanding of research methods and design, coupled with instruction from the University Library staff in Week 4, this essay will test students’ understanding of good research principles. Feedback on this formative assessment will offer students constructive advice on their understanding of course materials, essay structure and writing style, and prepare them for their final exam.

The 105 minute unseen digital exam (65%) is designed to test students’ understanding of general course content and learning outcomes, and will do so through an open-note essay based exam. Students will be encouraged to bring their course portfolio (described below) as a support tool to address the unseen prompt using course materials and the students’ own detailed notes. The prompt will address the entirety of the course: core course concepts taught in Weeks 1-3, test their understanding of research questions and design taught in Week 4, and one or more of the methods taught during Weeks 5-10. We will offer extensive exam preparation in Week 11’s lectures and seminars, as well as appropriate materials on Canvas.

The Seminar preparation and engagement (10%) is designed to serve students in two vital ways. First, students will prepare responses to weekly questions presented in the module guide, to be discussed in seminars. By guiding their engagement with course materials through targeted questions on each week’s assigned material(s), we will better prepare them to participate in seminar discussions. Second, together with their lecture and guided reading notes, these responses will form a portfolio of their own engagement with course content that they will use during their unseen digital exam.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


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The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2023 academic year.

In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described.

Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2024/25 entry will be published here in early-April 2024. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.