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POL8041 : Thinking About Politics

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Katharine A. M. Wright
  • 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 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


1. To introduce students to the core approaches and methods for studying Politics and International Relations, the relationship between the two parts of the discipline, and the debates which underpin them.

2. To help students engage with their role as researchers through equipping them with the skills needed to ask the critical questions, and engage in critical thinking.

3. To guide students in how to apply different methods through engagement with their application by researchers who have done so in their research, drawing attention to the ‘messiness of methods’ and the need for reflection as part of the process.

4. To support students in improving their skills in critical analysis.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module focuses on teaching students to ask critical questions to help them approach their research, rather than teaching answers. In so doing, it provides an accessible guide to approaching methods for Politics and IR students, focussed on teaching the sets of skills and questions students need to identify research methods and to approach their research. The module considers the different places where research information can be found, and the depth of knowledge required to answer the research question from a Politics and IR perspective. In support of this, the module takes a reflexive approach to show students how experienced researchers have to rethink methodology to adapt to their questions and obstacles encountered along the way. In centring the ‘messiness of methods’, the module embraces the power of vulnerability and presents the research process by sharing personal experiences and reflections of researchers on their own journeys using research methods. The module moves away from a classical approach of presenting an overview of different types of methods to instead think about research as a process of uncovering the relevant information to answer the research question. It therefore presents a cyclical research process as pluralistic and messy, but also the need to accept trade-offs and changes along the way. It shows each method and approach to have their own strengths and weaknesses. It does this through a focus on the different places data can be found and the different levels of depth of information required to answer a research question.

Topics covered can include:
-Theory, reality and thinking conceptually
-How to develop research questions
Politics and IR research approaches including but not necessarily limited to:
-Secondary data
-Data from texts
-Data from people
-Large groups

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture31:003:00(full group)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00Seminars (small groups)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops52:0010:00Facilitated and interactive methods/approach workshops (full group)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery12:002:00Assessment drop in surgery
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1177:00177:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to the key approaches to studying Politics and International relations, specifically thinking about politics and its relationship to methods.

Workshops provide students with the opportunity to engage directly with scholars implementing the methods in their research to understand their applicability in practice within Politics and International Relations.

Small group teaching in seminars provides students with the opportunity to form perspectives on the issues and readings in exchanges with lecturers and their peers. This supports the deepening of their knowledge of the key ideas and methods/approaches within Politics and International Relations through dialogue and questions, and serves to further their understanding with the opportunity to raise questions.

The assessment workshop supports students in understanding the key components of the written portfolio, allowing them the opportunity to ask questions and engage with their peers on how to approach it.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1M1003,500 word portfolio
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students complete a 3,500 word written portfolio consisting of two reflection pieces on the strengths and weakness of a particular approach and method covered on the module.

- 2 x reflections on the strengths and weakness of a method covered in the workshops and how it would be applied in Politics and IR (1,500 words)

- 1 x Research proposal, outlining a research question, justification for its relevance to Politics and IR, literature review and identification of appropriate method and how it will be applied. (2,000 words)

Reading Lists