Methodology and Research Methods in Humanitarian Studies

Lecture, Seminar
  • Course description

    The study unit will first provide an overview of ontological and epistemological debates within International Relations as a field of study. With the theoretical bases firmly in place, the study unit will move on to provide an overview of quantitative and qualitative methods used in IR research. It will examine a number of methods more in-depth: case studies, ethnography, surveys, and interview techniques and discuss the appropriateness and usefulness of the different methods depending on the context in which the research is going to be conducted.
    The sessions will combine lecturing, seminar discussions and practical exercises. The study unit will also make room for the students to present the outlines of their MA research and discuss methodological and research design issues pertaining to their dissertations.
  • Learning outcomes

    1. Knowledge & Understanding: By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
    - critically assess underlying assumptions and understandings underpinning research and analysis on humanitarian action and other field of international relations.
    - conduct semi-structured and active interviews on issues related to humanitarian action
    - design a case study
    - design and execute a survey (with the initial assistance of a more experienced practitioner)
    2. Skills: By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
    - conduct semi-structured and active interviews
    - design a case study
    - design and execute a survey
  • Teaching and learning methodology

    The aims of the study unit are as follows:
    - To increase students' critical and analytical skills and their understanding of how epistemology and methodological choices affect research outcomes.
    - To convey knowledge of the array of methodological tools that can be used to analyze humanitarian action.
    - To develop students’ faculty to make informed choices between different methodological tools depending on the context
    - To increase students' understanding of the weaknesses and strengths of different methods and as a result also of the methods used in existing pieces of research and evaluations of humanitarian action.
  • Assessment methods and criteria

    Case study (take home): 30% weight, resit availability present
    Research paper: 70% weight, resit availability present
  • Required reading

    Recommended readings:
    - Drever, E. (2003). Using semi-structured interviews in small-scale research: a teacher's guide (revised ed.). Glasgow: Scottish Council for Research in Education
    - Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography : principles in practice (3rd ed.). London: Routledge (selections)
    - Hollis, Martin and Steve Smith (1991). Explaining and Understanding International Relations Oxford: Clarendon Press
    - King, G., R. O. Keohane and S. Verba (1994): Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
    - Klotz, Audie and Deepa Prakash (2008): Qualitative Methods in International Relations: A Pluralist guide. Palgrave Macmillan.
    - Nichols, P. (1991). Social survey methods: a field-guide for development workers (Development Guidelines: 6). Oxford: Oxfam
    - Yin, R. (2003). Case Study Research: Design and Methods (3rd ed. Applied Social Research Methods Series: 5). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc. (selections)
    Supplementary readings:
    - Holstein, J. A., & Gubrium, J. F. (1995). The active interview (Sage University Papers Series on Qualitative Research Methods: 37). Thousand Oaks: Sage
    - Dillman, D. A., Smyth, J. D., & Christian, L. M. (2009). Internet, mail and mixed-mode surveys: The tailored design method. (3rd ed.). Hoboken: Wiley

Last updated: 16 January 2018

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