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Department of Politics and International Studies

Introduction to Political Analysis

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year

This course is a core course in both the BA Politics and BA International Relations degrees and provides a general introduction to methods of political analysis.  The course provides the foundation for further study of Politics and International Relations, covering such areas as philosophy of social science, scientific methods, theoretical and methodological debates and skills key to critical reading, writing and analysis.  Substantive areas of coverage include debates over structure and agency, politics and policy, historical methods, qualitative and quantitative approaches to the study of politics and international relations, measurement, inference and interpretation, the use of evidence in argumentation, narrative and language.  The course is designed to complement other foundational courses in the Department of Politics and International Studies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • Knowledge of the range of analytical and methodological approaches in Politics and International Studies.
  • Ability to critically evaluate and apply theories and methods in Politics and International Studies
  • Knowledge of major conceptual and analytical debates in Politics and International Studies
  • Ability to think critically, analyse texts and structure essays in the field of Politics and International Studies
  • Ability to analyse aspects of politics and international studies from a variety of perspectives
  • Ability to apply theories to case studies
  • Ability to critically evaluate the relationship between knowledge, power and policy.

Scope and syllabus

Term 1
  • Introduction: What is the Study of Politics?
  • The Discipline and its Subfields
  • Tools for Analysis - Critical Reading, Evidence and Argumentation
  • Analysing a Text: Case Study
  • Is Politics a Science?
  • Inference and Interpretation
  • Structure and Agency
  • Material vs Ideational Approaches
  • Rigour vs. Richness (Parsimony vs. Complexity)
  • Continuity and Change
Term 2
  • The Comparative Method
  • Narrative and Language
  • Ethnography
  • Quantitative Methods I
  • Quantitative Methods II
  • Theory and Meta-Theory
  • Method and Methodology
  • History and Interpretation
  • Politics, Policy and Power
  • Conclusion

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: a 1 hour examination (20%) and 4 x 1500 word essays (20% each)