PhD course in research design

The course will introduce students to fundamental issues in the design of research in comparative political science and assist them in the development of their own research project.

Course content

The workshop will introduce students to fundamental issues in the design of research in comparative political science and assist them in the development of their own research project and the development and revision of a useful research design.

The main objectives of the seminar are to understand the organisation and presentation of political science research, the framing of a research question and its relation to the broader literature, the development and review of causal explanations, the construction of valid and reliable measures for the key variables of interest to the project.

The sessions will be organized in a workshop mode, focusing mostly on participants’ own plans for research based on short assignments to be handed in beforehand. These assignments will enable students to address the following questions: What is the research question, how does it relate to previous research, and why is it interesting? What are the potential answers to – hypotheses about – the question? Which concepts must be defined in order to investigate those possibilities? How will these concepts be measured? What are the threats to validity and reliability? What challenges will occur in gathering and analysing the data and how can they be accounted for?


The course will take the form of an intensive three-day seminar to discuss the foregoing questions. Some core readings are recommended to all participants. Participants then select further specialist readings from the list set out below.

Course Leaders

  • Katrin Auel, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna
  • Guido Tiemann, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna


The course is offered as part of the MSCA-ITN PLATO project (The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the European Union). For the 15 PLATO PhD researchers, this PhD course in research design is mandatory.


Participants are expected to complete and hand in all assignments in advance, to make at least one presentation during the seminar and to contribute actively to the discussions (estimated work load: 3 weeks). Each of the six assignments listed below should be completed in a short text of 1 to 2 pages maximum and focus on students’ own research plans. Students should be prepared to present their assignments during the seminar.

The assignments should be sent to Guido Tiemann and Katrin Auel by 9 March 2018.

The key purpose of the course is to provide participants with guidance for and comments on their research design development.


All participants personally decide whether to take a formal examination or not – also depending on the formal requirements established by the PhD-granting institutions:

  • Participants may submit a paper of 6-8,000 words outlining their research design for assessment after the course. Final deadline for submission is 1 June 2018. The paper will be evaluated within eight weeks after submission.
  • Students who chose to submit a paper that is graded ‘pass’ by the course providers will receive a course certificate recommending 10 ECTS credits.
  • Participants who do not submit a paper will receive a certificate of attendance recommending 5 ECTS credits based on the preparatory work and presentation.
  • Note that in order to obtain ECTS credits for this course, prior approval by the PhD coordinator at the home institution of the doctoral student will be required.


For practical questions, contact the IHS administrative manager Sigrid Stemberger: 

For questions related to the course outline and programme, contact Katrin Auel:

Published Jan. 24, 2018 11:06 PM - Last modified May 25, 2018 11:24 AM