PhD Courses in Denmark

Research Designs in Political Science

Copenhagen Graduate School of Social Sciences

Department of Political Science 

Dates and time: January 22-26, 2024, from 9:00 to 16:00

Any research project involves a number of choices. One of the most essential is the choice of a research design. Research designs have multiple functions. First, the choice of a research design situates a study within a particular epistemological and methodological tradition and produces particular questions. For example, to define one’s project as a causal study, a case study, an experimental study, an interpretative study, or a comparative discourse study raise more specific questions as to which cases have been chosen and why.

Second, research designs can also be seen at the “engine” that connects one’s broader interest in a theoretical and empirical issue with one’s specific research question and the concrete methodological “tools” that allow one to answer one’s research question and produce new knowledge.

Third, research designs provide a road map to how one executes a research project or study; often a research design has to be adjusted during the course of a project, for example if the empirical data one thought should be gathered turns out to be hard to get.

This course provides an introduction to and overview of different research designs in political science. We adopt a broad and pluralistic understanding of what a research design is and discuss causal as well as experimental, statistic, interpretative, and constitute research designs. We acknowledge that some research projects start from well-defined and established models of research design while others involve a process of piecing together the best design, and that these situations call for different decisions and challenges. The course will make some links to the larger philosophy of science questions and debates that research designs connect with, but the main focus is on the practical dimension of how to choose and construct actual research designs. The aim is to provide participants with hands-on feedback on their own research designs, but also with the capacity to understand and provide feedback on the research designs of others. While respecting the epistemological differences that exist between different forms of research designs, for example in the causal and interpretative tradition, the course is designed to foster dialogue and creativity across and within traditions.

Academic Aim
The aim is to provide participants with hands-on feedback on their own research designs, but also with the capacity to understand and provide feedback on the research designs of others. While respecting the epistemological differences that exist between different forms of research designs, for example in the causal and interpretative tradition, the course is designed to foster dialogue and creativity across and within traditions.

Target group
PhD students in Political Science

The course runs Monday – Friday, January 22-26, 2024. The program consists of:

  • lectures by Kasper Møller Hansen and Lene Hansen, group work, presentations by groups in plenum
  • presentations by Kasper Møller Hansen, Lene Hansen and guest lectures on the research design of particular research projects (how a design was arrived at and possibly adjusted as part of the research process) followed by questions, answers and discussions
  • presentations of participants’ own research designs (and papers)

The course involves extensive use of a workshop format with active discussions for all participants, presentation of participants’ own work and sessions that address themes and required readings.

Course organizers and recurring lecturers
Professor Kasper Møller Hansen and Professor Lene Hansen, University of Copenhagen


Monday, January 22
9.00 – 11.00: Introduction and general session (Kasper and Lene)

The purpose of the course

Research designs and the field of Political Science

The accumulation of knowledge: different traditions?

Shapiro, I. (‎2003) Problems, Methods, and Theories in the Study of Politics, or What's Wrong with Political Science and What to Do About It. Political Theory, 30 (4):596-619.

Nørgaard. A. S. (2008) Political Science: Witchcraft or Craftsmanship? Standards for Good Research. World Political Science Review, 4(1):1-28.

11.00 – 12.00: Concepts (Kasper and Lene)

Sartori, G.  (1970) Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics.  American Political Science Review 64 (4): 1033-53, especially sections 3 and 4.

Adcock, R.  &  Collier, D. (2001) Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research. American Political Science Review, 95 (3): 529-46.

12.00–13.00: Lunch

13.00 – 16.00: Thick descriptions (Kasper and Lene)

Geertz, C. (1973) Thick Description: Towards an Interpretive Theory of Culture. Chapter 1 in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays.  New York: Basic Books.

Cramer, K. J. (2016) The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, chapter 1 and 2.


Tuesday, January 23
9.00–12.00: Cases and concepts (Kasper and Lene)

Causal case studies – how to select?

Constitutive case studies – how to select?

Single case studies – when and how?

Research designs and the theorization of concepts

Lijphart, A. (1971) Politics and the Comparative method. American Political Science Review, 65 (3):682-693.

Gerring, J. (2004) What Is a Case Study and What Is It Good for?” American Political Science Review, 98(2): 341-54.

Kurki, M. (2006) Causes of a divided discipline: rethinking the concept of cause in International Relations theory, Review of International Studies, 32(2): 189-216.

12.00–13.00: Lunch

13.00–14.00:  Case selection


Seawright, J. & Gerring, J. (2008) Case Selection Techniques in Case Study Research: A Menu of Qualitative and Quantitative Options. Political Research Quarterly, 61(2): 294-308

14.00–14.15: Break

14.15–16.00: Group discussion of papers


Wednesday, January 24
9.00–12.00: Constitutive and Interpretative designs (Lene)

Constitutive and “constitutive-causal” designs

Starting from an empirical puzzle

Starting from constitutive theory

Modes of decision making and justifications


Schwartz-Shea, P. & Yanow, D. (2012) Interpretative Research Design: Concepts and Processes, London: Routledge, Introduction and chapter 1-5 (pages 1-90).

Hansen, L. (2006) Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War (London: Routledge, 2006), chapter 5.

Cooper-Cunningham, D. (2021) The International Politics of Sex: Visual Activism in Response to Russian State Homophobia, chapter 5: There Weren’t Always Rainbows: a Visual Genealogy of Queer Activism, pp. 107-154.

Mik-Meyer, N. (2016) Othering, ableism and disability: A discursive analysis of co-workers’ construction of colleagues with visible impairments, Human Relations, 69 (6): 1341-1363.

12.00–13.00: Lunch

13.00–14.00: Guest lecture

14.00–14.15: Break

14.15–16.00: Group discussion of papers


Thursday, January 25:
9.00–11.00: Causality and experiments (Kasper)

Readings: Experiments and mechanism

Campbell, D. T., & Stanley, J. C. (1996) Experimental and Quasi-experimental Designs for Research. Chicago: Rand McNally. pp. 1-16.

Readings: Natural experiments

Posner, D. (2004) The Political Salience of Cultural Difference: Why Chewas and Tumbukas are Allies in Zambia and Adversaries in Malawi.  American Political Science Review, 98 (4): 529-45.

Descriptive and correlational studies

Presentation by Kasper Møller Hansen

11.00–12.00: Kasper Møller Hansen: The process of constructing a research design for the Sapere Aude project “CET – Causal effect on Turnout”.

Dahlgaard, J.O., Y. Bhatti, J.H. Hansen & K.M. Hansen (2022) Living Together, Voting Together: Voters moving in together before an election have higher turnout. British Journal of Political Science. 52(2):631-648.

12.00–13.00: Lunch

13.00–14.00: Lene Hansen: Images and innovative, qualitative research design


Hansen, L. & Spanner, J. (2021) National and Post-National Performances at the Venice Biennale: Site-specific seeing through the photo essay, Millennium, 49(2), pp. 305–336.

Windfeld, F.C., M.H. Hvithamar & L. Hansen (2022) Gothic visibilities and International Relations: Uncanny icons, critical comics, and the politics of abjection in Aleppo, Review of International Studies, on-line first, 32 pages.

14.00–14.15: Break

14.15–16.00: Group discussion of papers


Friday, January 26
9.00–10.00: Ethics: considerations and constraints


Desposato, S. (2016) Ethics and Experiments: Problems and Solutions for Social Scientists and Policy Professionals. Routledge Series in Experimental Political Science Routledge (only first chapter and conclusion).

Case: Browning, L. (2002) Ethics in experiments:

Case: ethics and images

10.00–10.15: Break

10.15–12.00: Group discussion of papers

12.00–13.00: Lunch

13.00–14.45: Group discussion of papers

14.45–15.00: Break

15.00–16.00: Remaining questions, closing discussion and evaluation

All participants are required to prepare and present a paper as part of the course. Papers should be between 3.000 and 5.000 words (excluding references). The paper should include the following: brief presentation of the PhD project (theme, research question and the focus of the articles in the case of article based dissertations); presentation of the research design (for the dissertation as a whole or one major article) including how it relates to the models and typologies mentioned in the course readings; reflection on the choices that have been made or might arise (if into the project, what changes may you have made along the way and why? If in the early stages of the project, what challenges do you envision could arise and what would the implications be for your research design?).

                        All papers should include a ½ page conclusion which outlines the expected contribution of the dissertation.

The deadline for circulating papers is January 9, 2024, at noon.
Note that papers are presumed read by all participants – the presenter will get no more than three minutes to add any additional points to the paper, then we proceed to discussion. Please submit your paper to no later than January 9, 2024 at 12:00 (noon).

You are also expected to read the literature in advance, participate actively in course activities, abstain from non-course-related activities during the course, and be present for the full duration of the course. If an emergency occurs (such as a need to see a doctor), you may discretely excuse yourself for one hour. If you are absent for more than one hour you need to submit (no later than one week after the course) notes that describe how you have worked with the literature, the papers and the exercises that were on the program while you were absent. In any event, participants will have to be physically present for at least four days to get credit for the course.

Language: English

ECTS: 5 with paper presentation.

Max. numbers of participants: 15

Course fee: Participation in the PhD courses is free of charge for fully enrolled PhD students in Denmark whose department appears on the list below:

  • University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Political Science, Aarhus University
  • Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark
  • Department of Political Science, Aalborg University
  • Department of Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University

A course fee applies for affiliated or visiting students and for PhD students outside Denmark (incl. Greenland). The course fee for external PhD students is DKK 1,500 (EUR 200) per course day.

Registration: Please register via the link in the box no later than 1 December 2023Registration is closed

Further information: For more information about the PhD course, please contact the PhD Administration (