Methodologies for the Social Sciences I
Period of duration of course
Compulsory for the 1st year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"
Compuslory for the 1st year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"
The aim of this course is to discuss main approaches to political science and sociology, the most important steps in designing research, and some methods for data collection. In this sense, it aims at introducing all main choices that need to be addressed in the preparation of the April prospectus.
Taking into account the diverse national and disciplinary background of ﬁrst-year doctoral students, the seminar attempts to develop some common knowledge, without losing the richness of plurality. The seminar as a whole, as well as the individual sessions, aim at critically contrasting the advantages as well as problems of the various strategies in the construction of scientiﬁc knowledge.
The seminar stems from SPS department’s commitment to methodological pluralism and informed debate. Speciﬁcally its aims are:
To provide an overview of approaches in the social sciences, in order to help students to choose their own approach for the thesis, to justify this approach, and to situate it with in the discipline;
To ensure that PhD graduates become fully literate social scientists, able to engage with work written within diﬀerent traditions and approaches;
To introduce research students to the main issues of debate and contention in the methodology of social sciences and todemystify some of this debate, identifying commonalities, historic continuities, and genuine diﬀerences;
To give ﬁrst-year doctoral researchers a common experience and socialization and to encourage them to discuss their own work across sub-disciplines and methodological approaches.
Inthesecondpart,PhDstudentswill present their own work in progress with the support of slides: each PhD student will be allocated a time slot of 30 minutes that will include a maximum of 15 minutes presentation and 15 minutes of in-class discussion and feedback by the instructor and their colleagues.
Day1. November 7,10am-12pm
Introduction: epistemology and ontology foundations
This seminar is devoted to address some most important debates related to ontologies, epistemologies and methodologies in the social sciences, with attention to the interactions between the three. A pluralist perspective is then discussed.
1. Della Porta and M.Keating (2008),How many approaches in thesocial sciences? An epistemological introduction, in D. Della Porta
and M.Keating (eds),Approaches and methodologies in the social sciences, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Day2. November 14,10am-12pm
Case study design
This session will look at the rationale for qualitative research on speciﬁc cases.
1. P Vennesson (2008), Case studies and process tracing: theories and practices, in D. della Porta and M. Keating (eds), Approaches and methodologies in the social sciences, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Day3. November 21, 10am-12pm
The logics of research design in quantitative research
With the participation of Martin Portos (Universidad Carlos III Madrid)
The seminar will address some main steps in the development of a research design, moving from the research question to theoretical grounding and conceptualization as well as case selection and methods choices, in quantitative methods and considering how far it is different and compatible with qualitative approaches.
1. G King et al (2021) Designing Social Inquiry: Scientiﬁc Inference in Qualitative Research, Part 1
Day4. November 28,10am-12pm
Norms, ethicsandsafetyin ﬁeldwork,
With the participation of FrancescoStrazzari, Scuola di Studi Superiori Sant’Anna
This session addresses some main ethical and practical concerns in empirical research addressing issues of practical challenges in ﬁeld work, normative choices, ethical dilemmas during ﬁeld work, as well as the public use of research results. Particular focus is devoted to risk assessment in ﬁeldwork, an issue that has gained in prominence with the Covid-19 pandemic.
1. I Grimm et al.(2020) Safer Field Research in the Social Sciences, Sage, Chap 1
2. P Mateja and F Strazzari(2017) Securitisation of research: Fieldwork under new restrictions in Darfur and Mali. ThirdWorldQuarterly38(7):1531–1550.
Day5. December 5,10am-12pm
This session will look at the speciﬁc methodological issues linked to international comparisons in the social sciences.
1. D della Porta (2008), Comparative analysis: case-oriented versus variable-oriented research,in D.dellaPorta and M.Keating (eds), Approaches and methodologies in the social sciences, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Finalworkshop. December 12 (2-7pm) and December 15 (10am-3pm)
Presentations and discussion of research projects (with Guglielmo Meardi and Lorenzo Bosi)
Presentation,with powerpoint or other supporting material, addressing epistemological and methodological choices and comparing or integrating at least two approaches.
The educational goals of the course are: To provide an overview of approaches in the social sciences, in order to help students to choose their own approach for the thesis, to justify this approach, and to situate it within the discipline;
To ensure that PhD graduates become fully literate social scientists, able to read and understand work written within different traditions and approaches;
To introduce researchers to the main issues of debate and contention in the methodology of social sciences and to demystify some of this debate, identifying commonalities, historic continuities, and genuine differences;
To give first year researchers a common experience and socialization and to encourage them to discuss their own work across subdisciplines and methodological approaches.
D. della Porta and M. Keating(eds) (2008),Approaches and methodologies in the social sciences, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
G King et al (2021) Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research