Module Details

GV909-7-FY-CO: Research Seminar In Political Theory And Methods

Year: 2016/17
Department: Government
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: James Christensen and Tom Parr
Teaching Staff: James Christensen and Tom Parr
Contact details: James Christensen ( and Tom Parr ( Graduate Administrator Alex West

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

This module aims to introduce and evaluate a variety of approaches to political theory, focusing in particular on normative and analytic approaches. It aims to provide a critical overview of different political philosophies; and to consider a range of methods and research strategies for those embarking upon graduate study in political theory and analysis, broadly construed.

Learning and Teaching Methods

The teaching is structured in weekly two-hour seminars. Members of the seminar are expected to attend on a weekly basis, and be prepared to discuss the essential texts in the seminars.

On completing this research seminar, a student ought to have a good understanding of central methodological debates in political philosophy; be familiar with key issues and methods in conducting political theoretical research at a graduate level; be familiar with the key methodological assumptions and debates in political theory and analysis; and be in a position to develop and execute an advanced research project in this field, including a masters dissertation.


100 per cent Coursework Mark


Two 5,000 word essays worth 50% each.

Other information

1. It introduces a range of ideas and concepts in political theory.
2. It engages students in a series of close textual readings of selected essays, books and articles, with the aim of elucidating key methodological approaches.
3. It examines a number of central methodological debates in political theory.
4. It equips students with the skills to develop and execute a Masters Research Dissertation in political theory.

1. To give students the ability to understand the methodological underpinnings of academic research.
2. To enable students to place political theory in the wider context of the social sciences.

Learning Outcomes:
1. To understand the methodological dimensions of various approaches of political theory.
2. To introduce students to major schools of thought within contemporary political theorists.

Key Skills:
1. Students will learn how: to identify the premises and conclusions of arguments; to determine whether the conclusions follow from the premises; and to understand the practical implications of theory.
2. Students will learn: to apply reason to controversial issues; to read texts critically; to prepare well-argued essays; to learn both self-confidence and the ability to learn from others.


  • There is no single textbook that covers all the topics examined in the seminar, although texts that tap into key themes of the module include:
  • D. Leopold and M. Stears (eds) Contemporary Political Theory: Methods and Approaches (Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • The following academic journals, which are available in the library, are often useful: History of Political Thought; Journal of Political Ideologies; Journal of Political Philosophy; Ethics; New Left Review; Philosophy and Public Affairs; Political Studies; Political Theory; Politics, Philosophy & Economics; Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy; British Journal of Political Science.

Further information

External Examiner Information

  • Name: Prof Moya Lloyd
    Institution: Loughborough University
    Academic Role: Professor of Political Theory