University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Methodology and Research Methods in Humanitarian Studies

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT International Relations

DESCRIPTION The study unit will first provide an overview of ontological and epistemological debates within International Relations as a field of study.
With the theoretical bases firmly in place, the study unit will move on to provide an overview of quantitative and qualitative methods used in IR research. It will examine a number of methods more in-depth: case studies, ethnography, surveys, and interview techniques and discuss the appropriateness and usefulness of the different methods depending on the context in which the research is going to be conducted.

The sessions will combine lecturing, seminar discussions and practical exercises. The study unit will also make room for the students to present the outlines of their MA research and discuss methodological and research design issues pertaining to their dissertations.

Study-unit Aims

The aims of the study unit are as follows:

- To increase students' critical and analytical skills and their understanding of how epistemology and methodological choices affect research outcomes.
- To convey knowledge of the array of methodological tools that can be used to analyze humanitarian action.
- To develop students’ faculty to make informed choices between different methodological tools depending on the context
- To increase students' understanding of the weaknesses and strengths of different methods and as a result also of the methods used in existing pieces of research and evaluations of humanitarian action.

Learning Outcomes

1. Knowledge & Understanding: By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- critically assess underlying assumptions and understandings underpinning research and analysis on humanitarian action and other field of international relations.
- conduct semi-structured and active interviews on issues related to humanitarian action
- design a case study
- design and execute a survey (with the initial assistance of a more experienced practitioner)

2. Skills: By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- conduct semi-structured and active interviews
- design a case study
- design and execute a survey

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings

Recommended readings:

- Drever, E. (2003). Using semi-structured interviews in small-scale research: a teacher's guide (revised ed.). Glasgow: Scottish Council for Research in Education
- Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography : principles in practice (3rd ed.). London: Routledge (selections)
- Hollis, Martin and Steve Smith (1991). Explaining and Understanding International Relations Oxford: Clarendon Press
- King, G., R. O. Keohane and S. Verba (1994): Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
- Klotz, Audie and Deepa Prakash (2008): Qualitative Methods in International Relations: A Pluralist guide. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Nichols, P. (1991). Social survey methods: a field-guide for development workers (Development Guidelines: 6). Oxford: Oxfam
- Yin, R. (2003). Case Study Research: Design and Methods (3rd ed. Applied Social Research Methods Series: 5). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc. (selections)

Supplementary readings:

- Holstein, J. A., & Gubrium, J. F. (1995). The active interview (Sage University Papers Series on Qualitative Research Methods: 37). Thousand Oaks: Sage
- Dillman, D. A., Smyth, J. D., & Christian, L. M. (2009). Internet, mail and mixed-mode surveys: The tailored design method. (3rd ed.). Hoboken: Wiley

ADDITIONAL NOTES Co-Requisite Study-units

As prescribed within MA in Humanitarian Action

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Case Study (take home) Yes 30%
Research Paper Yes 70%

LECTURER/S Angela Pennisi Di Floristella
Isabelle Calleja Ragonesi
Liberato Camilleri
Yasmin Anna Gunilla Khakee
Stefano Moncada
Maurice Said

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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