Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Methodology and Research Methods in Humanitarian Studies

UM LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course



DEPARTMENT International Relations

DESCRIPTION The purpose of this study-unit is to provide students with the necessary tools to conduct research in the field of International Relations and more specifically Humanitarian Action and thereby enable them to deal competently with their MA dissertation. Beyond the immediate utility for their studies, the study unit should make students able to critically assess the methodological soundness of academic research, evaluations and other types of applied research in humanitarian action. It should provide a basis for undertaking research in humanitarian action as part of their future professional duties.

Methodology and Research Methods in Humanitarian Studies will provide students with an understanding of the foundational issues concerning academic research, such as proper structuring of a research question, defining concepts, and choosing appropriate methods depending on research aims. The study-unit covers a wide array of qualitative and quantitative methods used in research relevant to humanitarian action, including comparative case studies, ethnographic research, surveys, participatory rural appraisals, focus groups, interview techniques, and mixed methods approaches. It discusses the appropriateness and usefulness of the different methods, depending on the context in which research is conducted.

Methodology and Research Methods in Humanitarian Studies will also delve into research ethics-issues pertaining to humanitarian action, such as conducting research across cultures and working with vulnerable research participants. The study-unit assessments will serve to provide students with a deepened understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of using and applying different research methods, as well as provide students with the competences necessary to developing a comprehensive research proposal.

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 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:

By the end of the course, students are expected to have gained knowledge on general research design as well as the most widely-used methods of research in the field of International Relations and particularly Humanitarian Action.

These include comparative case studies, ethnographic research, surveys, participatory rural appraisals, focus groups, interview techniques, and mixed methods approaches. Students are also expected to be able to critically assess underlying assumptions and understandings underpinning research and analysis on humanitarian action, identify and justify research methods that are ethically appropriate for scientific research in the humanitarian field, implement research methods for humanitarian research and reflect on the use of a method or methods and their limitations and the knowledge gained thereof in terms of ethical aspects and the researcher's position.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Recommended readings:

- Collier, Hidalgo and Maciuceanu, 2006. Essentially contested concepts – debates and applications. Journal of Political Ideologies, 11(3), 211-46.
- Stefan Gotze (n.d.): How to identify a research questionFile.
- Salkind, L. J., 2011. Selecting a Problem and Reviewing the Research. In L. J. Salkind, ed. 2011. Exploring Research. Prentice Hall. Ch.3.
- R. Burke Johnson Anthony J. Onwuegbuzie (2004) Mixed Methods Research: A Research Paradigm Whose Time Has Come.
- Bamberger, M (2012) Introduction to Mixed Methods in Impact Evaluation Impact Evaluation Notes No 3.
- Akm Ahsan Ullah (2011) Rohingya Refugees to Bangladesh: Historical Exclusions and Contemporary Marginalization, Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 9:2.
- Bennett, A (2010) "Chapter 10 Process Tracing and Causal Inference" in Henry Brady and David Collier, eds, Rethinking Social Inquiry Rowman and Littlefield, 2010 (second edition).
- Collier, D. (2011). Understanding process tracing. PS: Political Science & Politics, 44(4), 823-830.
- Helena Harrison, Melanie Birks, Richard Franklin & Jane Mills (2017) Case Study Research: Foundations and Methodological Orientations FQS Forum Qualitative Research Vol 18, No 1.
- Guest, G., Bunce, A. and Johnson L., 2006. How many interviews are enough: An experiment with data saturation and variability.
- Robson, C., 2002. Sampling in Surveys – and elsewhere.
- Robson, C., 2002. Establishing trustworthiness in fixed design research.
- Newcomer, K. E., and Triplett, T., 2015. Using Surveys.
- Schuman, Howard (2002). Sense and nonsense about surveys.
- Chambers - Questionnaire Design in Whose Reality Counts? Putting the First Last.
- Koulouriotis, J. (2011). Ethical consideration in conducting research with non-native speakers in English.
- UNICEF, 2015. Procedure for ethical standards in research, evaluation, data collection and analysis.
- OXFAM GB, 2012. Undertaking research with ethics. Research Guidelines.
- Richard A. Krueger, Mary Anne Casey Focus Group Interviewing Chapter 20, in Wholey, Hatry and Newcomer (eds), pp.506-34.
- Andrew Parker & Jonathan Tritter (2006) Focus group method and methodology: current practice and recent debate.
- Kumar, Somesh (2002). Methods for Community Participation: A Complete Guide for Practitioners Practical Action Publishing.
- Cornwall Andrea and Garett Pratt (2011). “The use and abuse of participatory rural appraisal: reflections from practice” Agriculture and Human Values, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 263-272.
- Gillham, B., 2009. Research Interviewing: The Range Of Techniques.
- Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P., 2007. Ethnography – Principles in Practice (3rd ed.).
- Field, A., (2009). Discovering Statistics using SPSS.
- Bryman, A. and Cranmer, D., (1997). Quantitative data analysis with SPSS for Windows.
- Weiss, N. A., (1999). Introductory Statistics.


As prescribed within MA in Humanitarian Action and NOHA MA in International Humanitarian Action

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Case Study (Take Home) SEM2 Yes 30%
Research Paper SEM2 Yes 70%

LECTURER/S Liberato Camilleri
Mark Anthony Falzon
Yasmin Anna Gunilla Khakee
Stefano Moncada
James Sater


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 description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2022/3. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.