PECOS4021 - Research Methods

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

This course presents and discusses methodological issues and techniques that are central to empirical research in history and the social sciences in general, and the study of peace and conflict more in particular. The course introduces students to general principles of research methodology and design. Furthermore, different data collection methods and different techniques for analyzing data are presented and discussed.

A central aim of the course is to provide students with the tools to critically evaluate empirical research and carefully construct their own research designs.

  1. The course will start with an overview of historiographical approaches and methods relevant for the study of peace and conflict, including the application of international, global and transnational perspectives. It will further provide an introduction in the critical reading of various types of historical primary sources, as well as in the use of archives and digital resources.
  2. In its second, political science part, the course will focus on challenges posed to the drawing of valid inferences on the basis of theory and empirical data.

The course accounts for case study and small-n comparative designs, and how case studies may be used in mixed designs in conjunction with statistical analysis. The course also elaborates on the use of process tracing and pattern matching to study causal relations. Regarding strategies for data collection, the course presents and discusses among others in-depth interviews, field work and the use of textual sources in empirical research.


Learning outcome


Students will

  • be familiar with the major historical approaches relevant for the study of peace and conflict;

  • know the most important types of research design, and understand their relative strengths and weaknesses in different contexts;

  • be well acquainted with some of the most important threats to descriptive and causal inferences, and with strategies for mitigating such threats;

  • know the method of “process tracing” and how it may be used in case study research;

  • know how different types of interviews are conducted, and understand their strengths and weaknesses;

  • understand how to properly use textual data in research, and know how to make use of archive material.


Students will

  • be able to trace and critically read historical sources of various types and apply this knowledge to their own work;

  • be able to critically read and evaluate studies on peace and conflict topics;

  • be able to methodically approach and construct designs for answering research questions on peace and conflict topics;

  • be able to apply various techniques for analyzing different types of data, and learn how to properly test hypotheses, interpret results, and draw careful conclusions.


Students will

  • enhance their capabilities in carrying out thorough, independent and critical analysis of complex questions;

  • enhance their capabilities in critically evaluating empirical research;

  • enhance their understanding of various elements of the scientific process, including aspects of the relation between theory and empirical evidence and between concepts and measures.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

 Apply for guest student status if you are admitted to another Master's programme.

For incoming students

All Master's courses in Political Science must be registered manually by the Department, they will not appear in Studentweb. Contact your international coordinator at UiO.


Recommended previous knowledge

Knowledge of research methods.



The lectures are not compulsory but we advise you to follow them.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


4 hour written exam. Two written assignments.

The exam will consist of a written, invigilated exam of 4 hours’ duration and two term paper assignments. The grade for the exam will count for 60% of the total grade. The grade for the two term papers will count for 40% (i.e. 20% each) of the total course grade.

The written assignment must be of 2500-3000 words lenght (including footnotes/endnotes, references).

In order to pass the course, you have to have a pass grade both for the exam and the two term papers, and your exam and your term paper assignment must be passed in the same semester as the course is taught. You will receive one overall grade for the course.

Written assignment 1

  • reflects topics presented in lectures 1-4. Students will be asked to address questions related to research design, conceptualization and measurement, or descriptive or causal inferences from one (or two) of a specified set of empirical articles.

Written assignment 2

  • reflects topics presented in lectures 5-10. Students will be asked to either address methodological issues related to data collection or analysis of data in one or two specified articles (as in term paper 1) or discuss relevant methodological challenges in an intended research project, preferably the forthcoming master thesis.

Submission of written assignments - Technical standards, deadlines etc.

Previous exams

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

Students may use dictionaries at this exam. Dictionaries must be handed in before the examination. Please read regulations for dictionaries permitted at the examination.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

It is recommended to request an explanation of your grade before you decide to appeal.



The deadline to request an explanation is one week after the grade is published. For oral and practical examinations, the deadline is immediately after you have received your grade.

The explanation should normally be given within two weeks after you have asked for it. The examiner decides whether the explanation is to be given in writing or verbally.

Ask for explanation of your grade in this course

Resit an examination

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

If you wish to withdraw from the exam you must do so in Studentweb at least two weeks prior to the deadline. Failure to do so will be counted as one of the three opportunities to sit the exam.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language