JAP4010 – Theory and Method in the Study of Modern Japan

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

What does it mean to study “modern Japan”? How do we define our object of study? What is included in the modern category “Japan”, and what is excluded from it? How can we study Japan from a global comparative perspective, taking into account the impact of transnational developments? What theoretical and methodological tools do scholars of modern Japan have at their disposal? And how does one design a MA research project, using some of these tools?

Students who follow this course will become familiar with a number of theoretical issues and methodological approaches relevant to the study of modern Japan. They will improve their academic skills, including:

  • critical text reading
  • using online databases
  • writing academic texts
  • giving oral presentations

The course consists of two main components:

1. Students will attend a number of lectures on different methodological approaches to the study of modern Japan, including

  • historical/archival research
  • critical theory and discourse analysis
  • linguistic analysis
  • ethnographic field research
  • interviews
  • statistics
  • in addition, they will follow an obligatory library workshop.

2. In the course of the semester, students will decide on a topic for their MA thesis. They will be assigned a mentor, whom they will meet with several times, and who will give feedback on the draft version of their MA project description. They will give an oral presentation in which they present their research plans, and eventually submit a fully developed project description. In addition, they will write an essay in which they discuss a theoretical or methodological topic relevant to their MA project.

The course includes the obligatory 2-day workshop Academic Survival Kit from 16th October to 17th October 2019 together with academic staff. Students and staff will stay overnight at a location near Oslo. Here students will explore how to combine theoretical-analytical and empirical work, and present their own ideas for later thesis work and collection of data. They will also receive individual feedback and suggestions for planning their further studies.

Learning outcome

  • You will become familiar with a number of relevant methodologies, and be able to select a theory and method suitable to a research topic of your own interest.
  • You will improve your academic writing skills and learn how to write an academic research plan.
  • Through class presentations and discussions, you will learn to present and debate academic knowledge.
  • By developing your own project, you will learn to apply general insights to a topic that has your particular interest, and reflect on the theoretical and methodological issues involved.


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.

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

Only students enrolled in the programme option Japanese Studies can be admitted to this course.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Please see the admission requirements defined by the programme option Japanese Studies.


The course is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, organised as 10 classes of 2 hours each throughout the semester. The course presupposes active participation in class.

Compulsory activities

  • At least 80 % attendance
  • Attendance at a library workshop early in the semester, a student seminar later in the semester and a 2 day workshop from 16th to 17th October 2019
  • Meeting with your individual mentor at least twice in the course of the semester
  • Oral presentations in class
  • A library assignment
  • Other smaller writing assignments

Depending on the number of students, the library workshop and student seminar may last several hours each. Approved compulsory activities are only valid for one semester.

All compulsory activities must be approved in order to qualify for the exam. It is the student’s responsibility to check whether or not the compulsory activities are approved. 

This is how you apply for valid absence from compulsory activities/compulsory attendance.


The exam consists of three parts:

  1. An oral presentation of your MA research project
  2. A project proposal for your MA thesis (approximately 5 pages)
  3. An essay on a theoretical or methodological issue relevant to your MA thesis (approximately 10 pages)

You need to pass all 3 parts to pass the course. You will receive a grade for each part. Each part will count as one third of the total.

The project proposal is to be submitted in Canvas and the essay in Inspera within the given deadline.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

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.

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

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Periodic evaluation Autumn 2012

Periodic evaluation Autumn 2017

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

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