ASTK18427U How to design research in International relations that matters

Volume 2023/2024

MSc in Political Science

MSc in Social Science

MSc in Security Risk Management


The course is open to:

  • Exchange and Guest students from abroad
  • Credit students from Danish Universities
  • Open University students

Writing a research study such as a master thesis is not only an obligation to complete your degree, but also an opportunity to shape political discourse. In this hands-on course, we explore what this means in practice.

To address this, we first must gain an understanding of the role of political science in politics. The conclusion from this discussion is disappointing. As a master student your opportunities are limited.

Yet, this is not a reason to give up the cause. If your research project is carefully designed, it can still make a difference. We discuss the options and choices for conceptualizing research problems and what theories and methods aid in the quest for relevance.

Along the discussions in class, you are asked to formulate a research project that matters. This will be also your final assessment, and may become (or not) your actual dissertation project.

Our discussion and your project will be firmly focused on international relations and questions of world politics and international security. This is a particularly demanding context as it requires you to think beyond Danish politics and deal with the complexity of global affairs, international organizations and diplomacy. A solid foundation in these matters is required to complete the course successfully.

Learning Outcome


You will learn how political scientists can make a difference in political discourse

You will learn what forms of knowledge resonates in political and societal discourses

You will learn what practices academics and other experts adopt to influence target groups


You will aquire skills of how to design a small scale research project that matters

You will learn different techniques such as problem construction, ideal-typification, concept formation and modelling

You will learn how to write and present research in narratives that are accessible.


You will train how to give presentations and summarize complex matters.

Abend, Gabriel. 2008. “The Meaning of ‘Theory.’” Sociological Theory 26(2): 173–99.

Alvesson, Mats, and Jörgen Sandberg. 2011. “Generating Research Results through Problematization.” Academy of Management Review 36(2): 247–71.

Aradau, Claudia, and Jef Huysmans. 2013. “Critical Methods in International Relations: The Politics of Techniques, Devices and Acts.” European Journal of International Relations 20(3): 596–619.

Aradau, Claudia, and Jef Huysmans. 2019. “Assembling Credibility: Knowledge, Method and Critique in Times of ‘Post-Truth.’” Security Dialogue 50(1): 40–58.

Austin, Jonathan Luke, and Rocco Bellanova. 2019. “Doing and Mediating Critique: An Invitation to Practice Companionship.” Security Dialogue 50: 1–27.

Bacchi, Carol Lee. 2009. What’s the Problem Represented to Be? Frenchs Forrest: Pearson.

Berling, Trine Villumsen and Christian Bueger. 2013. Practical Reflexivity and Political Science: Strategies for Relating Scholarship and Political Practice, PS: Political Science & Politics 46(1), 115-119.

Bohman, James. 2003. “Critical Theory as Practical Knowledge: Participants, Observers, and Critics.” In The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, eds. Stephen P. Turner and Paul A. Roth. Malden, MA; Oxford, Carlton: Blackwell Publishers, 91–109.

Bueger, Christian. 2018. Experts in an Adventure with Pirates: A Story of Somali Piracy Expertise, in “Assembling Exclusive Expertise: Conflict Resolution Knowledge in Practice“, edited by Anna Leander and Ole Wæver, London: Routledge, 40-56.

Flyvbjerg, Bent. 2001. Making Social Science Matter. Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.

Keohane, Robert O. 2008. “Big Questions in the Study of World Politics.” In The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, edited by Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal, 708–15. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Khalidi, Muhammad Ali. 2010. “Interactive Kinds.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61(2): 335–60.

Lake, David A. 2011. “Why ‘Isms’ Are Evil: Theory, Epistemology, and Academic Sects as Impediments to Understanding and Progress.” International Studies Quarterly 55 (2): 465–80

Latour, Bruno. 2004. “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern.” Critical Inquiry 30 (2): 225–48.

Peters, Kimberley. 2017. Your Human Geography Dissertation: Designing, Doing, Delivering. SAGE Publications: London

Sandberg, Joergen, and Mats Alvesson. 2011. “Ways of Constructing Research Questions: Gap-Spotting or Problematization?” Organization 18 (1): 23–44.

Schulte, Christopher M. 2018. “Deleuze, Concept Formation, and the Habit of Shorthand Inquiry.” Qualitative Inquiry 24(3): 194–202.

Swedberg, Richard. 2017. “Theorizing in Sociological Research: A New Perspective, a New Departure?” Annual Review of Sociology 43: 189–206.

Torraco, Richard J. 2016. “Writing Integrative Literature Reviews: Using the Past and Present to Explore the Future.” Human Resource Development Review 15(4): 404–28.

Yanow, Dvora. 2000. Conducting Interpretative Policy Analysis. Qualitative Research Methods. Vol. 47. Thousand Oaks; London; New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Participants require a bachelor degree, and must have a solid foundation in international relations, security or related fields.
Teaching and learning is through seminars, presentations, and the development of a research project.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
Type of assessment details
Portfolio exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner