Accueil > Research design and writing in the social sciences


Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

The objective of this course is to provide students with an overview of how research may be advanced, while building on their own creativity. Some of the key questions of the course will include: epistemological choices, research strategy, ethnographic observation, archival research, interviewing, as well as writing challenges. Ultimately, students should become familiar with a diversity of sources and research methods, including the use of visual sources and the combination between sight and sounds. Additionally, one of the purposes of the course is to allow students to put into historical perspective current controversies over the social uses and the “scientific” nature of social sciences. The relationships between verisimilitude, “truth”, and legitimacy in social sciences will thus be debated in class. Finally, doing social sciences has to do with the art of writing. For whom and how is it possible to write in a world overwhelmed with images where (media-built) “events” unfold at a fast pace? These are among the questions we shall address over the course of the semester.


RAGARU, Nadège M. (Chargée de recherches à Sciences Po, CERI)

Course validation

Students will be assessed based on the quality of their oral presentation, their final paper, as well as on their individual participation in group discussions. The oral presentations are of two kinds: either the presentation/discussion (right after screening in class) of a visual source or an exposé on a given topic. Each student shall be asked to formulate a research project focusing on methodological issues, write a final assignment (10 pages, TNR 11, single spaced) and present it in class. The research project shall account for 40% of the grade. The process of writing this research paper will be spread over the course of the semester in a series of small steps. By week 7 students are expected to come to class with several preliminary topics for the research paper. The final draft will be due one week after the end of the course. The final grades will be obtained in the following way: oral presentation (of the readings or the sources) 40% ; final paper 40% ; participation in class discussions 20%.

Required reading

  • Michael Taussig, I Swear I Saw This - Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own, Chicago: Tue University of Chicago Press, 2011 (chapters 1 to 3)
  • Alice Goffman, On the Run. Fugitive Life in an American City, The University of Chicago Press, 2014 (Appendix, A Methodological Note)
  • Robert S. Weiss, Learning from Strangers. The Art ahd Method of Qualitative Interview Studies, Thre Free Press, 1994, chap.4
  • Howard Becker, Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Chicago University Press