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Durham University

Faculty Handbook 2022-2023

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run each academic year.

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA2361: Analytical Politics

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • • SGIA1201 or ANTH 1101, ECON 1021, GEOG 1232, SGIA 1201, SOCI 1321, plus any other level 1 SGIA module.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • • None


  • To introduce students to the fundamentals of theoretical models
  • To introduce students to key theoretical mechanism of politics
  • To teach students how to apply theoretical models to a wide range of political issues and processes, training their problem-solving skills
  • To introduce students to theory testing research designs
  • To teach students on how to link theory and evidence


  • One block of lectures and seminars, will introduce the fundamentals of theoretical models of politics and consider a variety of theoretical mechanisms, such as coordination and cooperation, commitment, signalling, bargaining, delegation, and behavioural mechanisms.
  • In developing our understanding of modelling approaches to politics, we will read both historically important texts and current research, and apply their insights and mechanisms to past and current political events.
  • Another block of lectures and seminars how theoretical insights, predictions from models, and mechanisms can be empirically assessed.
  • We will learn to what extent different empirical designs can be used to answer substantive questions about political phenomena.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will:
  • understand the use and limitations of theoretical models in explanatory political theory
  • know some key mechanisms through which the interaction of actors, their preferences, and the institutional context affect political processes and outcomes
  • understand the challenges of assessing theoretical predictions empirically
  • have an awareness of how and under what conditions certain research designs are able to overcome empirical challenges
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Having completed this module, students will:
  • be able to apply theoretical models and mechanisms to political events
  • be able to use diverse sources effectively, in order to understand and analyze a political phenomenon
  • be able to analyse and evaluate competing explanations of a political phenomenon
  • be able to produce and evaluate reasoned social scientific arguments on the basis of evidence
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will have demonstrated:
  • learning and study skills, including the identification and retrieval of relevant resources
  • written communication skills
  • an ability to frame political processes and phenomena
  • an ability to construct and evaluate reasoned arguments
  • an ability to evaluate and interpret empirical evidence
  • an ability to construct reasoned arguments
  • an ability to plan and manage time effectively

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The lectures will:
  • In the modelling block introduce students, together with assigned readings, to the fundamentals of theoretical models and a variety of theoretical mechanisms, such as coordination and cooperation, commitment, signalling, bargaining, delegation, and behavioural mechanisms.
  • In the research design block introduce students, together with assigned readings, to key challenges of empirically evaluating theoretical predictions (e.g., accounting for alternative explanations, the fundamental problem of causal inference) and, starting from an introduction to multivariate regression, students are then introduced to different empirical research designs, such as field and lab experiments, natural experiments, difference-in-difference design, and fixed-effects models.
  • The seminars will:
  • in the modelling block discuss current research using theoretical models of politics and apply research insights to current and past political events;
  • in the research design block expose students to empirical research employing various research designs that are critically discussed and evaluated. Some of these sessions will be held in computer labs to enable the practice of using analysis software;
  • Enable the development of verbal communication skills through small group and class discussions.
  • The module has two formative assessments:
  • Three problem sets, which students solve outside class. The aim of the problem sets is to help students gain a deeper understanding of the theoretical models and mechanism discussed.
  • Two data analysis exercises and reports. These assignments allow students to develop their ability to use appropriate software to perform the analyses associated with specific research designs.
  • The module has two summative assessments:
  • One summative assessment requires students to apply the models and mechanisms to a political phenomenon or process. The essay is completed in small groups (2-4 students) and submitted together with the completed group contribution sheet, which is a record of all the group meetings held. In addition to the report each student is required to submit a completed individual questionnaire rating their own contribution and those of all other project members. In order to reflect individual contributions to the project, the Lecturing staff reserve the right to adjust marks individually by +/- 5 to represent individual contributions. Reports of individuals not contributing a fair share towards the project will be given a ‘non-submission’ and effectively receive a zero. The assessment requires skills in gathering information, assessing evidence, critical reading, writing, and teamwork.
  • Another summative assessment requires students to apply their knowledge of research design. The essay is individually completed and requires skills in assessing evidence, appropriate ways of using C&IT, and writing.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Weekly; 8 in term 1 with reading week in week 6; 8 in term 2 with reading week in week 6 1 hour 16
Tutorials 9 Fortnightly in terms 1 and 2, starting in week 2 of term 1 1 hour 9
Preparation and Reading 175
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Group Essay and Individual Report Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Group Essay and Individual Questionnaire 3000 words + individually completed questionnaire 100% 1,500 words - individual essay August
Component: Individual Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2000 100% August

Formative Assessment:

Three problem sets and two data exercises and reports (1,000 words each).

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University

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