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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2022/2023

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run in each academic year. Each module description relates to the year indicated in the module availability box. Please be aware that modules may change from year to year, and may be amended to take account of, for example: changing staff expertise, disciplinary developments, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback.

Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2022/23


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module provides a critical survey of major research in comparative politics and political science, providing an advanced understanding of major approaches and the principal debates within the field.
  • This module will cover research which uses institutionalist, sociological, behaviouralist, and political economy approaches to study political phenomena.


  • Indicative topics include: state formation, political development, political institutions both in democratic and non-democratic regimes, political economy, electoral rules, representation, legislative political behaviour, voter behaviour, and campaigns and elections.
  • The content of the module will cover both contemporary research within each field as well as classic works. This will give students a background in how the literature in the field has developed over time.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Advanced knowledge of a range of contemporary comparative politics research agendas.
  • Critical understanding of theoretical debates within different comparative politics subfields.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Advanced comparative analytical skills in the assessment of the merits of different theoretical perspectives on comparative politics.
  • Critical engagement, assessment and evaluation of different forms of research in comparative political science.
  • Advanced understanding of central theoretical debates within comparative politics, and how these relate to empirical approaches.
Key Skills:
  • Effective presentation of scholarly analysis.
  • Independent research skills to augment initial guidance on suitable sources.
  • Effective assessment of the quality and suitability of scholarly sources.
  • Demonstrate skills of independent learning through reaching and defending personal intellectual judgments on complex issues.

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

  • Following an initial introductory seminar setting out the aims, learning outcomes and teaching, assessment models, and student expectations, the module will be principally taught through 16 two-hour seminars, with each seminar focusing on a specific topic within comparative politics. After a brief introduction of the topic of the week, the seminar will focus on discussion and critical engagement with the literature, focusing specifically on the theoretical development of the subfield, what informs the research agenda of the subfield, and specific critiques with regards to the contemporary readings provided. Seminars will be instructor directed but will focus on discussion of the week's readings, specifically with regard to the theories and research designs of each individual work.
  • After the first seminar, every fourth seminar consists of a reading week, where students have the opportunity to catch up on the readings for the module. The reading weeks will thus be held on weeks 5 and 9 in Michaelmas term and weeks 4 and 8 in Epiphany term.
  • Students will also be able to access members of academic staff through their routine ‘office hours’, typically two hours per week when academic staff are available to meet with students to address individual queries and concerns. Participation in these activities is voluntary, reflecting the different levels of prior knowledge of the subject possessed by the diverse student community involved with the degree programmes and also in recognition of the level of individual responsibility for learning that postgraduate students can be expected to take.
  • Formative assessment will come in the form of one 1,000 word essay. Students will be given a series of possible questions, each of which relates to the theories, concepts, and research covered during the first half of the module, and will be asked to answer one of these. Students will be expected to critically analyse relevant literatures, and will be evaluated on the quality of understanding and engagement with the literature.
  • This module has two summative assessment components:
  • Engagement with key readings on a social e-reader platform, where students are asked to comment on the text and address questions of fellow students throughout the week prior to the seminar, making reading a more social and engaging experience. This will ensure that all students engage with the key readings and allows the lecturer to identify areas that need clarification and discussion prior to the seminar. Participation and quality of each student’s engagement with the assigned reading and fellow student’s comments will be monitored and evaluated before each lecture resulting in a participation grade, which makes up 20% of the final mark.
  • Two 2,000 word essays. Students will be given a series of possible questions, which will relate to the theories, concepts, and research covered during the entirety of the module. Students will be expected to answer two of these possible questions. 

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 16 Weekly 2 hours 32
Preparation and Reading 268
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Individual Key Reading Engagement Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Engagement with Key Readings 16 x 3 hours (96 hours in total) 100% None
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 2,000 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2 2,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 1,000 word essay

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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