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Module Code: POU44000

Module Name: Year Long Research Project (Capstone/Dissertation) 2022-23

  • ECTS Weighting: 20
  • Semester/Term Taught: Semester 1 and 2
  • Contact Hours: 2 hour seminars every second week
  • Module Personnel: Dr Liam Kneafsey (Co-ordinator), Prof Peter Stone, Prof Constantine Boussalis, Dr Jan Berz, Dr Lisa Keenan, Dr Eleonora La Spada
  • Office hours: TBC

Learning Outcomes

Having completed this module, students should be able to:

  • Execute a demanding political science research project;
  • Collaborate with peers and act in leadership roles;
  • Constructively evaluate and the work of others;
  • Synthesise and evaluate a variety of research methods, sources, findings and analysis.
  • Critically analyse of an area of political science through independent research;
  • Effectively communicate research findings.

Module Content

Each group will be organised around a broad research theme, with each student preparing a research project on a particular topic within that theme under the supervision of a theme instructor (academic staff member). The topics for research will vary from year to year, but the skills employed will be similar.


Research Theme

Students will work on an individual piece of research which fits within a theme. The process of discussion and selection of individual projects will happen during the timetabled workshops period. All supervision will be conducted during the timetabled workshops. Each student will work with the theme instructor to select a topic which is both suitable for a research project and aligns with the common theme. Themes may vary as to whether they offer an “open-ended” choice of projects within the overall theme, subject to approval by the Theme instructor, or whether the Theme instructor will provide a more or less defined list of projects from which Capstone projects can be selected. Students will work on their dissertation individually, but will meet with other students and the theme instructor in a group setting for a series of workshops. These workshops will provide an opportunity for students to discuss their progress, explore emerging themes in their work, examine the structure of their work, present their research, engage in reflection on their learning, and offer and receive feedback from the theme instructor, as well as their peers. Groups will comprise no more than twelve students, and may sometimes consist of ‘half groups’ of six students. The number and nature of research themes available each year will depend on available staff resources. Capstone themes for the year ahead are set out at the end of this document.


Methods of Teaching and Student Learning

The research themes will be settled prior to the academic year in which the students take the dissertation module. 4 Students will be invited to identify several research themes to which they could be assigned, at the same time as their module selection in March / April. The assignment of students within the module to research groups will take place in April or May. Theme based workshops will take place every second week for each group from the start of Michaelmas Term. Each workshop will last up to two hours. Students will be encouraged to meet with each other outside of the workshop format on a more regular basis; these meetings will not be supervised by the theme instructor. One-on-one supervision is not provided in this module. In addition to the workshops, an introductory lecture for all Capstone students (whichever theme they are pursuing) will be held at the start of Michaelmas Term, at which attendance will be taken. This will cover topics of common interest such as basic research design principles and time management. A large portion of the work will be conducted by students working independently, outside of the workshops.


Methods of Assessment

Students will be assigned an individual mark for their dissertation. This will be worth 65% of the overall mark. Students will present their research at a poster session or submit a podcast (specific assignment to be determined) at the end of Hilary Term, after the submission of Capstone projects. This will be worth 10% of the overall mark. Guidance on poster or podcast requirements will be set out at a later stage. 5 Students will be assigned an individual mark for their ongoing participation. Ongoing attendance and participation will be worth 10% of the overall mark. The participation mark will be reduced commensurate to any unexcused absences from classes. Students who fail to attend at least 2 workshops will not be permitted to submit a research project. The Theme instructor may require response papers, presentations, readings, discussions of others work in progress, and so on as part of this participation grade. Students will submit 4-5 other pieces of assessed work 400-500 words each. This written component will be worth 15% of the overall mark. Students must also submit a 1500 word research proposal in November on which they will receive detailed feedback. A short early proposal may be required by the instructor at the end of October. The upper word limit for the dissertation will be 8,000 words. The theme instructor will assess students’ work, subject to moderation within the Political Science Department and by the External Examiner. Constant attendance and independent work throughout the year (including independent work over the winter break) is an essential requirement of the Capstone research project. Late work will be penalized at a rate of 5 marks per day. All requests for excuses from submission penalties, whether justified by a medical certificate, a LENS report, or other reason, must be submitted in advance of the deadline to the Theme instructor by the student’s college Tutor. Late or ex postrequests to submit written materials without penalties will not be accepted.



Assessment Details

Research projects, written assignments, poster sessions, participation in class will be assessed by the Theme instructor, in coordination with the Departmental Capstone coordinator, and subject to moderation by the Political Science Department and the External Examiner.  Materials may be sent for review to an external examiner. In exceptional cases, an oral examination of the candidate may be required by the examiner(s).

Capstone research projects will be expected to include basic features of research in political science, such as defining a research question in terms of a “variation to be explained”, an assessment of previous scholarship, the elaboration of an explanation, an empirical test, and the drawing of conclusions from the project.

If different / more specific grading criteria are appropriate for a particular Capstone theme, (for example, there is a greater focus on historical research, or computer programming, or a political theory topic) these will be made clear to students at the start of the academic year.

The research projects will also be assessed on the quality of writing, structure and presentation. Overall standards for the assessment of students’ work are set out in the Department of Political Science Undergraduate Handbook.

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