Research Methodology

GSTÖHL S. & SCHUNZ S. - Research Methodology in EU External Action (12h)


This compulsory research methods seminar aims to help prepare students for their Master’s thesis and to familiarise them with important aspects of social sciences research methodology as applied to EU external relations and diplomacy. It comprises several parts: the first part will take place in the first semester before students submit their thesis topic. The remainder of the course will take place early in the second semester when students engage more in their thesis research.

First, an introduction to research design for the thesis will be offered. It focuses in particular on the structure of the thesis, the formulation of a precise research question and hypothesis/argument, and on case selection. Second, the question how and to what extent theories of International Relations as well as theories of regional integration can be used to guide research on and explain EU external relations will be discussed. Third, the main concepts and theoretical approaches specifically designed to study EU external action will be addressed, with a focus on the conceptualisation of EU actorness and impact. By discussing examples of how to apply the concepts and approaches to specific EU-related research questions, the seminar will illustrate their explanatory power and limits. Students will learn to analyse specific issues of EU external action through different theoretical lenses and to draw on theories for the benefit of their own research and analysis. The fourth part of the seminar focuses on social sciences research techniques, in particular the often used techniques of document analysis and interviews. It illustrates how these can be usefully employed in the context of applied research for a Master’s thesis on EU external relations and diplomacy.