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Research Topics in Political Science

année académique

Titulaire(s) du cours

Jean-Benoît PILET (Coordonnateur) et Marta Matrakova

Crédits ECTS


Langue(s) d'enseignement


Contenu du cours

The course combines conceptual content and development of research skills. To this end, the key Political Science concepts will be explained; their application in up-to-date research will be presented, discussed and analysed in class. In addition, students will develop their research and writing skills, by participating in practical sessions and by writing four academic assignments. The course sessions will focus on the following three elements:

  1. Conceptual explanations.
  2. Explanation and exercises on the research process.
  3. Discussion and analysis of recent research.

The elements (1) conceptual explanations and (2) explanation and exercises on the research process will be identical in the three course groups. The (3) discussion and analysis of recent research will focus on the following topics in each group: Polarization in Contemporary Democracies: Causes, Consequences, and Remedies (Group 1), Political Transitions and International Influence in Eastern Europe and Post-Soviet Regimes (Group 2) and Populism and Analysis of the Current Political Processes in Western Europe and the USA (Group 3). Students will gain in-depth understanding of the specific research topic chosen. The course assignments will consist of the practical application of the three course elements (concepts, research skills and knowledge on recent academic publications) in a research design focusing on a topic aligned with the specialised focus of the research group that they are involved in.

    Objectifs (et/ou acquis d'apprentissages spécifiques)

    The purpose of the course is to provide students with an overview of the main concepts and research methods in Political Science. It develops these essential concepts through the analysis of current and relevant topics in Political Science. Students will develop a good understanding of key concepts, methods and up-to-date research in Political Science. They will also develop their research, analytical and writing skills via practical sessions and exercises, as well as through the four course assignments.

    At the end of the course students will achieve the following intended learning outcomes:

    · Develop a clear understanding of the main concepts in Political Science.

    · Understand and analyse the most recent research findings from the field of expertise of the Group that they belong to.

    · Develop a research question and design in Political Science.

    · Be able to find, read, understand and interpret most research published in Political Science journals.

    · Define concepts and review research literature on a topic chosen by them.

    · Understand and assess critically some of the recent debates around the main concepts in Political Science.

    · Develop their writing skills.


    Connaissances et compétences pré-requises

    Nothing else than the common requirements for the Master programme to which this course belongs.

    Méthodes d'enseignement et activités d'apprentissages

    The course counts on the active participation of the students and their preparation of the course material in advance, as well as their timely submission of the assignments and their review. The skills and knowledge gained during this course will be key for understanding the content of other courses and for preparing their final dissertation.  


    In preparation of each session, students are required to have read the essential reading material. Additional reading is provided to allow the students to become familiar with the recent debates and developments in the research around the main concepts in Political Science. All texts are available on the Université Virtuelle (UV). PowerPoint presentations will also be uploaded on the UV each week after the class. 


    During the first weeks of class, students will be asked to choose a research topic that will need to be validated by the professor. The final subject will have to be submitted by 27 October 2022. It is important to bear in mind that this topic will remain unchanged for the duration of the class, and is personal to each student. 

    Support(s) de cours

    • Université virtuelle

    Autres renseignements

    Informations complémentaires

    Course time: Thursdays 14.00-16.00

    The first session (22 September 14:00-16:00h) will take place in S.H.1309 (Auditoire van Rijn) and will be attended by all the students.

    Group 1: Polarization in Contemporary Democracies: Causes, Consequences, and Remedies

    Group instructor: Fernando Feitosa

    Contact: fernando.feitosa@ulb.be


    Office: S.11.206

    Office Hours

    Group 2: Political Transitions and external influence of the EU and Russia in Eastern Europe and Post-Soviet Countries

    Group instructor: Marta Matrakova

    Contact: marta.matrakova@ulb.be


    Office: IEE

    Office Hours :You can schedule an appointment by email

    Group 3: Populism and Analysis of the Current Political Processes in Western Europe and the USA

    Group instructor: Laura Jacobs

    Contact: laura.jacobs@ulb.be


    Office: S.11.224

    Office Hours :

    The three groups will study and discuss the main concepts of Political Science and will develop the skills required for writing an MA thesis. After the first course session (the students will have three days between 22 and 26 September) to choose their group of preference. Changes in the groups after this date will not be allowed. The research that they will be performing in the framework of this course should focus on the research topic of the group that they have chosen. The maximum number of students in each group is thirty.





    Méthode(s) d'évaluation

    • Autre

    The course evaluation will rest on attendance and participation, as well as four assignments; two intermediary and one final. See below, for the splitting of the final grade:

    - Attendance (5%) and participation (15%) --> weekly
    - Assignment 1 (20%) --> 27/10/22
    - Assignment 2 (20%) --> 17/11/22
    - Assignment 3 (20%) --> 02/12/22
    - Assignment 4 (20%) --> 17/01/23

    Attendance and Participation

    Students are required to attend all classes and participate actively and pertinently. The expectation is that students come to class every week having read the material, and prepared with topics of discussion and/or questions.

    Construction de la note (en ce compris, la pondération des notes partielles)

    see above

    Langue(s) d'évaluation

    • anglais