Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

POLS501 The 'Political': Theory and Practice

An examination of the contested nature of the political and key methodological approaches to the study of politics both theoretically and in practice.

This paper examines the contested nature of what constitutes politics and the ways to conduct research. It explores key methodological approaches to the study of politics, including positivism, rational choice theory, intersubjectivity, discourse analysis and interpretivism and examines the advantages and disadvantages of quantitative versus qualitative research methods.

Paper title The 'Political': Theory and Practice
Paper code POLS501
Subject Politics
EFTS 0.2500
Points 30 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,646.75
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,250.00

^ Top of page

Limited to
Teaching staff
Dr James Headley
The required readings will be available on E-Reserve on Blackboard.
Paper Structure
  • Week 1: Introduction to 'The Political'
  • Week 2: The Political - the state, the nation and culture
  • Week 3: The Political - gender, race and class
  • Week 4: Positivism, Facts and Falsification
  • Week 5: Critical Methodology
  • Week 6: Intersubjectivity and Feminist Methodology
  • Week 7: Identity and Discourse Analysis
  • Week 8: Session 1 - Intercultural Analysis and Hermeneutics - Hans-Georg Gadamer
    Session 2 - Conclusions: The Hermeneutic and the Empirical - Paul Riceour
  • Week 9: Sessions 1 and 2 - Student Conference: Presentations on Essay Topics
Research Practice
  • Week 10: Session 1 - How to choose a case study and/or case studies
    Session 2 - Document Research
  • Week 11: Session 1 - Qualitative Research: the pitfalls and use of quantitative surveys
    Session 2 - Political Experiments
  • Week 12: Session 1 - Qualitative Research: How to do interviews
    Session 2 - Conducting Interviews and Cultural Issues
  • Week 13: Session 1 - Qualitative Research: How to conduct focus groups
    Session 2 - Practice Focus Groups
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of key methodological approaches to the study of politics and the contested nature of what constitutes the political;
  • Have the capacity to undertake independent research and identify relevant research sources;
  • Have the ability to apply ideas and methods to new situations in written analysis and in practice.

^ Top of page


First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Wednesday 15:00-15:50 11-13, 15-16, 18-21
Thursday 14:00-15:50 9-13, 15-21