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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.

This paper is 100% internally assessed.

Paper title The 'Political': Theory and Practice
Paper code POLS501
Subject Politics
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,810.00
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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Limited to
Teaching staff

Professor Philip Nel

Paper Structure

Week 1: Introduction to 'The Political'

Week 2: The contested nature of 'The Political'

Week 3: Basic terms; positivism and behaviourism: facts and observation

Week 4: Rational choice theory

Week 5: Feminism, ethics of care, and standpoint theory

Week 6: Essay work

Week 7: Interpretivism, narrative, and hermeneutics

Week 8: Postmodernism, identity, and intersectionality

Week 9: Discourse analysis

Week 10. Indigenous methodology and race

Week 11. Mixed methods: combining quantitative and qualitative approaches

Week 12. Conducting interviews

Week 13. Essay work


The required readings will be available on eReserve on Blackboard.

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.

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Tuesday 13:00-13:50 9-14, 16, 18-22
Thursday 14:00-15:50 9-14, 16-22