Workshop in Comparative Policy and Politics


Course Objective

Learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding - The student has acquired knowledge and
understanding of:
(1) political science research in the area of Comparative and European

Application - The student has acquired the competences to:
(2) critically evaluate research in the area of Comparative and European

Making judgements – the student demonstrates:
(3) critical theoretical and normative reflection on research results.

Learning skills – The student has acquired:
(4) the skills design theory-guided research projects, alone or in
working groups;
(5) the skills to select and apply the appropriate methods and
techniques of data collection and analysis to carry out research
(6) enhanced academic writing skills to report on research for
(7) the skills to work in small research teams.

Course Content

This course familiarizes students with key topics in the study of
Comparative Politics by presenting and discussing a series of topical
issues in the field as well as methodological issues. The goal is to
prepare them to write and present an empirical research paper on a topic
of their choosing within this field. Using the comparative method, our
goal is to understand the differences between forms of government and
what effects they have within the polity when it comes to policies.
Specifically, we will cover three sets of questions:

• Why do some countries democratize while others do not? What
distinguishes democratic from non-democratic regimes? What is the
relationship between economic growth and democracy? What makes
democracies endure, and how do democracies die?

When aiming to answer these questions, we will face a myriad of
methodological issues. For example, how do we classify countries as
democratic or not, and how do we deal with countries that fall somewhere
in between democratic and autocratic rule? Do we approach these
questions from a historical perspective, and if so, how does this help
or hamper the causal inferences we can make?

• Why do some democracies have different institutions than others? Where
do different institutions come from? What determines the initial choice
of institutions, such as the electoral system or welfare state for
example? And what determines their subsequent development?

We again have to deal with methodological challenges. How can we study
the origins of institutions while we know that they might be largely
endogenous to cultural norms and economic circumstances?

• What are the effects of different institutions? What impact do
institutional choices have on social and economic equality, on
corruption, on representation or the quality of democracy?

These questions are also difficult to assess empirically. For example,
how do we study the effects of institutional rules when we know that
they don’t often change?

As might be expected for questions as broad and complex as these, while
there is much we currently know, many debates are still open. The
objective of this course is to weigh the available evidence – both
descriptive and causal – to arrive at the fullest possible understanding
of key themes within comparative politics.

We will address the questions both theoretically and empirically.
Specifically, based on theory we will generate hypotheses and then test
them against empirical evidence. This means we need to decide what
evidence we should use to generate and test our hypotheses. Should we
focus on a small number of cases and study these in depth? Or should we
focus on many cases as possible and perhaps use statistical techniques
to analyse them?

Each workshop session will start with a brief introduction by the
instructor (first class) or a student (remaining classes), after which
we will discuss and evaluate the assigned readings as a group. The
readings deal with various policy domains and help the students develop
ideas for their own research paper.

Teaching Methods

Tutorial. Students will work in small groups, and report on their work
both orally and in writing.

Method of Assessment

Individual assignments and group work as well as in-class participation.

Entry Requirements

Participation in Selected Issues: European Politics and Policymaking


To be announced (see CANVAS).

Target Audience

Students in the Master Political Science (Track Comparative European
Also open as an elective course for Exchange Students.

General Information

Course Code S_WCPP
Credits 12 EC
Period P4
Course Level 600
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator prof. dr. C.E. de Vries
Examiner prof. dr. C.E. de Vries
Teaching Staff prof. dr. C.E. de Vries

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Study Group
Target audiences

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