Training for 1st year students

This course aims at providing basic tools for PhD students to write their thesis projects and carry out good research in the social and political sciences. The course aims to help students understand how different research questions turn into different research designs. Most of the course is devoted to discuss the main three types of research questions and corresponding research designs in the social and political sciences -- experimental, cross-sectional, and exploratory -- as well as some other mixed types located in between the three "pure" types - semi-experimental and comparative. Each research design responds to a different type of logic- deductive, inductive, and abductive -- best suited to solve the research problems at hand. The course also discusses different types of social and political theories, such as rational-choice and game theories, and the problems inherent to the conceptualizations and measurement of concepts in our disciplines. Ultimately, the course aims at helping students start writing the research proposals that they will need to defend at the end of the second term of the academic year.

The course will be followed by a research seminar, in which students will have to defend their research proposals in front of their peers and the convener of the seminar.

Syllabus: Research Tools 2019-20

Schedule of classes

Resultado de imagen para Jorge Rodriguez Menes - UPf

Jorge Rodríguez

Course coordinator
Associate Professor

Office 20.128

+34 93 542 2239

[email protected]

Part 1: Logic of Scientific Inference

This module introduces students to the logic of scientific inference. The first class is intended to provide a guide on how to write a good research proposal starting with alternative research questions. We will briefly review the main three types of research questions and corresponding research designs in the social and political sciences – experimental, cross-sectional, and exploratory – as well as some other mixed types located in between the three "pure" types – semi-experimental and comparative. Each research design responds to a different type of logic – deductive, inductive, and abductive – best suited to solve alternative research problems. The second class discusses the fundamental form of scientific inference, showing how, in science, theoretical statements must be turned into empirical statements before they can be tested with observations, and how this process requires more steps when our theories are at higher levels of generality. We will discuss different types of empirical tests (weaker and stronger) and some key methods that facilitate making causal claims. The third class will be devoted to issues of conceptualization and measurement and to present some peculiar causal arguments in the social sciences – demographic and functional. 

Jorge Rodríguez obtained his PhD in Sociology at Nortwestern University, in the USA. He is currently associate professor at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where he is also the Coordinator of the PhD Program of the Department of Political & Social Sciences. In the past, he has been Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Methods at the University of Kent, and Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Reading, both in the UK. He also worked as Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in the USA. In 2012, he won with Daniel Oesch the prize for the best paper of the year published in the journal Socio-Economic Review, edited by the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics.


Aina Gallego Dobón

Aina Gallego

[email protected]


Personal website. 

Part 2: Modern Approaches to Causal Inference

This module introduces the potential outcomes framework which underlies modern approaches to causal inference. Most claims in the social sciences contain causal statements but demonstrating causality in empirical research is often challenging because of a variety of reasons such as the presence of omitted variables or self-selection of units into some categories. This section will explain why experimental research allows us to make causal inferences, and will review a series of advanced quasi-experimental designs for observational data that are being increasingly used in the social sciences, including regression discontinuity designs and instrumental variables. We will also introduce the use of machine learning in the social sciences, which is increasingly applied to text data. The overall goal will be that students develop a critical understanding of the difficulties related to demonstrating causal relationships as well as a sense of the main research designs and advanced tools currently used by empirical quantitative researchers.

Aina Gallego is a Ramon y Cajal Fellow (Associate Professor) at the Institut de Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals (IBEI) and a Research Associate at the Institute of Political Economy and Governance. Previously, she was a post-doctoral researcher at the Spanish High Research Council and at Stanford University, and have been the recipient of a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant. I defended my doctoral dissertation in Political Science at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. She has conducted extensive research on other topics such as the political consequences of corruption, the effects of personality on political behavior, or the origins of dual ethnic identities in contexts with ethnopolitical conflict such as Catalonia.



Matthias vom Hau

[email protected]


Personal website. 

Part 3: Basic Understanding of Qualitative Methods

This module aims at providing students with a basic understanding of the qualitative methods typically used in exploratory research. The first class is dedicated to discussing the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative methods and how a mixed methods approach could solve the limitations of many research projects. The second class presents the characteristics of the main three types of exploratory research designs: case-studies, historical arguments, and the comparative method, which are aimed at understanding complex structures of elements or chains of events and at identifying necessary and sufficient conditions for their occurrence. The third and last class is devoted to present the main techniques of qualitative analysis: Interviews, participant observation, and document analysis – to do discuss the main ethnical challenges faced in these methodological approaches.

Matthias vom Hau is an Associate Professor and Ramón y Cajal Researcher at the Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals (IBEI). A sociologist by training, he has a PhD (2007) from Brown University and previously held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Manchester. His work is centrally concerned with the relationship between identity politics, institutions, and development, with a comparative-historical focus on Latin America. He has published widely on how states construct a sense of national belonging, how civil society actors negotiate and contest official nationalisms, and the extent to which ordinary citizens subscribe to official and counter-state identity projects. A second line of research explores the long-run developmental consequences of state formation in Latin America, while his third line of work is equally historical and corrects for the fundamentally ahistorical approach that underpins the supposedly negative relationship between ethnic diversity and public goods provision. His most recent research investigates the rise and consequences of indigenous movements in Latin America and beyond.


Ricard Zapata-Barrero 

[email protected] 

Office 20.112

Personal website


Part 4: How to Draw a Research in Political Theory


This module aims at answering basic questions related to how to draw a research in political theory. What kinds of questions should we ask in political theory and how should we address these questions? What are the criteria for normative analysis in applied political theory? How can we infer and critically assess theoretical frameworks in Political Theory? How can concepts shape a research and how are the findings of a research shaped by conceptual interpretations? What are the main epistemological issues that we face when doing political theory? Can political theory help conduct ethically grounded research? The first class discusses important ontological and epistemological issues in political theory and social science research. The second class is meant to be more applied and to discuss the importance of concepts and categories for apprehending social/political change. In the final class, a discussion will take place on how to carry out ethical and politically relevant theory, by stimulating reflexivity, positionality and critical ethical evaluations of our research. 

Ricard Zapata-Barrero is full Professor in the Department of Political and Social Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF-Barcelona). His main lines of research deal with contemporary issues of liberal democracy in contexts of diversity, especially the relationship between democracy, citizenship, and immigration. He conducts theoretical and empirical research on migration and in the Mediterranean area. He is the Director of GRITIM-UPF (Interdisciplinary Research Group on Immigration), and of the Master’s Program in Migration Studies at UPF . He is a member of the Board of Directors of the largest research network on Immigration in Europe IMISCOE and Chair the External Affairs Committee. Additionally, he is a member of editorial boards of several academic journals and an occasional contributor to media and policy debates.