ECPR Methods School



Training Tracks


ECPR Methods School: 'follow the training tracks'

By the Academic Convenors: Derek Beach, Levi Littvay and Benoît Rihoux

What are training tracks?

The ECPR Methods School is designed to offer a broad variety of courses that cater for the diverse needs of researchers in political science and other neighbouring social scientific disciplines. These courses can either be followed on a stand-alone basis or in a sequence that constitutes a ‘training track’ over one or more ECPR Methods School event(s) (Winter School in February/March and Summer School in July/August).

The ECPR Methods School offers different types of course across the two Schools (the more popular courses are offered both at the Winter and Summer Schools). Each course is also identified by a five-digit number: two letters (the course type; for the first letter, 'W' stands for 'Winter' and 'S' stands for 'Summer') followed by three numbers.

Here are the types of courses:

  • Short course: a course that offers an introduction or ‘refresher’ to tools that will be useful for further courses. Typically: software training, before taking a data analysis course. (Winter School: 7.5 hours over two days, ‘WA’ course numbers; Summer School: 15 hours over three days, 'SA' course numbers)
  • Research design/fundamentals course: an ‘upstream’ course enabling you to think about your research more broadly, so you can make more informed choices about specific methods/techniques. (Winter School: 15 hours over five days or in Master Class format of 25 hours over five days, ‘WB’ course numbers; Summer School: 15 hours over five days, or in Master Class format of 25 hours over five days, or 30 hours over 10 days, ‘SB’ course numbers)
  • Data collection/generation course: a hands-on course focused on a specific method (or family of methods) for data collection or generation (Winter School: 15 hours over five days or in Master Class format of 25 hours over five days, ‘WC’ course numbers; Summer School: 15 hours over five days, or in Master Class format of 25 hours over five days, or 30 hours over 10 days, ‘SC’ course numbers)
  • Data analysis course (foundation): a hands-on course focused on a specific method (or family of methods) for data analysis, bringing you to a foundation level (Winter School: 15 hours over five days or in Master Class format of 25 hours over five days, ‘WD0’ course numbers; Summer School: 15 hours over five days or 30 hours over 10 days ; ‘SD0’ course numbers)
  • Data analysis course (introductory): a hands-on course focused on a specific method (or family of methods) for data analysis, bringing you to a level of well-informed use (Winter School: 15 hours over five days or in Master Class format of 25 hours over five days, ‘WD1’ course numbers; Summer School: 15 hours over five days, or in Master Class format of 25 hours over five days, or 30 hours over 10 days, ‘SD1’ course numbers)
  • Data analysis course (advanced): a hands-on course focused on a specific method (or family of methods) for data analysis, bringing you to an expert level, including more recent refinements (Winter School: 15 hours over five days or in Master Class format of 25 hours over five days, ‘WD2’ course numbers; Summer School: 15 hours over five days, or in Master Class format of 25 hours over five days, or 30 hours over 10 days, ‘SD2’ course numbers, and ‘SD3’ course numbers for the very advanced courses)
  • Seasoned Scholar Workshops: designed for experienced scholars with significant research experience beyond their PhD and are offered at Summer School only.  (15 hours over three days, 'SS' course numbers)

At both the Winter and Summer School you can take the courses as standalone courses, or combine them to make a comprehensive tuition package.

Considering the number of courses offered within each course type and within each single event, there are many options for study across single or multiple Methods School participation. Over two consecutive Methods School events, it is possible to attend many courses. It is also possible for you to construct your own training track across non-successive events.  With so many options available it can be difficult to know where to start planning your training at the ECPR Methods School, but the tips below might help!

 

How to think about the most useful training track(s) for you? Practical tips

Many different course sequences could suit your needs, so here are some practical tips:

  • Some courses are typically useful to attend before a given course (i.e. 'upstream' in the sequence) or after a given course (i.e. 'downstream' in the sequence) – see the categories above : it often makes senses to follow an A-B-C-D sequence: for instance first a short course (WA or SA), followed by a research design/fundamentals course (WB or SB), then by a data collection/generation course (WC or SC), then by a foundation or introductory data analysis course (WD0/WD1 or SD0/SD1), and finally by a more advanced data analysis course (WD2, SD2 or SD3). Naturally, based on your prior knowledge and/or practical constraints (funding, etc.), it’s possible to follow only part of such a sequence (for example, A-B, B-C, C-D, D0-D1, D1-D2).
  • Not all courses are offered every year. Some more specialised courses or courses on emerging topics are offered every two years. This is useful to consider, especially if you are able to plan attendance over 2-3 years.
  • It is acceptable to attend only one course at the Methods School, depending on your specific needs. Training tracks simply constitute a range of additional possibilities.
  • If you have already identified a course you want to attend but are unsure which course(s) you should choose next, you might find some hints and recommendations in the detailed course outlines, in particular the ‘prerequisite knowledge’ section and the ‘recommended courses before’ and ‘recommended courses after’ sections. You can also contact the instructors for advice about the right training track to suit your needs. Finally, if still in doubt, you can also contact the Academic Convenors, who will be glad to provide some advice.

 

Notes of caution

  • There are an endless number of course sequences available, depending on how courses fit with each other, your prior research skills, and the specific needs for your project.
  • There are multiple views of what ‘good’ or ‘appropriate’ methods are in the social sciences.
  • There is also a debate on the terms used, such as ‘methodology’, ‘approach’, ‘method’, ‘technique’, ‘data’.
  • There is also a debate on the labels used to name different approaches (‘quantitative’ v/s ‘qualitative’ or ‘variable-oriented’ v/s ‘case-oriented’ ‘mixed’ or ‘multi-method’ designs, etc.).
  • There is also a debate on the extent to which different phases of a research process can be considered separately. For instance: many ‘qualitative’ or ‘interpretivist’ researchers will contend that research design, data generation and data analysis are fully intertwined.
  • Quite a number of courses do not fully ‘fit’ within one of the categories above; they may have a broader focus or cover different stages of the research process. For instance: ‘Quantitative text analysis’ is mostly a data analysis course, but it also covers some data collection/preparation aspects; ‘Comparative research designs’ is mostly a research design course, but it also covers some data collection aspects as well as some (comparative) data analysis aspects; and ‘Advanced multi-method research’ is a research design course that also comprises some elements of data collection and data analysis.

 

"...the good of man must be the objective of the science of politics" - Aristotle


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