Interpretive Political Science Intensive Course


09/04/2024 - 11/04/2024

Organised by:

NCRM, University of Southampton


Professor Rod Rhodes, Professor Jack Corbett, Dr John Boswell and Dr Tamara Metze


Intermediate (some prior knowledge)


Jacqui Thorp
Training and Capacity Building Co-ordinator, National Centre for Research Methods


View in Google Maps  (SO17 1BJ)


Room 1007, Building 58 (Murray), University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton. Hants


Many students in the social sciences, especially in political science, public policy and public administration who decide to undertake qualitative or interpretive research feel they are unqualified to do so. They express deep-seated confusion about the reliability and generalizability of data, results, and conclusions. They feel that interpretive approaches lack the type of specialised training that has become commonplace in quantitative political science. The aim of this course is to redress this gap. We will equip students with a toolkit that will enable them to both conceptualise and execute an interpretive project. 

The course covers: 

  • Situating the interpretive approach in relation to other ways of doing political science research by reference to the philosophical, epistemological, and methodological assumptions on which these approaches are based;
  • The theoretical and analytical tools students need to design and conduct their research project; 
  • The toolkit of methods used by interpretive scholars to collect data, including ethnographic and interview-based methods; 
  • The standards that will both ensure results are reliable and maximise the impact of findings; and
  • Guidance on the norms and principles used to analyse data in an interpretive project. 
  • An introduction to comparative interpretive research

By the end of the course participants will:

  • Be able to describe the strengths and features of the interpretive approach   
  • Be able to develop and justify a sophisticated design for interpretive research
  • Have experience interpreting rich qualitative data

The course is primarily aimed at PhD students and early career scholars of political science, public policy and public administration, but scholars of other social science disciplines, such as criminology, sociology, planning or legal studies, will also benefit from it. We welcome PhDs etc. from member institutions of the ECPR and researchers from NGOs and charitable organisations

Participants are asked to bring a laptop and a summary of a draft chapter from PhD or draft publications for group discussion; and an example of your fieldwork (if available)

Preparatory Reading

Rhodes, R. A. W. (2017) Interpretive Political Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Boswell, John, Jack Corbett and Rhodes, R. A. W. (2019) The Art and Craft of Comparison Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 


The fee per teaching day is: • £35 per day for registered students • £75 per day for staff at academic institutions, Research Councils researchers, public sector staff and staff at registered charity organisations and recognised research institutions. • £250 per day for all other participants All fees include event materials, morning and afternoon tea. They do not include travel and accommodation costs. In the event of cancellation by the delegate a full refund of the course fee is available up to two weeks prior to the course. NO refunds are available after this date. If it is no longer possible to run a course due to circumstances beyond its control, NCRM reserves the right to cancel the course at its sole discretion at any time prior to the event. In this event every effort will be made to reschedule the course. If this is not possible or the new date is inconvenient a full refund of the course fee will be given. NCRM shall not be liable for any costs, losses or expenses that may be incurred as a result of the cancellation of a course, including but not limited to any travel or accommodation costs. The University of Southampton’s Online Store T&Cs also continue to apply.

Website and registration:


South West


Qualitative Data Handling and Data Analysis, Qualitative methods, Interpretive analysis, Ethnographic research, Elite interviewing, Shadowing, Narrative analysis

Related publications and presentations:

Qualitative Data Handling and Data Analysis

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