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Courses - MSc in Political Science

Advanced political analysis I: Designing Political Research

Exploring the research designs of empirical studies in political science

This course introduces students to the art and craft of conducting empirical research in political science. Successful researchers are able to reflect upon and select the most appropriate tools for solving the research problem at hand. All successful research endeavors begin by the researcher asking an important research question and then applying the methodological approaches which provide the most sound and interesting answers to this question. The course focuses on the research design rather than on specific techniques for analysing data. It covers the initial and fundamental steps of any research process: How do you ask important research questions? How do you connect theory and propositions? How do you choose an appropriate research design? How do you conceptualise and operationalise theoretical constructs?

During the course, students are introduced to the three major research frameworks related to empirical research in political science: (1) the variable-oriented framework (e.g. experiments and statistical analysis), (2) the case-oriented framework (e.g. configurational comparisons and process-tracing), and (3) the interpretive framework (e.g. hermeneutic and reflectivist analysis). The course introduces the differences between these approaches and discusses to what extent they share common sets of criteria for good research. The focus is on how and when to apply each approach most efficiently in research. Key messages of the course are (1) that all approaches have both strengths and weaknesses and are therefore suited for tackling different types of research problems and (2) that many approaches are complimentary when conducting research. As a consequence, many research questions are best approached from a mixed methods perspective combining a variety of research designs and approaches. 


Associate Professor Derek Beach teaches international relations, European integration and case study methodology. He has written articles, book chapters and books on research methodology, international negotiations, referendums and European integration. He has also co-authored the book Process-tracing Methods: Foundations and Guidelines (University of Michigan Press). He has taught qualitative case study methods at ECPR and IPSA summer and winter schools, held short courses at the APSA annual meeting on process-tracing and headed numerous workshops and seminars on qualitative methods throughout the world. He is also academic co-convenor of the ECPR Methods Schools and has recently completed a book entitled Causal Case Study Methods (University of Michigan Press).

Advanced Political Analysis II: Quantitative and Qualitative Techniques for Causal Analysis

Most research questions in Political Science are causal as they seek to identify whether a certain phenomenon affects another phenomenon or to identify the causes that led to a certain situation. Needless to say, establishing causality is a challenging task that most often requires certain tools. The purpose of this course is to enable the students to answer causal questions using some of most recognised and advanced methodological tools for causal inference applied within Political Science.

The course introduces two different approaches to the study of causality: the counterfactual/potential outcomes framework and the mechanistic approach. The first part of the course presents the potential outcomes framework, which seeks to identify what would have happened if something else (the potential cause) had not happened. The gold standard within this approach is experiments, where treatments or absence of treatments are randomly assigned to subjects. We will discuss possibilities and pitfalls of using the experimental approach but also introduce tools to be used in non-experimental, observational settings (e.g. instrumental variables and regression discontinuity designs). The second part of the course presents the mechanistic approach to causality that focuses on how a cause actually helps to produce the outcome of a particular case. We introduce different techniques for making causal inferences in a single case or in a small number of cases such as process tracing and congruence methods, and we will also discuss different case selection techniques.

This course aims to give you an in-depth understanding of the background of the use of these methodological tools and the types of causal claims they make. The course also aims to develop your skills and competences in applying these tools  to answer different research questions and for different purposes. 


Rasmus Brun Pedersen is an expert in qualitative methods and has taught numerous classes on qualitative methodology on BA, MA and PhD level. He has also been an instructor in classes on process tracing at the ECPR Summer School from 2011-2015 and has conducted several workshops at universities across Europe. He has published two co-authored books on Process Tracing methodology and Causal Case Studies, respectively, with the University of Michigan Press and articles in leading journal such as Sociological Methods & Research. His substantive research areas are foreign policy and European integration.

Derek Beach teaches international relations and methodology. He has authored articles, chapters, and books on qualitative methods, international negotiations, referendums, and European integration, and co-authored the book Process-tracing Methods: Foundations and Guidelines (University of Michigan Press), and Causal Case Study Methods (contracted with University of Michigan Press). He has taught qualitative case study methods at ECPR and IPSA summer and winter schools and held numerous workshops and seminars on qualitative methods throughout the world. He is also one of the academic co-convenors of the ECPR Methods School.

Kim Mannemar Sønderskov has authored articles, chapters and books on political behavior, public policy and research methods, including the book Stata: a practical introduction on statistical analysis using Stata. He has taught numerous courses on research methodology and statistics including a course on multilevel modeling at the ECPR Summer School.

Allan Würtz teaches quantitative methods on BA, MA and PhD levels. He has published papers on the testing of quantitative models and has written a textbook on basic quantitative methods for the social sciences.

Advanced political behaviour: What are the origins of public opinion and voting behaviour?

What are the origins of public opinion and voting behaviour?

Questions about citizens’ opinions and political behaviour are key to understanding modern politics for both citizens and scholars. Countless media articles are written about citizens’ opinions on issues such as immigration and economic redistribution and not least on citizens’ voting intentions. Likewise, academic literature on these topics is extensive containing a range of different theories and explanations. Scholars are exploring both stable influences such as citizens’ biological and psychological dispositions and their location in the social structure, but also more dynamic factors such as communication from the media and political elites.

This course provides a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the literature covering fundamental approaches and classic works, standing debates on recurrent topics such as voting and tolerance as well as current controversies such as the relative importance of socialisation and biology in voters’ opinion formation. The insights and approaches introduced on the course are highly relevant both outside and inside academia. For students considering a future career in the public or private sector, the course offers essential insights into two of the key factors defining the social environment of any politically-oriented organisation: public opinion and voting behaviour. Such insights are central to be able to provide solid advice on everything from the content of new laws to the timing of information campaigns targeting the public. The course also offers students an ideal vantage point from which to pursue more specialised subjects and interests in other seminars and/or in their Master’s thesis. Finally, the course is also relevant for students who are primarily interested in getting an overview of the field. 


Lene Aarøe is an expert in political psychology and co-director of the Politics and Evolution Lab. A key motivation in her work is to investigate how the psychological imprints of ancestral living in hunter-gatherer groups shape political attitudes and communication effects in modern mass democracies. Together with an international group of researchers, she is currently working on the research project ”How to Win with Words”. Her work has appeared in top international journals such as the American Political Science Review, Psychological Science and the Journal of Politics.

Rune Slothuus is a leading expert on political opinion formation and political communication. His work is published in top academic journals including the American Political Science Review and the Journal of Politics. He is currently heading a major research project studying “When and How Political Parties Influence Public Opinion Formation”. The project is funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research with a Sapere Aude DFF–Starting Grant “targeted at top researchers…who have achieved outstanding research results in their field”. Slothuus has received several international awards such as the 2015 Erik Erikson Early Career Award for Excellence and Creativity in the Field of Political Psychology from the International Society of Political Psychology.

Michael Bang Petersen is a leading expert on political psychology and specialises in the relevance of biological factors. He has published multiple articles in top journals within the fields of political science and psychology on the political effects of various factors such as upper-body strength, hunger, birth weight, mental simulation and group psychology. In his research, he applies a broad array of methods including cross-national survey data, survey experiments, laboratory experiments, hormonal data and psychophysiological measures. He is currently engaged in large-scale projects on the psychology of political communication and violent conflicts respectively. 

Jens Peter Frølund Thomsen is a leading expert on intergroup relations approached from an interdisciplinary perspective combining insights from social psychology and political science. He primarily works within two sub-fields focusing on 1) intergroup contact among majority members and the role of political party cues, and 2) political socialisation in educational systems embedded in different political regimes. He is currently participating in a new project on class conflict and social interaction on shop floor level. His most recent contributions have been published in the International Journal of Comparative Sociology, Social Psychology Quarterly and the British Journal of Political Science.  

Joshua Robison is an expert on understanding the relationship between political motivation and communication and how it affects citizen engagement and political preferences. His current research focuses on two areas of inquiry: the causes of citizens’ political motivations - particularly their political interest and civic duty - and how political elites influence perceptions of trust by framing the causes of their actions. His latest study, forthcoming inPolitical Communication, applies both a content analysis and a survey experiment to investigate the relationship between party conflict, news stories portraying this conflict, and reports of political interest and trust. He has also published studies on the nature and importance of political knowledge, the role of social context in shaping attitudes on socially sensitive topics, and the role of framing in democratic politics.

Rune Stubager is a leading expert on voting behaviour and opinion formation. He is co-principal investigator of the Danish National Election Study. In his work, he has, among other topics, investigated the social roots of modern politics. Currently, he is heading a research group which investigates how social class identification and class conflict affect citizens’ evaluations of political parties and voting. His work has appeared in journals such as theBritish Journal of Political Science, the European Journal of Political Research, Political Behaviour as well as in publications by Princeton University Press.

Advanced political theory: Applying theories of justice, democracy and citizenship

Applying theories of justice, democracy and citizenship

Questions of justice, democracy and citizenship are central to political conflicts and their solution. They are also key topics in both political debates and academic discussions. Among the core issues of contention are: how the state should act in order to treat its citizens with equal concern and respect; to what extent people should be held accountable for the consequences of their own choices; what equal citizenship means and what the acceptable conditions are for obtaining it; and how democracy should be organised to ensure that those affected get an equal say in political decisions while making sure that decisions do not violate other fundamental moral norms, e.g. in relation to the protection of minorities. 

The course presents students with cutting-edge theories of justice, democracy and citizenship and teaches them how to apply these theories to contemporary political problems. These problems include the growing national and international inequality; the legitimacy of welfare state policies to create healthy, productive and virtuous citizens (e.g. citizenship tests); and the legitimacy of the constraints on national democracy caused by constitutional norms, supranational institutions and international conventions e.g. in relation to the EU and human rights. The course teaches students how to conduct normative analyses of key political problems in a critical and creative manner; how to make fair assessments of the strength of arguments offered by various participants in the public sphere; and how to formulate arguments of their own. This will benefit the students in their future roles as politicians or political advisors and/or as employees and managers in public and political organisations. 

The more immediate usefulness of the course lies in its in-depth exploration of key political concepts that form the basis of normative theories and discussions as well as many empirical analyses (e.g. how different state policies affect the distribution of e.g. welfare, resources or capabilities). An important part of any good academic analysis is a clear understanding of the concepts involved. Thus, the course provides students with a solid starting point for further normative and empirical analyses pursued in connection with other Master’s courses and the Master’s thesis.


Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen (D.Phil. in philosophy, Oxford) is a professor of political theory. He is a leading expert on egalitarianism and discrimination, but has published on a wide range of other topics. His work has appeared in journals such as the Journal of Political Philosophy, Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Philosophical Studies, Economics and Philosophy, and The Journal of Ethics. His recently published books are Born Free and Equal (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Luck Egalitarianism (Bloomsbury, 2015). Presently, he is working on a project on affirmative action. He is associate editor at Ethics and was Chair for the Society for Applied Philosophy from 2011-2014. 

Søren Flinch Midtgaard is an associate professor of political theory. His work primarily focuses on paternalism and egalitarianism. He has published in journals such as Utilitas, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, and Journal of Applied Philosophy. He supervises in topics within political theory and philosophy.  

Tore Vincents Olsen is an associate professor of political theory. He primarily works with the application of theories of toleration, recognition and multiculturalism, post-national democracy, deliberation and compromise, education and citizenship. His work also covers topics such as immigration and integration policies, citizenship education and European integration. He has published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Ethnic and Racial Studies and Comparative Education. He is currently collaborating with Danish and Norwegian colleagues on a project entitled ‘Active Citizenship in Culturally and Religiously Diverse Societies’. 

Comparative political institutions and public policy

How do modern democracies tackle the major challenges of today’s complex society?

All modern societies are faced with a number of serious social problems that – if left unsolved – can create misery for large parts of the population. Corruption, climate change and excessive economic inequality are all examples of major problems which call for government action. 

In Comparative Political Institutions and Public Policy, we study how democracies deal with the major problems of today. Who decides what problems are prioritised and what policy solutions are chosen? In other words, to understand how problems are dealt with we have to understand who has the power to make decisions and under which circumstances they do so. 

The course begins with a discussion of how to study power focusing on how and whether or not preferences for certain solutions are transformed into policies. The design of the electoral system is arguably the most important mechanism for aggregating preferences from the level of citizens to the level of governments. In the first part of the course, we will therefore focus on electoral systems and their consequences. 

The rest of the course is organised into three thematic blocks each lasting three weeks and each focusing on a major social problem such as inequality, corruption or climate change. Teaching will be a mix of lectures, classroom exercises and student presentations. 

In the oral exam, students will write a synopsis which discusses either one of the three themes or a related social problem selected by the student. In both cases, the synopsis should demonstrate that the student is fully capable of applying the analytical tools presented on the course.


Carsten Jensen is an expert on comparative politics and comparative political economy. His research focuses on the politics of welfare state reform and party competition in advanced democracies. He has recently published a book on the welfare state and right-wing parties (Oxford University Press). He has also co-authored The Politics of Inequality (published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) with Kees van Kersbergen.

Karin Hilmer Pedersen specialises in comparative politics and administration. Her research focuses on institutional and political solutions to collective action dilemmas such as corruption and climate change. Her recent publications include “Where and how you sit: civil servants’ view on citizens’ participation” co-authored with Lars Johannsen and published in Administration and Society (2014) and ”Farmers as climate heroes. Can and will the agricultural sector contribute to emission reductions?” co-authored with Gert Tinggaard Svendsen and published inPolitica (2011) (in Danish).

Kees van Kersbergen is a professor of comparative politics whose research interests are comparative politics, comparative political economy and comparative political sociology. He has published widely in the area of welfare state studies. His latest books are: Comparative Welfare State Politics. Development, Opportunities, and Reform(Cambridge University Press, 2014) co-authored with Barbara Vis and The Politics of Inequality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) co-authored with Carsten Jensen.

The Political Sociology of Citizens and Citizenship

What does it mean to be a citizen today? What is the status of citizenship rights, obligations and identities in a contemporary welfare state? Why do citizenship rights erode for some citizen groups while they become expanded for others? This course aims to answer these questions through an overview of the essential theoretical and empirical contributions in the field. 

Students on the course are invited to take part in a thorough discussion of what constitutes citizenship in a contemporary welfare state, and which sociological dynamics and political developments may cause citizen roles to change. We begin by revisiting classic scholarship on the concept and the historical development of citizenship and citizen roles. A key part of the course is then to identify and discuss the different challenges to citizenship ranging from immigration and cultural conflicts to welfare state retrenchment. A further question is what types of citizens are produced or nurtured through various policy regimes, and how social stratification may impact upon the citizen roles ascribed to each social class.

The course integrates literature from sociological theory, political sociology and political science. This is done to appreciate the complexity of citizens and citizenship, i.e. to both understand how states may produce citizens with interests and capacities while not reducing citizens to mere appendices to public policy. Citizens also act and mobilise in order to create social and political change, which requires a perspective that goes beyond the political system and considers citizens’ activism and participation in society. 

This advanced course is taught in a small class setting with a strong reliance on student participation and active learning. Throughout the semester, students are obliged to participate actively in learning activities in class as well as between classes. In preparation for the course's final oral exam, students are also required to work on formulating their own chosen research question and sketch a suitable research design.


Lars Thorup Larsen is an expert on health policy, morality politics, governmentality, professions, and interpretive policy analysis. A key motivation in his research is to understand how knowledge and expertise reshape the relations between states, professionals and individual citizens, for instance in areas such as the regulation of a healthy lifestyle. His work has appeared in both sociological and political science journals such as Journal of European Public Policy, Distinktion, Critical Discourse Studies, and Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.

Lasse Lindekilde received his PhD (EUI, 2009) for a dissertation on the mobilisation and claims-making of Danish Muslims in reaction to the publication of the Muhammad cartoons. His recent research has focused on violent radicalisation and the design, implementation and effects of counter-radicalisation policies. He has conducted field-based research on mechanisms of radicalisation and the impact of counter-radicalisation policies. He is currently Co-Principal Investigator of the EU funded research project PRIME, which focuses on lone actor extremism. As a visiting fellow at the UCSB (2014-2015), he has conducted experimental research on the effects of small group deliberation and interaction on the radicalisation of attitudes and action preparedness. A key motivation for his research is to understand the mobilisation and political participation of citizens at the ‘margins of society’ who think of themselves as in opposition to mainstream society – as ‘counter-citizens’.

Per Mouritsen has worked with citizenship issues for more than a decade, particularly in the area of comparative migration, integration and naturalisation policies, but also conceptually. He has headed or participated in numerous Danish, Scan­di­navian and European projects in these as well as other related fields, and he is to head a new comparative project on the impact of schools in Denmark and Sweden on pupils’ civic orientations. He recently published the first research based book on modern citizenship, A place in the world – On modern citizenship (in Danish). Moreover he has published his work in journals such as Ethnic and Racial Studies, Ethnicities, Political Studies and American Behavioural Scientist.

The Contested Concepts and Approaches of Political Science

Does the financial elite use its power to cross-circuit democratic processes so that legislation always favours moneyed interests? In what way, if at all, does the European Union ‘undermine’ the sovereignty of national states? Do voters primarily choose their favoured candidate or party on the basis of ideological concerns or economic interests? Any political science question involves the use of concepts which are often also concepts used in everyday social and political life, but the meaning and proper use of these concepts are often contested. 

It is important to be aware that behind reasonable conceptual disagreements lurk deeper disagreements about the merits of different theoretical approaches – e.g. between rational choice theory and social psychological approaches – disagreements which have shaped the discipline.

The purpose of the course is to teach students to reflect on the conditions and consequences of the selection and use of key concepts and approaches in political science. Any conceptualisation and choice of theoretical stance facilitate some methodologies and search lights on social reality over others, i.e. in terms of variables and data, but also in terms of expectations of what to find. Students will learn to assess the coherence and usefulness of their own or others’ conceptual and theoretical strategies in relation to specific research questions, but also to account for the conflicts and comple­mentarity as well as the silencing of perspectives which each strategy involves.

Following an initial discussion of the master concept of politics/polity/policy, the course covers power and interests, state and sovereignty, democracy and governance and ideas and ideology, as well as broader discussions about essentially contested concepts, the conceptual history of the discipline and analytical concept formation. 

Approaches include rational choice theory; behaviouralism/social psychological approaches; ideational/discursive and normative approaches and systemic approaches such as functionalism and critical realism. Students will discuss and demonstrate the relevance, complementarity and/or incommensurability of different approaches in the context of cases and problems across three broad research areas: public opinion formation, the welfare state and the European Union.

The course, which involves intensive work in study teams organised across approaches and research areas/cases, will be evaluated in a graded oral exam based on a written synopsis, which in turn is based on a portfolio of three short research essays handed in by each student.


Per Mouritsen, a professor (mso) in the sociology section, who has a background in political theory and migration studies, has worked on citizenship issues for more than a decade, particularly in the area of comparative migration, integration and naturalisation policies, but also conceptually. He has directed or participated in numerous Danish, Scan­di­navian and European projects in these and related fields and will head a new comparative project on the impact of schools in Denmark and Sweden on pupils’ civic orientations. He recently published a large book, A place in the world – On modern citizenship (in Danish). He has published in journals including Ethnic and Racial Studies, Ethnicities, Political Studies and American Behavioural Scientist

Kees van Kersbergen is professor of comparative politics, whose research interests lie in comparative politics, comparative political economy and comparative political sociology. He has published widely in major journals in the area of welfare state studies, political parties and empirical political theory. His latest books are Comparative Welfare State Politics. Development, Opportunities, and Reform (Cambridge University Press, 2014; with Barbara Vis) and The Politics of Inequality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016; with Carsten Jensen).

Jørgen Møller is a professor in the comparative politics section, whose research includes studies on European state formation, democratization, comparative methods, and the conceptualization and measurement of democracy and the rule of law. He has published in journals such as Sociological Methods & Research, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Democracy, and Government & Opposition.



Globalization and World Order

This course is about the changing world order. Its point of departure is the ongoing power transition and the background forces of globalization. Other central aspects of the changing word order are analyzed and discussed as well under the headlines of power, economics, institutions and values. Under this broad agenda, the course offers an advanced introduction to some of the central theories, concepts, methods, and issue areas in the field of international relations (IR).

At the end of the Cold War, scholars were discussing the ‘end of history’: the possible triumph of liberal values and the liberal system. Today, the academic debate about world order is dominated by quite different questions. Will some groups of states (meaning the West) have to hand over their international leadership to others, including modernizing, rising and ambitious powers like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS)? What lies beyond the international economic and financial crisis of 2007-2009 – a new era of geo-economics? Are the institutions of international society sufficiently strong and inclusive to support international order rather than disorder? How can national and international value differences be overcome?

To shed light on these big questions, the course focuses on four inter-related dimensions of world order: (1) Power, including the balance of power, the prospects for peace and war, and the rise of new great powers. (2) Economics, including uneven globalization and the rise of geo-economics. (3) Institutions, including the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and the Bretton Woods institutions. (4) Values, including the support for, and contestation of, liberal values of democracy, human rights and market economy as well as the international promotion of other values, such as sovereignty, national self-determination and the struggle against neo-imperialism.

Theoretically, the course is based on advanced realist, institutionalist and international society theory as well as additional approaches and tools. Empirically, the course discusses the Ukraine crisis, China’s rise, the BRICS coalition and their newly created financial institutions, humanitarian intervention and non-intervention (Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Syria, Mali) and other subjects of relevance to the theme of a changing world order.


Tonny Brems Knudsen is an expert on the rules and institutions of international society including the UN, the regulation of the use of force, the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P), humanitarian intervention, peacebuilding, international trusteeship arrangements, and the relations between new and old great powers. He is also a leading exponent of the international society theory of the English School, especially on sociological institutionalism, great power management and the relationship between international order and justice. Currently, he is working on a book project on the relationship between fundamental institutions and international organizations (with Cornelia Navari) and articles on humanitarian intervention and the R2P in a changing world order. 

Mette Skak is an expert on Russia and the BRICS who has chaired a research project on the four original BRICs. She thus edited and co-authored the BRICs anthology Fremtidens stormagter. BRIK’erne i det globale spil. Brasilien, Rusland, Indien og Kina (Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2010). She has written several monographs, articles and book chapters in scholarly works, e.g. “The BRICS and Denmark – Economics and High Politics” (2013). Her recent works are on Russian strategic culture (“Ruslands betændte forhold til USA”, 2015). Besides, she teaches international relations, notably international political economy.