Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2008-2009 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Open Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2008/09 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to integrate the student's knowledge and understanding of generic social-science research methods with their subject-specific knowledge and skills, developing a critical awareness of the specific issues surrounding social science research in and of the Arab World, and providing and advanced awareness of inter-disciplinary debates and discourses relevant to the Arab World.
  • Specifically, the module aims:
  • enable students to explore the key theoretical debates in the study of the Arabic-speaking world, in the context of wider debates in the humanities and social sciences.
  • provide students with an advanced understanding of the particular, ethical, practical and political issues involved in carrying out research in the Arabic-speaking world.
  • explore the relationships between the different disciplinary approaches to the study of Arabic speaking world, and to enable students to develop interdisciplinary critical skills.
  • enable students to critically evaluate the strengths and limitations of particular methodological approaches, specifically in relation to the Arabic-speaking world.


  • The course is the core subject-specific preparation for MSc by Research students who wish to carry out research in the Arabic speaking world. It will explore the key theoretical, methodological and practical issues involved in carrying out research in the Arabic speaking world. The course has two key components. The module will utilise two structured approaches. The first half of the module will require students to devise and present research proposals, locating them within the context of wider theoretical, disciplinary, methodological and practical issues, both general and specific to the Arabic speaking world. Through this practical exercise, and the discussions which it generates, students will be able to explore the predominant discourses as they relate to their own and each others' areas of specific research interest. The second half of the module utilises analysis of key texts in the study of the Arabic speaking world from a range of disciplines, in order to assess how established researchers have approached, and overcome, the same issues and problems. Students will be required to give presentations in which they put a key text within the context of wider regional and theoretical debates, assess the methodological strengths of the work, and say how and why it may contribute to their research.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students should have:
  • The ability to master the complex and specialised areas of knowledge and skills concerning:-
  • the key theoretical, methodological and practical issues involved in carrying out research in the Arab speaking world
  • Students will show advanced knowledge and understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different research methods, and inparticular will be able to establish how the Arabic-speaking world context may impact upon these strengths and weaknesses.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • the ability to recognise, analyse and account for the philosophical and methodological foundations of substantive work in political science and international relations, with specific reference to the Arab-speaking world.
  • the ability to use and criticise the philosophical and methodological arguments in the evaluation of substantive work in political science and international relations using appropriately specialised and advanced skills relevant to the Arab-speaking world.
  • the ability to assess methodologies in support of the student's own work.
Key Skills:
  • independent thought and judgment in analysing and critiquing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution.
  • the ability to work to a deadline and complete written work within word limits
  • writing a substantial essay in appropriate scholarly style and format the ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The course will take the form of series of weekly 2-hour seminars which run throughout the second semester. All MSc by Research and/or probationary PhD students are expected to attend and to make presentations.
  • The course will be assessed through a 4000 word essay on a topic set by the course convenor.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 10 1 a week 2 hours 20
Preparation and Reading 180
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 100%

Formative Assessment:

Students will be given feedback on their seminar presentations.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University