Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Tied Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap None. Location Durham
Tied to L200
Tied to L202
Tied to L250
Tied to LL12
Tied to LV25
Tied to VL52
Tied to LMV0
Tied to LA01


  • None


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • •


  • To introduce students to the method and approach of comparative politics
  • To introduce students to key concepts and theories in comparative politics
  • It introduces students to a wide range of policy-relevant issues and questions and introduces a problem-solving view of politics
  • To teach students work effectively as part of a team
  • To encourage students to consider the relationship between evidence and theory.


  • The first block of lectures and seminars, delivered in the first term, will introduce students to core concepts in comparative politics and consider methods for studying politics comparatively
  • We will start by building up a base of core concepts and theoretical ideas that ae central to the study of politics comparatively.
  • During our exploration of these concepts, we will examine historically important texts, and look at recent empirical research to build a picture that is both theoretically grounded and empirically informed.
  • The second block of lectures and seminars, builds on our development of core concepts and theoretical ideas and starts to examine specific comparative phenomena in greater detail.
  • We will consider two broad themes: The roles of institutions in the discipline of politics, and how individuals act within these institutional settings.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will:
  • Have an understanding of the comparative method and understand how this approach helps us evaluate competing theoretical perspectives in relation to empirical evidence.
  • Understand key debates surrounding key contested definitions in comparative politics
  • Understand the importance of institutional context, political behaviour and social cues and how these interact within a comparative perspective to produce different political outcomes.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On completion of this module, students will:
  • Be able to describe accurately a broad range of concepts, theories and processes that relate to comparative politics in a variety of contexts
  • Understand how to apply appropriate comparative methods to analyse political problems and to evaluate solutions
  • Understand the implications of different political systems
  • Be able to analyse and evaluate competing theories, conceptualisations and explanations of political phenomena and use evidence to produce defensible arguments.
Key Skills:
  • On completion of this module, students will be able to demonstrate:
  • Be able to retrieve resources and competently and confidently use them.
  • Be able to identify resources using their own initiative and assess them for suitability and quality for the project in hand
  • Clear written and communication skills and a demonstration of analytical and comparative skills
  • Plan and successfully complete a variety of written assignments
  • Be able to work effectively as an individual, but also as part of a team

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

  • Seminars will introduce students to group work and give students an opportunity to work on a project in their groups with guidance from a tutor helping them with their first summative assessment
  • Allow students to explore in depth key concepts in comparative politics and to consider how to justify perspectives on contested concepts
  • Give students an opportunity to critically engage with key theories relating to comparative politics and consider the relative merits of a range of arguments in relation to empirical evidence
  • Foster a number of key skills, including information-gathering and retrieval, critical reading and evaluation, and making reasoned arguments based on available evidence.
  • The formative assessment is a take home 1,000 word essay that asks students to debate the relative merits of competing definitions of ‘democracy’. Students will be assessed on their analytical skills and critical thinking, as well as the appropriate use of relevant resources to justify their argument.
  • The summative essay requires that students complete two separate assessments. The first, a group project where students work together to analyse competing theories of democratisation in order to understand why certain countries have democratised, and a second essay to be completed individually where students get a choice of topics relating to comparative political behaviour.
  • The first assessment will give students a set of countries to investigate, they may choose the country within their group. Students will be put into pre-allocated groups of a maximum of four members. Groups will be required to keep a log of all meetings and the contributions of each group member. The group will provisionally be given the same grade; however, the convenor reserves the right to raise / lower grades by up to 5 marks to reflect the contributions made by individual members. The group will submit one copy of the assessment with all group member student IDs on it.
  • In the event that a student is unable to complete the group project on SAC grounds, a separate resit opportunity for the group project will give students the ability to produce an individual essay of 2,000 words on topics related to theories of democratisation.
  • The second summative assessment gives students a list of questions relating to the module lecture series in the Epiphany term. Essay questions will be distributed at the start of Epiphany term and students will submit at the beginning of Easter term.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecturers 16 weekly; 8 in term with a reading week; 8 in term 2 with a reading week 1 hour 16
Tutorials 9 fortnightly in terms 1 and 2 1 hour 9
Preparation and Reading 175
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Group Project Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Group project/report 2,000 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2,000 words 100% August

Formative Assessment:

One essay of 1,000 words

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