Fall/Winter Timetable

POL2810Y1Y L0101

M.A. Research Seminar I

Independent Study for Master's Students


The purpose of this seminar is to provide an opportunity Master’s students to design and execute an independent research project over the course of the year on a question that interests them. The goal is to provide Master’s degree students the chance to conduct a significant project that will contribute to their future development whether academic or professional. Thus it is the student members of the course who will shape its content. The Instructor’s primary interests lie in democratization and democratic reform, including democratic transition and consolidation in “new democracies” and reforms designed to reduce the “democratic deficit” in older, more “mature democracies; and in institutional design for divided societies. Students will be encouraged, but not in any way required, to situate their work in one of these broad fields


Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970);
Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997);
Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber and Patricia Levy, eds., Approaches to Qualitative Research: A Reader in Theory and Practice (New York/Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2002).

Format and Requirements

The course is structured to provide maximum support and assistance to the students as they develop their projects and bring them to completion. In the first half of the fall term students in the seminar will consider the applicability of different theoretical approaches and methodologies to their thematic and issue concerns. We will consider how to pose an interesting research question or puzzle, how to select the appropriate methods and sources of data, how to frame a research proposal, and how best to utilize the resources available at U of T to bring the work to a successful conclusion.
In the second half of the fall term students will begin to define their research issues more specifically and concretely, selecting their cases and defining the scope and time period of their research problem; and adopting the approaches and research methods that seem most applicable to these issues and cases. We will also invite specialists or experts to address the seminar on relevant topics such as use of electronic library resources and formulating and implementing research proposals. In the final week of the fall term, students will present brief (c. 5-10 minute) oral summaries and 5-10 page written drafts of their Research Proposals. These Proposals should include brief descriptions of the thematic issues, research questions, theoretical approaches and methods that they have tentatively adopted for their projects. These will be discussed in class, with colleagues assigned to make comments and suggestions.
In the first half of the winter term (January and February) there will be no regular seminar meetings. Students will be expected to meet the instructor on an individual basis during this period for assistance in preparing more detailed research plans, which should include reports on their research progress up to that point.
In the final week of February, just after the Reading Week break, the students will present progress reports on their research both orally and in writing. They should be made available to the instructor and to other students beforehand. During the month of March the research proposals should be transformed into draft papers, which will be presented in a series of small group workshops, scheduled during the first week of April. The draft papers will be presented orally in a mini-conference format for about 15 minutes, and then evaluated and critiqued for 5 minutes by a commentator from the sub-group selected for this purpose, followed by general discussion. Written drafts of about 30 pages in length should be made available to both the instructor and fellow students.
During the following two weeks in April the draft papers should be revised to incorporate responses to the comments and criticisms of the instructor and other students. Students will then submit their final papers to the instructor. Those planning to graduate in the spring must submit their papers early enough in the last week of April to meet any deadlines for this convocation set by the Graduate Office. In appropriate individual cases, however, students may petition this Office in writing, with the support of the instructor, that they be granted extensions and later deadlines during the summer for completion of their final essays.
REQUIREMENTS: Students are expected to cover the assigned readings for each seminar session, to make oral presentations within the format described above at regular intervals, and to participate actively in the seminar discussion of each topic. Final grades are based on a composite evaluation of oral reports and presentations (25%), overall seminar participation (25%), and the final written essay (50%).