Portfolio: Politics

The details
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 28 June 2024
10 July 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module gives students an opportunity to apply politics and international relations to address key issues facing society at the local, national and global level. For example, why do mass protests fail? What is next for women's rights in Afghanistan? Why are some civil wars so difficult to resolve? What effect will Covid-19 have on European welfare states? Is increasing political polarisation inevitable in an age of social media?

This module will engage with different topics and themes to better understand how normative and positive approaches to political science and international relations can be used to comprehend issues in the contemporary world. Students will choose a topic of interest to them, conduct independent research on the topic, and produce a series of projects (a blogpost, a podcast, and a policy memo) that help them explore multifaceted ways of communicating what evidence-based research can tell society about different political events and outcomes around the world.

Module aims

The module aims to endow students with the skills necessary for putting together well-written, well-researched portfolios based on in-depth knowledge in a specific research area of their choosing.

The specific aims of the module are:
1. To understand how contemporary topics and events can be informed by theories of politics and international relations
2. To develop student’s ability to critically assess and discuss a variety of issues in politics and international relations
3. To adjudicate between competing theories or arguments, giving credit to perspectives other than their own
4. To improve students’ abilities to write objectively and persuasively
5. To improve general writing skills in a concise fashion
6. To learn how to gather data and analyse it in a concise fashion
7. Engage students in their own employability and development
8. Enable students to develop a thorough understanding of the range of careers and their ability to access and utilize resources effectively
9. Engage students with the purpose of developing employable skills and understanding why these specific skills are essential
10. Develop the student’s understanding of the recruitment process and what their ability is to influence this process

Transferrable skills
1. Identifying, gathering, assessing and organizing evidence
2. Critically comparing alternative perspectives on current events
3. Exercising judgement on the relevance and reliability of information
4. Written and online communication
5. Data presentation and visualisation
6. Effective time management and organising tasks to meet deadlines
7. Technical skills in putting together online content
8. Complex problem solving and critical thinking

Module learning outcomes

1. To develop a detailed knowledge of the main theoretical and empirical concepts in political science and international relations
2. To gain an in-depth understanding of how political science and international relations theories apply to the big issues facing our world and the main findings from these disciplines
3. To develop a comprehensive knowledge of issues, debates, and sources of information used in political science and international relations
4. To develop and understand how to undertake independent research, to learn important research techniques, writing and critical thinking
5. To critically engage with political science and international relations data, and understand how to gather/access sources of data in these disciplines
6. To develop skills in technical presentation (written and oral)
7. To gain self-discipline in setting deadlines and adhering to them
8. To acquire in-depth knowledge in a subject matter of interest to the individual student

Module information

Weekly topics:
Week 2: The basics of communicating evidence-based research
Week 3: Asking a compelling question: turning a topic/theme into a "puzzle"
Week 4: Knowing your audience: who is reading/listening?
Week 5: Conducting background research: general topics
Week 6: Blogposts 101: structure and format
Week 7: Persuasive writing
Week 8: Data visualisation I
Week 9: Podcasts 101: structure and format
Week 10: Narratives and interviews
Week 11: The art of brevity: how to communicate a lot of information in very little time

Week 16: Communicating evidence-based research: policymakers
Week 17: Answering a policy question: turning general knowledge into an "answer"
Week 18: Knowing your audience: what type of stakeholder are you writing for?
Week 19: Conducting background research: specialised topics
Week 20: Policy memos 101: structure and format
Week 21: Establishing the three Ps: purpose, problem, population
Week 22: Data visualisation II
Week 23: Using case studies
Week 24: Limitations and barriers: how realistic are your recommendations?
Week 25: Introductions in memos: drawing strong conclusions

This module is part of the Q-Step pathway. Q-Step is an award which you can gain simply by enrolling on specific modules and will signal to employers your capability in quantitative research. Learn more about the Q-Step pathway and enhance your degree now.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be taught as a weekly 2-hour seminar. Most classes, labs and seminars will be taught face-to-face (assuming Covid restrictions/social distancing allows this). Please note that you should spend up to eight hours per week undertaking your own private study (reading, preparing for classes or assignments, etc.) on each of your modules (e.g. 32 hours in total for four 30-credit modules). The weekly sessions will take place face-to-face (unless there is a change in the current COVID safety measures). The first half of the 2-hour session will be devoted to lectures, which provide an overview of the substantive debates around the topic of the week, while the second half of the 2-hour session will give you the opportunity to reflect on your learning and actively engage with your peers to develop your understanding further. The sessions will be captured and available via Listen Again. However, if you want to gain the most you can from these classes it is very important that you attend and engage. Please note that the recording of classes is at the discretion of the teacher. Students’ independent research will be supported by the module supervisor, with the support of members of staff in the Government department who specialise in different thematic areas. Weekly academic support hours specifically for GV832 will offer students the opportunity for more guided supervision as they undertake this independent research that forms the basis for their projects.


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non - essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Blogpost    20% 
Coursework   Poster Presentation    5% 
Coursework   Policy Report    35% 
Coursework   Group project    20% 
Coursework   Group Project Individual Contribution    20% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Natasha Lindstaedt, email: nezrow@essex.ac.uk.
Administrator govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Stefano Pagliari
City, University of London
Senior Lecturer in International Politics
Available via Moodle
Of 7 hours, 7 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information

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