Comparing nations in quantitative studiesMethodology courses and philosophy of sciences

Course information

ECTS: 2.5 
Number of sessions: 4
Hours per session: 3
Entry level: Advanced
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • €440,- for non-members
  • Consult our enrolment policy for more information.


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School).

Session 1
February 13 (Tuesday) 2018
Mandeville building (directions), room T18-49

Session 2
February 20 (Tuesday) 2018
Mandeville building (directions) room T13-67

Session 3
March 13 (Tuesday) 2018
Mandeville building (directions), room T18-49

Session 4
March 20 (Tuesday) 2018
Mandeville building (directions) room T17-01

This course was previously entitled "Quantitative comparative methods". The course content remains unchanged. 


This courses introduces the quantitative comparative method for researchers who are developing and designing their own research. The course also provides a critical assessment of comparative studies including their strengths and limitations. The emphasis is on the practical aspects of comparative research with a focus on accessing and utilising tools for comparative research and the replication and critical assessment of published comparative studies.

Working method

There are four sessions of 4 hours. Sessions include a mix of lectures, demonstrations, and in-class exercises. After each session, students will be asked to complete a short exercise reflecting on their own research project.

Learning objectives

After completion of the course participants will be able to:

  • Understand the methodological and theoretical background and development of quantitative comparative research
  • Design a comparative study that addresses a specific research question
  • Employ comparative research methods in their own research
  • Critically evaluate scientific studies using comparative methods

Suitable for

The course is aimed at those in the early stages of their PhD candidates are not required to bring their own data but are expected to have thought about the comparative elements of their own research design in advance of the course.

How to prepare

There are no preparatory assignments for this course.

Session descriptions

  • Session 1:
    Background and resources

    • The first session will begin with an overview of the comparative method and its methodological and theoretical development within the social sciences, covering some of the most prominent comparative scholars.
    • The second half will focus on a virtual guided tour of comparative methods resources, including data, online courses and materials. After the session, students will be asked to provide a 300 word description of their research project and, if it utilises comparative methodology, how it does so.

  • Session 2:
    Research designs and case selection

    • This session will start with a basic overview of some of the most prominent comparative research designs, their strengths and weaknesses.
    • The second half of the session will then be focused on case selection within comparative studies through group work exercises that challenge students to design and justify comparative studies in response to selected research questions. After the session, students will be asked to provide a 300 word justification of the case selection in their own work.

  • Session 3:
    Units and levels of measurement

    • The session begins with an introduction to identifying and clarifying units and levels of measurement in comparative research and how theoretical frameworks can be mapped onto comparative methodologies.
    • In the second half of the session, students will work together on a replication exercise. After the session, students will be asked to provide 300 words describing the data they intend to use in their research and its strengths and limitations.

  • Session 4:
    Equivalence, comparability and data quality

    • The final session will focus on issues of equivalence, comparability and data quality issues in a variety of social science disciplines.
    • The second half of the session will consist of a series of group work exercises in which students will examine equivalence and comparability in a major, comparative European study with the aim of further developing their critical thinking with regards to comparative studies.

About the instructor

Dr. Tom Emery is a Post-Doctoral researcher in the Department of Public Administration and Sociology. He is also the Manager of the Generations and Gender Programme (GGP) at the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute in The Hague. The GGP is a comparative, longitudinal survey which is fielded in 19 countries and provides data on family dynamics and demographic change to over 4,000 researchers worldwide.

Tom gained a PhD in Social Policy from the University of Edinburgh in 2014 and his thesis examined the interaction between financial support between elderly parents and their adult children in a number of European countries. His research also covers questions of comparative survey methodology and policy measurements in multilevel contexts.