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Political Science

Floris Vermeulen

BSc in Political Science

‘Teaching is rewarding and important because it helps students understand how inspiring and intellectually challenging doing research actually is.’

Floris Vermeulen is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science.

Photographer: Jeroen Doomernik

Which course(s) do you teach?

‘Until recently I’ve taught the first-year course Introduction to Political Science Research. Our point of departure is the idea that research begins with two related questions: “What exactly is it that we want to know?” and “Why is our research question relevant; why does it merit being answered?” We want to help first-year students to develop what we call an “inquisitive mind”, which will enable them to make meaningful observations of our social and political world.’

What do you want students to learn?

‘Our class immediately follows the research project which takes place in January. In this project, our first-year students spend four weeks designing, executing and reporting a research project of their own. We encourage them to reflect on the choices that they made during the project and emphasise that social scientific research can be conducted in many different ways by using various designs. Our message is that the choice of tradition and approach will primarily depend on the specific research question that you want to answer. We want to help students to understand why certain questions may require a simple and straightforward research design, whereas others demand a more complex approach and more advanced methods.

The basic message, however, remains the same: everything begins with formulating your issue as precisely as possible. Our course aims to provide students with the tools of the social scientist – the ability to observe, interpret findings and give explanations – which will enable them to solve this issue, however small or specific it may be.’

What is your own research about?

‘For me, teaching is rewarding and important because it helps students understand how inspiring and intellectually challenging doing research actually is. It also allows me to make connections with my own research, which is about the civic and political participation of immigrant groups in Europe, and to illustrate how processes of political integration can and should be studied from many different angles.’