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Working with Concepts

20 – 24 May 2024, Online

Taught by Frederic Schaffer


Examine two contrasting approaches to conceptualisation – positivist and interpretivist – on Frederic Schaffer's beginner-friendly, award-winning online course. Join interactive live classes and get hands-on practice in reconstructing your chosen concept.

Course outline



Working with Concepts has been awarded the Cora Maas Award for the best-evaluated course at the ECPR Methods School in 2022.

This online course delves into two different approaches to conceptualisation – the positivist approach and the interpretivist approach. Upon completing this course, you will have a solid understanding of the concepts and techniques covered, coupled with hands-on experience in their application.

The course combines asynchronous pre-class assignments, such as readings and pre-recorded videos, and three hours of live teaching each day. Each live session will give you the opportunity to join in class discussion and afford you practice in reconstructing and elucidating a concept that you have chosen yourself.

There is no prior knowledge required for this course. All the information you need will be covered in the lectures and tutorials.

ECTS Credits

3 ECTS credits awarded for engaging fully in class activities.
1 additional ECTS credit awarded for completing a post-course assignment.


Frederic Schaffer is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he teaches comparative politics. His research examines the meaning and practice of democracy across cultures and back in time. His methodological writings develop language-centred approaches to foundational research tasks like comparing, interviewing, and working with concepts.

He is the past Chair of both the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Group of the American Political Science Association (APSA) and the Committee on Concepts and Methods of the International Political Science Association (IPSA). Among his publications are:

His most recent methodological writings include 'Two Ways to Compare' in  Rethinking Comparison: Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Inquiry (2021) and 'What is Interpretivist Interviewing?' in The Oxford Handbook of Methodological Pluralism in Political Science  (forthcoming 2024). Interviews with him appear in Democractic Theory  (2023), Politologija  and the New Books in Political Science (2020) podcast.

In addition to teaching at ECPR, Frederic has offered methods workshops hosted by a variety of institutes, organisations, and universities including the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, the Kind Institute in collaboration with the Southern Political Science Association, the Methods Excellence Network, Concordia University, Pompeu Fabra University, the University of Innsbruck, and the German Institute for Global and Area Studies.


Why take our courses?

Future-proof your research

We offer renowned training on quantitative and qualitative methods particularly salient in social science research.

Learn from the best

We harness the know-how of leading methodologists to help you tackle your project with confidence.>

What you'll get


Access pre-recorded lectures, annotated readings, exercises, and more – all in your very own digital environment.


Get quality interaction with your Instructor and fellow participants, with live sessions and smaller class sizes.

Fees and registration

SOLD OUT! To join the waiting list, click here.
  • ECPR Member £492.50 per course
  • Non-Member £985 per course

Your space is not secured until your registration is paid in full.


Working with Concepts has been honoured with the ECPR Cora Maas Award as the best-evaluated course at the 2022 ECPR Methods School events.

Discover below what past participants have shared about their experiences.

'Highly recommend'

Frederic C. Schaffer's coursework on concept is probably the best one in the world. I highly recommend the course not only to PhD students but also to seasoned researchers.

'Excellent instructor'

Good balance between readings, videos and worksheet...Excellent instructor who explained in a very clear and concise manner.

'Learned so much'

I learned so much. Not only did I get in touch with the literature that I read several years ago, but I also learned new tools that will help my academic career in the upcoming years.

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