March 22, 2014
CGES, St. Petersburg State University
Since 2008 CGES has a tradition of annual methodological seminar for PhD students. This was begun as a reaction to the need for closer interdisciplinary and international supervision of young scholars, working within the challenging interdisciplinary field of German and European Studies, which is still in a process of developing. Traditionally the seminar on comparative methodology, research design and operationalization takes place in February/March.
Finding the appropriate research question, conceptualizing comparative study, undertaking the narrowing down of the topic, finding the right balance of different disciplines is a challenging task for young scholars. It is especially difficult within an interdisciplinary comparative academic field such as German and European Studies. Comparative perspectives proved to be very fruitful, but also rather challenging for researchers in different disciplines, occupied with European topics.
The intention to cooperate with colleagues outside Russia and the wish to profit from supervision by scholars from different European countries, as well as the ability to present their results to an international public are a strong demand amongst PhD students and young scholars in Russia. Therefore, it appears to be relevant and very attractive for this group to have the possibility to discuss their research design in English with international experts.
The workshop begins with intensive input on the challenges of the formulation of research questions, challenges and advantages of comparative study of European societies and on general approaches towards the structuring of the PhD work in Russia and other European countries. The intensive input prepares participants for focusing their own presentation and for articulating their main challenges.
In 2014, eight young scientists were selected on the basis of an application and short essay for the participation. Presenting their topics within the methodological workshop, they benefited from multidisciplinary discussions with the moderators from political science, sociology, history and social sciences (Dr. Elena Belokurova, St. Petersburg State University, Dr. Tatjana Zimenkova and Verena Molitor, Bielefeld University) and from discussions within the group of their fellow PhD students. The multidisciplinary and international structure characterizing both the moderators’ team (bringing together expertise from sociology, political science, media science, socio-linguistics, educational science and history) and the participants group (sociologists, political scientists, philosophers, historians and economics scholars) provided a team motivated for discussion on the multidisciplinarity of European Studies as a subject and opened new perspectives on each topic discussed. Irrespectively the phase of the research: either at the beginning or at the middle stage, all the participants profited from the conceptual works during the workshop. Intensive discussion of participants’ PhD projects provided insights into the challenges of comparative research. The participants were asked to formulate the most urgent challenges they had experienced in the field of research and to reflect on the research questions they were asking and the sufficiency of the data chosen for the research. These answers structured their presentation and increased the results of the discussion and feedback for their theses. Due to their multidisciplinary background, the participants of the workshop did not only profit from the supervision of the teachers, but also from the interdisciplinary peers feedback.
During the methodological workshop participants took the opportunity to apply for a short term research stay in Europe. As result, Galina Selivanova, who presented a paper ‘Urban Social Movements in Russian Politics. Case study of Saint-Petersburg’, – was awarded a travel grant.