CERES PhD Training Course 2020

Programme 2020

January 2020

CERES office

International Institute of Social Studies

Kortenaerkade 12

2518 AX The Hague

e-mail: peri@iss.nl



CERES is a research school in the field of International Development Studies (or Development Studies for short). Its membership is constituted by senior researchers and their PhDs in Development Studies or in associated disciplines and interdisciplinary fields in the social sciences, such as anthropology, sociology, political science, economics and geography. The research school was founded in 1994 by six academic institutions. Since then it has established links with many other universities and research institutes in the field of Development Studies both in the Netherlands and other European Countries.

The CERES PhD Training Course

CERES is one of the few accredited research schools in the Netherlands that offers research training to Dutch and foreign PhDs in the field of Development Studies. The CERES PhD Training Course is the centrepiece of this offering and provides a unique learning experience. PhDs benefit from their exchanges with a diverse cohort of colleagues at the same stage of their PhD from across the Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders) and become acquainted with multi- and interdisciplinary approaches in the field.

The Course is aimed at first year PhDs who are working on their research proposals, as well as Research Masters students who wish to experience this stage of doing research. The course begins in mid-March with an opening day at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, followed by four modules of three to five days, ending in June. Participants are expected to be resident during these modules. Three of the modules will be in a resident retreat setting and one at the ISS, where participants will be accommodated at the ISS residences. At the fourth and last block, PhDs present their proposals and receive feedback from their peers, facilitators and invited teachers.

Participants are expected to attend all four modules, in addition to the opening day at ISS and one ‘come-back’ day in June. However, an exception is made for the third module at ISS, which is focused on methods (see below). PhDs not involved in other parts of the course can participate in this block as a stand-alone. The tuition fee includes food and accommodation costs. Member institutions generally recognise the Training Course as contributing towards the ECTs required for a PhD degree.


Dr Andrew M. Fischer (Scientific Director of CERES)

Dr Gemma van der Haar

Invited lecturers: 

So far confirmed: Prof Arjun Bedi, Dr Ajay Bailey, Dr Rosalba Icaza Garza, Dr Karim Knio, Dr Naomi van Stapele (others tba)

Cost of PhD Training Course

The CERES PhD training course is open to participants from CERES and non-CERES member institutions, although at different prices – those from member institutions pay a reduced rate.

Full Tuition

PhDs from member institutions:               € 2500

PhDs from non-member institutions:       € 5000

Tuition for Module 3 only

PhDs from member institutions:               € 600

PhDs from non-member institutions:       € 1200

ECTS: 16 (3rd Module only: 4)


Opening              12 March                         ISS

1st Module         30 March – 2 April          De Glind Conference Center

2nd Module        28 April – 1 May             De Glind Conference Center

3rd Module         25 – 29 May                    ISS

Day meeting      11 June                             ISS

4th Module         23 – 25 June                    De Glind Conference Center

Other activities

In addition to the Training Course, we are currently in the process of re-planning the CERES offerings, to be launched in the 2020-21 year, including follow-up trainings for PhDs at later stages of their PhD. This will be announced in due course during the spring of 2020.

The CERES mailing list regularly sends out announcements from our member institutions concerning master classes, guest lectures, seminars and conferences. CERES PhDs are able to attend these events, often for reduced rates if any are charged. Please check the CERES website regularly for training possibilities inside and outside CERES: https://ceres.sites.uu.nl/

Alumni of the Training Course can also enrol in various methods courses or other training courses offered by various member institutions (such as in presentation and preparation of papers; writing research applications; writing scientific texts; writing academic English). Further details will be provided in the course.

Objectives and Overview

The CERES PhD Training Course has two main objectives. The first is to cultivate a general and shared integrative understanding about what it means to do a PhD degree in the field of Development Studies, from the perspective of both theory as well as empirical research. This involves positioning and familiarization within the broad interdisciplinary field of Development Studies, in order to map out a systemic awareness of the field and the place of one’s research within it; learning how to recognize concepts from across the field and to place them in their relevant contexts; and situating various theoretical, disciplinary and policy approaches and concepts with respect to others. By deepening and questioning one’s knowledge, experience, and positionality, the course aims to cultivate greater fluency and interpretative abilities in the language and literature of Development Studies, as well as an ability to converse with each other through common vocabularies regardless of disciplinary specialization or background. The overview nature of the course means that we will deal with a certain level of generality rather than specificity, with the aim to lead all PhD candidates to a PhD-level of theorization and critical analysis with respect to the broad themes that run throughout the field of Development Studies. This specifically tailored approach to the needs of research in Development Studies is an aspect that makes the course unique among PhD training programmes among research schools in the Netherlands.

The second objective is to assist participants in advancing the development of their research designs, in preparation for the defence of their research proposals at the end of their first year (e.g. this is called the Dissertation Design Seminar at ISS). A range issues is considered, relating to epistemology and ontology, positionality and subjectivity, philosophy of science, and an overview of the spectrum of interdisciplinary methodologies and methods that researchers commonly draw from in Development Studies, both quantitative and qualitative. With regard to methods, these will not be taught in detail given insufficient time for this purpose in the course. Rather, the aim is to give a broad overview of the range of options available and the reasoning for using each. From this overview, participants can then seek out further instruction in the specific methodologies and methods that they choose. Information on such courses offered in the member institutions across the Netherlands will be provided to this effect.

An additional benefit of the course, which has been one of the highlights that has been consistently appreciated throughout the history of the CERES PhD Training Course, is to cultivate friendship and a support network among the annual cohort of first-year PhDs, which they can continue to rely on throughout their PhD trajectory. The course also prioritizes providing a safe space for PhDs, where they can discuss their research openly and creatively with their peers and senior researchers who are not (necessarily) in their supervision team.

Teaching methods

The course emphasises a ‘learning by doing’ approach to support the different steps of developing a convincing and defendable research proposal. The focus is on moving from research topic to problem, question, hypotheses (or educated guesses), analytical frameworks, critical literature reviews, and methodology, all emphasising working through these steps with critical analysis that articulates a clear and coherent logical development and bears relevance to issues in the field of Development Studies. ‘Critical analysis’ in this sense refers to questioning the assumptions and logical foundations of the ontologies, epistemologies, positionalities, theories, empirical analyses and practices within the research.

The approach mixes both teacher-led and participant-led sessions, starting with more of the former and with a greater emphasis of the latter towards the end of the programme. It combines taught plenary sessions, seminars, and group and individual work overseen by the facilitators, on different topics related to doing or conceiving research, specifically tailored to the themes and needs of Development Studies. Several evening meetings will also be used to informally discuss more practical issues such as supervisor-candidate relationships, ethics, publishing, publication ethics, research integrity and more. The last block will be focused on presentations by the participants of their research proposals, with feedback and guidance from the facilitators.

Before the start of the course, participants will be sent a syllabus with readings that they are strongly advised to read in advance. They will also be asked to send in a snapshot assignment.


Introduction Day CERES PhD Training Course

12 March (all day)

Location: ISS, The Hague

The official opening day will feature two keynote lectures, together with a brief introduction to the CERES Research School, practical and logistical information concerning the PhD Training Course, exercises to get to know each other, including each other’s’ prospective research, and an exercise geared to strengthening the research problem statement, in preparation for the first block.

Keynote lectures:

12pm: Dr Robtel Neajai Pailey, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Department of International Development, University of Oxford, title: ‘Women, Equality, and Citizenship in Contemporary Africa’

4pm: Prof Daniela Gabor, Professor of Economics and Macro-Finance, University of the West of England, title: ‘From the Washington Consensus to the Wall Street Consensus: researching development in the age of financial globalisation’

Module 1: Proposing Research in Development Studies

30 March – 2 April

Location: De Glind

Besides introductions, this 4-day module focuses on three objectives. The first is to cultivate a general and shared integrative understanding about what it means to do a PhD degree in the field of Development Studies, from the perspective of both theory as well as empirical research, as described in the Outline above. One day will also be dedicated to Decoloniality and related themes. This will involve some interactive lectures by the facilitators and some invited teachers, and seminar-based discussions.

The second objective is to introduce the different elements and processes involved in developing a research proposal, which are similar regardless of whether PhDs are working with qualitative or quantitative approaches, in anthropology, economics or other disciplines. This will start with the elaboration and articulation of research problems and questions, and then will move from these into thinking about analytical research strategy, such as mapping the various concepts and theoretical debates that come to bear on the research question and how these can then be developed into critical and analytical reviews of the literature.

Within both of these objectives, a third objective is to engage with principles of ontology, epistemology, and topics in the philosophy of science such as deduction and induction, and how these relate to developing research, such as with respect to underlying assumptions that are either implicit or explicit within the research proposal. The aim is also to make participants aware of how their own positioning shapes their research, particularly with respect to development actors and discourses.

Module 2: Moving from Questions to Methodology

28 April – 1 May 2020

Location: De Glind

The second 4-day module focuses on topics of methodology in relationship to research questions, particularly with respect to the applied field of Development Studies that, although not always interdisciplinary, nonetheless requires some understanding of inter- and multi-disciplinarity. The main focus will be on the operationalisation of research questions, i.e. making the relationship and logical links clear between research questions, choice of methodology and methods (including mixed methods), and how these choices relate to different approaches to knowledge. Both sides of the quantitative-qualitative spectrum will be discussed, such as the challenges faced with regard to generalizability or ‘validity’ (especially for focused qualitative research, such as ethnography) or else context specificity and relevance (for more quantitative research, especially ‘large n’ regression analysis but also experimental approaches). Alternative quantitative approaches will be discussed, such as exploratory inductive approaches that offer more possibility for interdisciplinary integration with qualitative research than deductive approaches. The differentiation of primary data collection versus primary data analysis will also be clarified.

Particular focus will also be given to case selection, given that as an applied field of research, PhDs in Development Studies invariably involve case studies and hence the methodology of case study research is usually involved, whether implicitly or explicitly. We will reflect on the meaning of a case and case study, and its role in research. At the very least, participants will be made to think about the relevance of their chosen cases in relation broader research objectives, such as with respect to questions of validity, reliability or generalizability.

Following on from the theme of creating a shared and integrative understanding of the field of Development Studies, additional attention will also be given to thinking through the distinctions between structure, institutions and individual behaviour, choice or agency. Such distinctions are central to understanding development processes, broadly conceived as structural and societal transformation, within which other dynamics of change or causality need to be located and analysed in relation to these broader processes. These dimensions are also usually involved implicitly and often explicitly in most research in Development Studies and hence developing a better awareness of their distinctions, as well as debates around them, helps to refine the articulation of methodology.

Finally, the themes of ontology and epistemology started in the previous block will be continued in this block, more specifically tailored to questions of methodology.

An informal evening session will also be dedicated to discussing the relationship between PhD and Supervisor(s).

Module 3: Overview of Methodology and Methods in Development Studies Research

25 – 29 May 2020

Location: ISS

Teachers (in addition to the programme facilitators):  Prof Arjun Bedi, Dr Ajay Bailey, and others tba

The aim of this module is to provide all participants an exhaustive overview of the range of qualitative and quantitative methods commonly used or available for research in Development Studies. Full training in the methods will not be given, as the module (and the course) is too short for this purpose. Rather, the intention is to equip participants with knowledge of the full range of methods so that they can tailor the method/s most appropriate for their research and/or can seek those in which they would like further training. In service of this intent, a database will be prepared of all of the methods training options available across the CERES member institutions, from which further in-depth instruction in specific methods can be sought.

Special sessions will also be given on ethics and security, to introduce and discuss the ethical and security considerations of your research project, as well as on the methodology and practicalities of doing fieldwork, and on data collection and reliability. Informal evening sessions will also be used to discuss publication strategies and publication ethics.

‘Come-Back’ Day          

11 June


The purpose of this one-day meeting is to debrief and discuss the previous module and to prepare for presentation tutorials of the next and last module.

Block 4: Presentation Tutorials

23 – 25 June 2020

Location: ISS

The presentation tutorials are the final part of the Training Programme and offer PhDs an important opportunity to present and discuss their research projects, and to receive comments and suggestions on their research proposals/designs. PhDs will present their draft research proposals/designs in a seminar format, e.g. with a chair and two discussants assigned to each presentation, and they will participate in the presentations of their peers. The latter participation is especially important given that an intuitive understanding of presenting research is deepened through the experience of going through the process multiple times. As such, it is a key moment that cements the pedagogical principle of ‘learning-by-doing’ followed throughout the programme.

The block starts with some sessions on presentation training, is punctuated with a farewell party, and ends with a discussion of the subsequent stages of the PhD journey.