Methodological Tool Box
This is where you can find tools (help with literature-based research, academic writing, map design, etc.), written and visual resources (discipline-specific, multidisciplinary and methodological), and an overview of the types of exercises (written and oral) you will be required to do at the Undergraduate College.
These resources are designed to help you get the most out of your personal study in relation to your courses, complete your assignments and develop pre-professional skills.
Tools for developed practice
This section provides methodological sheets, videos and tutorials designed to help you develop academic and pre-professional skills.
In addition, it is important to consult the information concerning Sciences Po's videoconferencing service (Guides, FAQs and general conditions of use of the service, etc.).
Being aware of the legal environment of your work
- Sheet: Anti-Plagiarism Regulation at Sciences Po (PDF, 99 Ko)
- Sheet: Respecting image copyright (PDF, 139 Ko)
- Webpage: Knowing the regulations concerning data protection
Conducting literature-based research, building a bibliography and citing sources
Autonomy training for first year students
- Introductory module: Literature Search Methodology
- Workshops in small groups (in English and in French) proposed by the Sciences Po library, upon registration
- Individual support for literature search (in English and in French) by a referent from the Sciences Po library
Developing writing practice
Understanding the meaning of images
Resources for further study
This section presents academic content organised by format and topic. These resources will help you consolidate your learning of theory and methodology (understand a notion or concept, analyze a subject by relying with relevance on a variety of documents), and develop your own critical and analytical perspective.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
- Afrique et mondialisation, regards croisés (fr.)
- Be Entrepreneurial in Cultural Industries in the Digital Age, also available in French
- Cities are Back in Town: Urban Sociology for a Globalizing Urban World, also available in French and Spanish
- Espace mondial, a French vision of Global studies, also available in French, Arabic, Chinese and Portugese
- Geopolitics of Europe, also available in French
- International Migrations: A Global Issue, also available in French
- Politics and Economics of International Energy
- Searching for the Grand Paris
Museum and archives
- World Digital Library
- Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) : Gallica (fr.) (6.8 million documents online)
- Europeana (cooperation between archives, libraries and museums, more than 50 million documents online, books, music, works of art)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art New York
- Albert-Kahn Museum: Digital Archives of the Planet (fr.)
- Museums of France: Joconde, collections portal (fr.)
- Paris Musée (collections of the museums of the city of Paris)
- Smithsonian Collections (19 museums)
- World Bank
- UNHCR - UN Refugee Agency
- FAO mediabase
- FAO of the UN on Flickr
- UNICEF - United Nations Children's Fund
- UN Photo
- UN Peacekeeping
- UN on Flickr
- UNEP - United Nations Environment Program
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Exercises to make progress
Students are given a wide variety of assignments as part of their coursework. They can be done alone or in groups, in the classroom, at home or remotely, in a limited time or not, by hand or on the computer, in writing or verbally, in several languages, etc.
All assignments demand an unwavering intellectual honesty that eschews plagiarism, and require a genuine personal commitment from students in terms of research, analysis, structured, precise and critical thinking—and, finally, imagination.
The examples presented here are not exhaustive and are therefore liable to different interpretations depending on level, subject and teaching style. Faculty are free to decide the nature of the assignments, their format, their weight in the overall grade and how they are assessed.
At the beginning of the semester, students must pay particular attention to the course plan and the instructions given for each exercise. You must never hesitate to ask questions or for help and advice from your lecturers, tutors and academic coordinators.
These exercises can be assigned as individual or group work, in several languages, and may sometimes be associated with an oral presentation.
Exam essay (dissertation in French)
This is a classic exercise in the French education system and is often used as the final assessment for lecture courses in history, humanities and political science. Students answer an essay question in a limited time, usually three or four hours.
The essay must articulate a clear purpose and be well-argued, provide hypotheses and develop a critical, personal line of reasoning, illustrated with examples . Students must demonstrate they can structure their argument appropriately. Contrary to popular belief, there is no model essay plan.
In this exercise, students provide the argumentative framework for an essay and are usually asked to write the introduction and conclusion. The body of the text may be presented in semi-note form, but the section headings and sub-headings must be included together with the main arguments and examples in brief.
Mock exam (galop d'essai)
An intermediary practice test with a fixed time limit. It helps prepare students for the final exam of a lecture course and is part of the assessment for the associated methodology class.
More flexible in form than the exam essay, a paper must nonetheless meet the same standards of argument structure and critical analysis. Students are expected to discuss ideas with a strong personal perspective.
Papers are generally reserved for specialised subjects; bibliographic references must be indicated precisely and in standard form (PDF, 97 Ko), particularly academic articles, and documents may be included in the body of the text or in the appendices.
This generic term refers to a variety of exercises that have in common a brief, summary style. The definition varies with lecturers’ teaching approach and the methods favoured by each discipline, which means you must pay close attention to the instructions. There are several main types:
- A book report or book review (fiche de lecture) involves presenting an author's thought as expressed in a book or academic article, or sometimes comparing the views of several authors on the same subject. It always gives the reference(s) of the work(s) (title, author, place, publisher, date) (PDF, 97 Ko) and usually begins with a short presentation of the author and the historical, political and academic context in which it was written and published. It presents the main themes and arguments, methodology, and academic debate on the subject in question in an objective and concise manner. A book review (as opposed to a report) also calls for you to give your personal opinion, which must be identified as such. Book reports are a way for a group of students to share their readings and to stimulate group discussion.
- The purpose of a summary report (fiche technique) is to address an issue in the most comprehensive, concise, precise and up-to-date manner possible. Essential knowledge on a subject is summarised and problematised; the context, essential definitions and concepts, main data, stakeholders, issues, solutions and sources (PDF, 97 Ko) are briefly yet exhaustively covered. Summary reports are a way for a group of students to share their knowledge of a subject and to stimulate group discussion.
- A debate report (fiche-débat) presents and analyses an intellectual debate related to a societal issue or event, contextualising it in time and space. This exercise requires an understanding of the foundations of the topic, the main issues involved, the protagonists and their points of view, developments, ideological currents and any possible solutions. A good debate report will not just compare examples, but explore an issue in depth by highlighting the divergent and contradictory aspects of the debate.
The Capstone Project (Grand écrit)
The Capstone project ends the training course of the University College and conditions the obtaining of the Bachelor’s degree. It is made up of two exercises: 1) The Analytical Report (4 to 6 pages), which reports on the construction of the student's civic engagement project and their learning, and 2) The Position Paper (10 to 12 pages), oriented public action or research, with the aim of responding to a problem related to the experience of the Civic Learning Programme and to the study of the major, based on a scientific production and a corpus of various sources (academic literature, surveys, interviews, images, statistics, etc.). The Capstone Project is taken into account in the validation of the major chosen by the student.
All types of documents (picture, press article, speech, film clip, data table, map, diagram, etc.) are used in lectures, classes and workshops; only the most frequent exercises are mentioned here.
- The press review: the press review should summarise and critique a local, national or international current event, showing the viewpoints of the various media around the world and the way they handle the subject.
- The analysis of iconographic documents (paintings, photographs, posters, newspaper illustrations, etc.) requires a certain methodology. Students must learn to decipher the meaning of an image and its components by studying the artist or creator, the context of its production and distribution and the technique used to to do so, and the target audience lien vers la fiche Analyser une image. The goal is to understand how to use an iconographic document effectively as part of building a critical perspective.
- Graphical data processing (diagrams, maps and graphs): graphic representations are frequently used in lectures and exercises. Learning how to read graphics critically involves developing two types of expertise: collating and analysing on one hand, and designing and producing on the other. The first involves sourcing and selecting existing graphics in order to critically compare them. The second means producing graphic representations yourself (individually or in a group) as illustrations or material to support your ideas, or as an exercise in itself. If the data to be processed is not provided, students must look for it, select it, compare it and justify their choice. To present the graphics, students must learn the rudiments of both data processing and graphical semiology. As with all other types of exercise, the utmost rigor is required in producing graphics, adding titles, captions, sources, etc.
These exercises can be assigned as individual or group work, in several languages, and may be accompanied by a written record.
In this individual or group exercise, students are expected to present an analytical and critical response to a question or topic in a structured and well argumented way. The aim is not to describe or to cover a topic exhaustively, but to demonstrate an ability to summarise and identify key ideas.
The length of the presentation is set in advance and is often ten minutes (15 minutes for pairs). Successful presentations are a matter of learning how to master your time, your breathing, your vocal and gestural delivery, but also sharpening your sense of discussion during the exchanges following the presentation.
A collective exercise par excellence, with academic, pre-professional and civic applications. Debates require various types of expertise: each debater's position must be carefully researched, rigorously analysed and persuasively delivered, and they must listen closely to the other debaters views' and exchange of arguments.
Debaters may take on roles that have been determined as a group or assigned to them (based on a given scenario), in accordance with clear, defined rules that have been explained in advance. Students may get to be the moderator, which entails introducing the subject, structuring the debate by ensuring each speaker gets the same amount of time, and giving a final summary of each position.
Other oral presentations
Oral presentations may be required in a range of contexts: to present group projects and fieldwork; for the final exam for a lecture course based on a question chosen by drawing lots and with time allocated to prepare; in defense of a written work; for the final presentation of an artistic project (in the artistic workshops for instance), etc.