Evidence-Based Policy Research Methods

Application Procedure

    Developing competence and specific skills to effectively perform evidence-based academic or policy-oriented research is essential for knowledge creation and decision-making, whether in business, government or civil society. The Evidence-Based Policy Research Methods (EPRM) course, offered by United Nations University – Maastricht Economic and social Research institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT) and its School of Governance aims to equip participants with the fundamental tools for designing and analysing evidence-based research.

    More specifically, the EPRM course will train participants in:

    1. Designing a research proposal for evidence-based research in the workplace or in a research environment
    2. Analysing qualitative or quantitative data
    3. Attaining current knowledge in a specialisation area
    4. Academic writing and dissemination of the proposed research

    In order to ensure the development of a quality research proposal, participants will receive continuous personal feedback on their proposal by researchers and professors at UNU-MERIT and Maastricht University. In order to build an evidence-based proposal, participants of EPRM will also have full access to a large selection of books, journals and databases available through the Maastricht University Library.

    Who Should Apply?

    The programme is designed for professionals who aim to increase their research skills, but are unable to leave their job for longer periods. The programme assumes participants will be able to spend a significant amount of time on the courses, yet does not expect the participants to stop with their work but rather to combine the training with the job. We target researchers from academic institutions or policy makers in developing or developed countries seeking to strengthen their research competencies and outputs. This programme can serve as capacity building for staff in universities, research units within businesses, NGOs, ministries and think tanks.

    The programme fills the gap between master graduation, and the start of a research, either for employment or in a PhD programme. After completion of this programme, you are better equipped to apply for PhD programmes, or engage in research activities within your own institute.

    Since the course covers research skills that transcend different disciplines we welcome any participants who wish to update or ascertain these skills. However, in order to guarantee specialised feedback by professors and researchers proposal writing, we recommend applicants to review ongoing  research activities at UNU-MERIT/School of Governance.

    Custom Designed Course

    EPRM has been designed with working professionals in mind. By offering a blended course, with online and face-to-face (FTF) modules, the course allows participants to update their research skills with minimal obstruction to existing commitments.

    EPRM also offers a specialised module that is selected by participants based on their research interest. This flexible module is built into the course to allow for a specialisation in your area of interest and assist in the development of the proposal.

    Programme and Course Certificate

    Students who complete the full programme (i.e. pass the (online) courses and succeed in presenting a satisfactory research proposal) will receive a certificate.

    Upon successful completion of one or several modules as part of the modular approach, participants will receive a course certificate for the course in question.

    Upon completion of all modules (within maximum 3 years counting from the starting date) participants also receive the complete EPRM certificate.

    About the Host University

    The United Nations University – Maastricht Economic and social Research institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT) is a joint research and training institute of United Nations University and Maastricht University, based in the south of the Netherlands. The institute explores the social, political and economic factors that drive technological innovation, with a particular focus on creation, diffusion and access to knowledge.

    The Maastricht Graduate School of Governance (MGSoG) founded in 2004, prepares professionals and researchers for policy analysis, risk assessment, policy design, policy monitoring, policy evaluation and methods and techniques of policy research. In 2011, the two institutes joined forces, creating a leading research environment covering all aspects of governance in domestic and global organisations, from risk assessment to policy analysis, design and evaluation.

    For more information, visit the UNU-MERIT website.


    Alternative 1: Full Programme: The deadline for the full programme (14 weeks/5 Modules) is 15 August 2016 for the Fall Programme and 19 December 2016 for the Spring Programme.

    Alternative 2: Individual Modules: Except for Module 1, the deadline for the individual modules is 2 weeks before the start of each respective module. The specific deadlines are indicated below.

    Application Deadline for Individual Modules

    Module Fall 2016 Spring 2017
    Start date Deadline Start date Deadline

    1 Research Design Sept. 12 Aug. 15 Jan. 16 Dec. 19

    2 Proposal Development* Sept. 26 Sept. 12 Jan. 30 Jan. 16

    3 Specialisation** Sept. 26 Sept. 12 Jan. 30 Jan. 16

    4 Research Analysis Oct. 24 Oct. 10 Feb. 27 Feb. 13

    Optional Recap Course with Tutor Dec. 5 Nov. 21 Apr. 10 Apr. 3

    5 Academic Writing, Proposal Presentation and Research Dissemination *** Dec. 12 Nov. 28 Apr. 18 Apr. 3

    * This module can only be started after completion of the Research design module.

    ** The exact date is dependent on selected course

    *** This module can only be started after completion of the Modules 1-2-3-4.

    Please apply via this link.


    The EPRM course is designed for individuals with an interest in obtaining new knowledge or updating existing knowledge in research skills. We welcome mid-career professionals as well as junior professionals, who do not fear reading research. The EPRM course can be of particular benefit for policy makers, practitioners as well researchers from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. We are looking for applicants with a Master’s degree who have strong academic records, professional and/or volunteer experience, interest in research and a special interest in evidence-based policy analysis. We welcome fellows from all over the world representing a wide variety of cultures and disciplines. The programme is tailored to synergise the various backgrounds.

    We fully understand it may be challenging for working professionals to leave their work environment for several months. We are aware that participants in the EPRM have responsibilities at home, both at the work place as well as within their families. These obligations leave less time to spend on educational programmes, and make full-time education hardly possible. Therefore, we designed the programme to support your needs. The programme requires only three weeks presence in Maastricht, and offers flexibility in the timing of those weeks. All other content can be followed in online components.

    We believe that our programme can be of benefit to:

    • Policy makers (e.g. working in Think Tanks, Multilateral org., Government Ministries, private business firms, NGOs.)
    • (Junior) Researchers who engage in research activities in their work
    • Graduates from Master’s studies, with an interest in pursuing a PhD research
    • Practitioners implementing policy.

    We are also open to speak with employers, who would like their staff to be trained in evidence-based research in general, and in a specific content area. We can also develop content modules for a specific audience, that would fit in the set-up of EPRM.

    Academic Requirements

    • Participants are required to hold a Master’s degree in a relevant field of specialisation, including Economics, Public Policy, Political Science, International Relations, Governance, Law, Business Administration and Social Sciences, Engineering, Sociology.
    • Since our aim is to provide the best training and supervision, we refer you to our research websites for more detailed information on our topics of interest and specialisation.

    Language Requirements

    • Adequate level of spoken and written English.
    • Applicants whose native language is not English or whose previous education has been in a language other than English, must submit evidence of proficiency in the English language by achieving the following scores:
      • IELTS at least 7.0
      • TOEFL paper based: at least (PBT): 600
      • TOEFL Internet based (IBT): at least 100

    If you sign up for the full programme (14 weeks), you will be required to spend two weeks in Maastricht for Module 1 (Research Design) and one week for Module 5 at the end of the programme. The optional recap week (one week before Module 5) also takes place in Maastricht, but is voluntary and does not necessarily represent a full-time workload.


    What if I cannot sign up to the full (14-week) programme? What are my alternatives?

    It is also possible to sign up for individual courses within the programme. This is referred to as the modular approach.

    I am a working professional. Will I be able to complete the EPRM programme while working?

    The EPRM was designed for working professionals. Only Module 1 and Module 5 will require your full-time presence in Maastricht. All other modules require an estimated workload of 10-15 hours per week, and can be done in the evening and weekend hours. Our previous participants were all working full-time, and successfully completed the programme.

    I understand that the EPRM programme is offered as a blended programme, i.e. a mix of on-site and online course. How much time do I need to spend in Maastricht?

    If you sign up for the full programme (14 weeks), you will be required to spend two weeks in Maastricht for Module 1 (Research Design) and one week for Module 5 at the end of the programme. The optional recap week (one week before Module 5) also takes place in Maastricht, but is voluntary and does not necessarily represent a full-time workload.

    Are there any rules about the order in which courses are taken in the modular approach?

    Yes. Module 1 must be completed before you can take any of the subsequent modules (Modules 2 to 4). Once Module 1 has been completed, you are free to take any other module. All Modules from 1 to 4 need to be completed before Module 5 can be started. It is recommended to stick to the order of the modules.

    What if I cannot take all the modules in one run (e.g. spring 2016) but still want to complete the entire programme and receive the certificate?

    You have the option to start the programme in one run, and complete remaining courses in a later run. You will receive Module certificates, and if you complete all courses included in the programme within a 3-year period you will be rewarded with the programme certificate.

    What level (Master/PhD) are the courses offered in EPRM? Can I transfer the courses to a PhD programme?

    EPRM is a post-graduate training programme and is not directly linked to a Master’s or PhD programme. It is a programme jointly offered by University of Maastricht and UNU-MERIT, and upon successful completion you will obtain a certificate with ECTS credit equivalence. The university where you pursue your Master’s or PhD studies will decide whether transfer of ECTS credits earned in EPRM will be accepted.

    Will completing the EPRM programme enhance my chances of being accepted to the GPAC2 programme at UNU-MERIT/School of Governance (Maastricht University) /  or another PhD programme?

    Completion of the EPRM programme does not guarantee entrance to GPAC2 or any other PhD programme. The objective, however, is that after successful completion of the EPRM programme participants will be more informed on what research is, what are the skills required to do good research, and how to draft a better proposal. In addition, we can after this course advise you if we think you should do GPAC2 with us or not. Overall, the goal of the EPRM programme is to enhance your chances to receive admission for future PhD applications.

    What is the optional re-cap course?

    The EPRM programme consists of Modules 1 to 5. The optional re-cap course is an extra option that is available in case of demand from participants. The “optional Recap course” was included to give participants the possibility to catch up with any matter left behind from previous modules and to work on their proposal (Module 5). After signing up for this optional course, participants will have daily meetings with a tutor who will assist them with unfinished assignments or the preparation of their proposal. For participants who have completed all of the assignments from previous modules and who are on track with their proposal development, it is not necessary to sign up for this re-cap course, hence the word “optional” in the title.

    What is the difference between modules with or without ECTS credits?

    By signing up for ECTS credits, you will receive a final numbered grade between 1-10, a motivation/explanation for your grades and the number of ECTS credits that you can transfer to another university, in case you choose to continue your studies after the programme. Each module has a different number of credits attached to it. How other universities choose to value the EPRM courses will be assessed on an individual basis. If you take the modules without ECTS credits, you will work with the same material and receive a Pass or Fail mark in your modules.


    The Evidence-Based Policy Research Methods (EPRM) course is offered in the fall (starting in September) and in the spring (starting in January) and will be delivered over 14 weeks, consisting of course work and assignments that are geared towards drafting a strong research proposal. This programme is based on five broad modules that will be offered online or face-to-face (FTF) in Maastricht.

    Participants have the option of signing up to the whole programme (14 weeks/5 modules) or individual modules (one of more selected modules).

    Module 1: Research Design

    The Research Design module is a two-week workshop in Maastricht, where participants will receive lectures on the nature and requirements of academic research, how to phrase an interesting and relevant research question, and how set up a research design. Participants will work on their own research idea, during individual assignments, interactive sessions in class and group assignments. This module builds the foundation of the proposal, and you will be required to complete this module before access to module 2-5 is possible. This module requires full time attendance, and will require participants to work full days and work on homework in evenings as well.

    Learning Objectives:
    1. Gain knowledge of research methodologies
    2. Learn how to define a research topic, research question, theory and model

    Length of Module: 2 Weeks
    Mode of Delivery: Face-to-Face (Taught in Maastricht only)
    Estimated workload: Full time

    Date offered (Fall 2016): 12-23 September, 2016
    Date offered (Spring 2017): 16-27 January 2017

    Module 2: Proposal development

    During the proposal development stage, participants will primarily spend their time on their own individual research idea. This module provides participants with online tools, guidance and support to develop the skills to compose a thorough literature review. Participants are encouraged to actively look for and read academic literature, with critical mind. Focus will be on understanding the current state of art in the academic literature, as well as understanding theoretical links set put on the literature, and formulating models in line with theory. In addition, participants are supported in carrying out an effective data search among secondary databases, and are informed on the needs and requirements of primary data collection. Online instruction videos will be supplemented with discussion boards to cover general issues participants deal with, and feedback session on individual proposals.

    Learning Objectives:
    1. Gain essential skills for building a strong research proposal
    2. Perform a literature search, and start writing a literature review based on academic readings
    3. Understand the concepts ‘theory’, ‘model’, ‘primary and secondary data’

    Length of Module: 4 Weeks
    Mode of Delivery: Online
    Estimated workload: 10 hours a week

    Date offered (Fall 2016): 26 September – 21 October  2016
    Date offered (Spring 2016): 30 January – 26 February 2017

    Module 3: Specialisation Course


    In order to facilitate proposal development, we offer a selection of an online specialisation course. We encourage participants to select one course, related to your research proposal. The courses are developed by UNU/MERIT/MGSoG staff, and include an overview of articles summarizing the developments in the field. The availability of courses changes per run of EPRM, and exact dates of the specialisation courses will be indicated on our website closer to the start of the course. Please monitor the list carefully on our website, as new courses may be added and older ones may be replaced.

    Specialisation Courses – Description

        1. Introduction to Migration Theories: The course will cover: important terms, concepts, definitions, data and flows. Theories across disciplines will be covered including theories on: 1) Causes of migration: functionalist and structuralist perspectives, 2) Impacts of migration: migration and development, 3) The continuation of migration: networks, migration systems and cumulative causation, and 4) Migration as an intrinsic part of development and change.
        2. Governance in Theory and Practice: This course will guide participants through key theoretical debates surrounding the concept of governance while at the same time presenting a range of empirical examples to illustrate how governance works in practice. The framework of the course will comprise and tackle the following facets of governance: governance as an analytical term, governance and public administration, governance and globalisation, governance as decision-making, (good) governance and international organisations.
        3. Introduction to Political Science: The course provides a rigorous introduction to the foundation, structure and operation of the world politics. It includes leading theoretical and institutional flows in the study of state, ideologies, nation, ethnicity, identity, democracy, globalisation, and political interaction
        4. Entrepreneurship in developing countries: The course is designed to enable the student to understand the research debate and policy discussions on dynamic entrepreneurship and private sector development.  These include: the concept, definition and measurement of entrepreneurship, the role and importance of micro and small business in employment generation and growth; types of entrepreneurship: survival entrepreneurship versus opportunity entrepreneurship and the role of innovation; contextual factors, institutional constraints and characteristics of the entrepreneurs as determinants of entry and growth of firms in developing countries.
        5. Intellectual Property Rights in a Globalised World (Spring 2016 Only): This course provides an introduction to the economics of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), and in particular the role of IPRs in the globalised economy. The course will begin with a discussion of the different kinds of IPRs, the objectives of IPRs, and the current landscape of IPRs, before discussing the expected impact of IPRs on innovation and technology transfer. The remainder of the course will concentrate on the empirical evidence on the role and effectiveness of IPRs.
        6. Introduction to Social Protection for the Poor: The main objective of the course is to provide an introduction to non-contributory social protection and its relevance for fighting poverty and vulnerability. The course will highlight the role that social protection measures can play in the development process and it will show the advantages and disadvantages of different policy interventions and design options. More specifically, you will have gained knowledge on:
          • The rationale for governments to invest in non-contributory social protection programmes
          • The link between social protection and inclusive growth and development
          • Types of social protection instruments
          • Beneficiary identification
          • The relevance of fiscal space and how it can be created
          • Performance indicators for social protection interventions
        7. Human Development: Is “good governance” a prerequisite for enforcing citizenship rights? Or would the promotion and protection of these rights lead to improved governance, and ultimately greater human development? Are civil, political and socio-economic rights truly indissoluble human rights? How does bad governance (with a focus on corruption) undermine the achievement of these rights? These are some of the questions that will be discussed during this course. Following a multidisciplinary approach, the course offers a bird’s eye view which considers state of the art economic, social and political perspectives, as well as presenting empirical evidence that supports various viewpoints. Additionally we will explore the gap between the theoretical propositions and empirical contributions on this subject.
        8. Economics of Innovation: The course aims at providing an introduction to the main theoretical and empirical issues surrounding the economic analysis of innovation. The course will discuss how innovation emerges in modern economies and how it interacts with the dynamics and evolution of industries. The course is structures into four main modules. After an introduction to the role of innovation in economic growth and in competition among firms, the course discusses three alternative (but complementary) ways of conceptualizing innovation.

    Length of Module: Exact Length depending on course selected
    Mode of Delivery: Online
    Estimated workload: 5-10 hours a week

    Date offered (Fall 2016): 26 September – 21 October  2016
    Date offered (Spring 2017): 30 January – 26 February 2017

    Module 4: Research Analysis

    During the research analysis course, instructions are offered how to analyses data in an academic fashion. Participants are requested to choose between qualitative or quantitative research methods, and will then obtain an introductory analysis course. Online courses in both qualitative and quantitative methods, guided by a tutor, are offered at participant-suited pace. Courses are based on instruction videos, quizzes, and assignments. Assignments and tests are offered to check understanding of the material, and apply learned concepts in practice, and additional tests can be taken for grades and credits. In order to increase learning, the assignments are tied to the specialisation course you selected. After completion of this course, participants understand the basis of qualitative data analysis or quantitative data analysis, and are able to summarise preferred way of analysis, based on data available and individual needs, in a proposal.

    Learning Objective:
    Gain knowledge of applied research skills, necessary for carrying out the proposed research.

        1. Introduction to statistics, statistical analysis and introduction to econometrics
        2. Qualitative data collection, word analysis and coding skills
        3. Practical use of data analysis in the frame of the specialization course selected.

    Length of Module: 6 Weeks
    Mode of Delivery: Online
    Estimated workload: 10 hours a week

    Date offered (Fall 2016): 24 October – 2 December 2016
    Date offered (Spring 2017): 27 February – 9 April 2017

    (Optional) Recap Analysis with Tutor:

    While online courses are useful, and can be taken at your convenience at home, they do require self-discipline from the participants to complete them successfully. When, during the course, you realise you are not fully able to digest all materials, or are not able to fully complete the course before module 5 starts, the recap course in Maastricht might serve you well. The optional in-house recap course, where material from previous modules will be discussed with a tutor, will prepare you well for module 5.

    Length of Optional Module: 1 Week
    Mode of Delivery: Face-to-face (Taught in Maastricht)
    Estimated workload: participant dependent.

    Date offered (Fall 2016): 5-9  December 2016
    Date offered (Spring 2017):  10-13 April 2017
    (Please note that Friday 14 april and Monday 17 april are public holidays in the Netherlands)

    Module 5: Academic writing, Proposal presentation, and Research dissemination

    In the current academic environment, we cannot trust people will just read our work and use it. This problem is even more apparent in the policy field, where academic research is less commonly read. Therefore, it is our responsibility, as researchers, to make sure our work gets disseminated well. Module five is a one week workshop in Maastricht, where we prepare the participants to actively disseminate their ideas and findings. The workshop includes academic research presentation skills, writing skills including academic and policy memo writing, research dissemination classes and a proposal presentation session to complete the EPRM course.

    Learning Objectives:
    Improve academic writing and presentation skills.

    Length of Module: 1 Week
    Mode of Delivery: Face-to-face (Taught in Maastricht)
    Estimated workload: Full time

    Date offered (Fall 2016): 12-16 December 2016
    Date offered (Spring 2017): 18-21 April 2017


    Boschstraat 24
    6211 AX Maastricht
    The Netherlands
    T: +31 43 388 44 00
    Email: eprm@merit.unu.edu