Course Syllabus

Research Assistant


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Semester & Location:

Spring 2020  - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Human Rights, Criminology, Social Policy, Public Health

Faculty Members:

Polina Smiragina, Justice and Human Rights

Program Director:

Tina Mangieri -


Kenzie Zimmer -

Time & Place:

To be decided with the research mentor


Research project description:
Due to the high demand and severe organ scarcity worldwide there is a growing number of identified cases of organ trafficking and trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal. While commercial trade of human organs is illegal within the EU, different EU countries have different organ donation regulations that may have an impact on the crime of organ trade within the region. This research project looks at two EU countries that have different deceased organ donation regulations. It investigates the impact these regulations have on trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal.

This is a comparative case study that aims to identify the relationship between organ donation policies and the demand in illicit organ transplantations given the cases of Denmark and Sweden. It will investigate the impact the Swedish and Danish regulations have on trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal. Bearing in mind the complex nature of this study, the research design of this project will employ the combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Researcher Bio:

Polina Smiragina is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney and a Visiting Scholar at the Criminology Department, Stockholm University. She received her undergraduate education BA(Hons.) from Moscow State University and holds her MSc. degree from Gothenburg University. Before commencing her Ph.D. candidature, Polina was a migrant counselor and reintegration assistant at the UN Migration (IOM) mission in Moscow. She was involved in various research projects related to human rights, children’s rights, migration, reintegration, and human trafficking with several organizations.

Description of role and responsibilities of the Research Assistant

You are expected to spend a minimum of 10 hrs per week on the project. The workload may vary over the semester. If you are traveling to do field research in a different location, you may be spending more time on research during this period.

As research assistant you will:

  1. Participate in meetings with your research mentor at a time set collectively at the beginning of the semester.
  2. Participate in two workshops during the semester (see 'Workshops' below for more information):
    1. A seminar at the beginning of the semester: orientation and strategies for successful international research 
    2. A final seminar discussing strategies and best practices for effective communication of research, especially to those not in the field
  3. Write an assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses in the research process at the beginning of the semester. Revisit at the end of the semester as part of an evaluation of your own participation in, and learning from, the research project.
  4. Participate in carrying out the research project. Your responsibilities will be different depending on the phase of the research project. 
  5. Keep a research journal where you will note your research progress throughout the semester.
  6. At the end of the semester, the RAs will be invited as guest speakers to present their findings to the students in the Human Trafficking and the Sex Trade course.
  7. Present the relevance of the research and/or findings to peer(s) from other disciplines at the End of Semester Showcase.

In the Spring semester 2020 your responsibilities will include:

  • familiarising yourself with the work done by the research team to date and proposing relevant changes if necessary;
  • reading and discussing newly published literature in the field;
  • developing a methodological framework before going into the field
  • collecting data

Learning Objectives

The primary objective is for you to experience the world of scientific research and gain experience that will prepare you for any future career you choose to pursue. By the end of the semester you will grasp the complexities of the research project, and have made your own contribution to the project. You will also have learned to communicate scientific ideas and findings, both orally and in writing, to members from your particular discipline as well as peers from other disciplines.   

In addition, depending on the research phase, you will:

  • Gain knowledge of human trafficking issues, debates, and policies
  • Learn the difference between the various human trafficking and organ trafficking related concepts;
  • Obtain knowledge on the different types of organ transplantation policies
  • Get hands-on experience in data collection and analysis
  • Increase knowledge of research methodologies and practical implementation in the field
  • Develop your critical thinking and academic writing skills



UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime 

*Here you are only required to read the Protocol To Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (it is on page 41)


The Joint Council of Europe and UN study on Trafficking in Organs, Tissues and Cells and Trafficking in Human Beings for the Purpose of the Removal of Organs 

*Here I would like you familiarise yourselves with the entire document. 


Additional readings may be provided during the semester. You will be required to go through quite a lot of readings when familiarising yourself with/preparing a literature review. 

Workshops & Orientation

All sessions are mandatory and take place in 1D-409

Orientation: January 15, 14:00 - 15:00

Workshop 1: February 12, 16:30 - 18:00 

Workshop 2: April 15, 16:30 - 18:00

Research Symposium @ Final End of Semester Showcase: May 5 from 15.00-18.00


Field research 

Depending on the phase of the project, you may be involved in data collection, which will involve observations, interviews, and documentary research in Sweden and Denmark. Expenses related to field work will be covered by a DIS travel grant. The field work will be planned with the research mentor at the beginning of the semester.



Research trips | Spring 2020:

To be announced


To be announced

Date & time

To be announced


Approach to Mentoring

All DIS research mentors have been trained in mentoring students but their approach to mentoring may differ. Mentoring is about engaging at a different - and often deeper - level than what is typical in the class room. However, mentoring also comes with some degree of ambiguity, which is important for you to be prepared for. The research mentor will work closely with you throughout the semester but part of the training is also for you to use your own judgement, to make assessments and decisions. As part of planning your tasks and responsibilities for the semester together, the research mentor will talk to you about her/his approach to mentoring.

Expectations of the Research Assistant 

The specific expectations of the individual research assistant is agreed at the beginning of the semester. In general, a research assistant is expected to take initiative, take ownership of the project and work independently. Obviously, to be prepared for meetings and be willing to part take in scientific discussions. In cases where more research assistants are involved in the same project, you will be expected to engage in some team-work. Carrying out a research project is not a straight forward and predictable process. This is part of what makes it exciting. It also means that communication is crucial. You are expected to take responsibility for communicating about problems or issues that arise.

Evaluation and grading

All research assistants are assessed on their participation in the seminar on responsible research practices, weekly status reports to the research mentor, self-evaluation and presentation to peers from other disciplines.

The format of the evaluation depends on the project phase. It may include presentations on research design and data, keeping a project log book, producing an interview guide, a poster presentation for an expert panel, etc. This will be discussed in more detail at the introductory meeting with the research mentor.

Component Weight
Participation 25%
Written assignment(s) 30%
Guest lecture  30%
Research symposium presentation 15%


Disability and Resource Statement  

Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Academic Support ( to coordinate this.  In order to receive accommodations, students should inform the instructor of approved DIS accommodations within the first two weeks of classes.



It is crucial for your learning that you stay on task and hand in assignments on or before the due date. All work– including in-class projects – have to be completed in order to pass the class. Late papers or projects will be marked down with 1/3 of a grade for each day it is late.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism and Violating the Rules of an Assignment

DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others. Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software.  See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.

Academic Regulations

DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

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