How to Research Corruption?

Collaborative Project on Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Empirical Research: Critical Reflections on Concepts, Data and Methods

The video is prepared by the Paris Institute of Advanced Study

Current Status

 We invite all researchers, analysts in policy and civil society, and investigative journalists who work on topics related to corruption and/or anti-corruption to participate in our expert survey: 




The aim of the survey is to examine conceptual and methodological challenges that researchers, analysts in policy and civil society, and investigative journalists face in their work on corruption and anti-corruption, and choices they make to overcome these challenges. 


Conducting empirical research on corruption and anti-corruption poses a number of methodological challenges and as the field grows, we have a lot to learn from each other’s research experiences. 


In this project, we investigate research community practices in studying corruption and anti-corruption. The aim of the project is to examine conceptual and methodological challenges that researchers face and choices they make to overcome these challenges.


We invite researchers, analysts in policy and civil society, and investigative journalists to share their “lessons learned” when researching corruption through an online survey, a series of interviews, and focus groups.  We hope that the results of our investigation will help spread good practices and avoid common mistakes. With this project we thus aim to contribute to a better quality (anti-)corruption research and evidence-based policy interventions.

The Team

Ilona Wysmulek, PI, Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland

• Marina Povitkina, Political Science, Quality of Government Institute, Gothenburg, Sweden / University of Oslo, Norway

Oksana Huss, International & Area Studies, Bologna University, Italy / Anti-Corruption Research and Education Centre, Kyiv, Ukraine

Christopher Starke, Communication & Philosophy, Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf, Germany

Nils Köbis, Psychology & Economics, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany



The Project won the Constructive Advanced Thinking grant of the Institutes for Advanced Studies that is designed to support the interdisciplinary research teams of early career researchers.


The grant provides “a team of early career researchers time and space for thought and discussion in the best research environments Europe has to offer. During a period of up to three years, teams benefit from a series of short stays (i.e. between one and two weeks, two to three times a year) in participating institutes”. More about the application can be found here.


The project team is hosted by The Paris Institute for Advanced Study, the Madrid Institute for advanced Study, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (Uppsala), and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (Amsterdam) for a series of two-week stays in 2020-2023. 


The project idea is endorsed by both prominent researchers in corruption research:

  • Kazimierz Slomczynski, director of CONSIRT (Cross-National Studies: Interdisciplinary Research and Training Program),
  • Matthew Stevenson, founder of the Global Anticorruption Blog, and
  • Bo Rothstein, founder of the Quality of Government Institute.

As well as prominent policy organizations involved in Anti-Corruption work:

  • Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),
  • U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center, United Nations Educational,
  • Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Corruption, and
  • Economic Crime branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.



Project Updates


Ilona Wysmulek, Oksana Huss and Marina Povitkina organized a panel "Methodological Challenges in Corruption Research" at European Consortium for Political Research General Conference, 04-08 September 2023 in Prague. The panel will host four presentations:

  1. Access and Disruption: Reflections on Practitioner-led Research on Corruption
  2. A Content Analysis approach on Corruption in bilateral and multilateral agreements: The case of Brazil (1985- 2020)
  3. Mass-elite (in)congruences when defining corruption: assessing citizens’ and politicians’ networks of words/expressions associated to corruption in Portugal
  4. Contextualizing the quality evaluation of corruption surveys



We presented the project at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies. Thank you for all the comments and discussions!



The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies (SCAS) in Uppsala hosted our team for two weeks. We value this opportunity greatly! 



We presented the progress of our CAT project during the Paris IAS seminar. We have got very valuable feedback from Paris IAS fellows and staff, and from our invited discussant prof. Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Marseilles.




The Paris Institute of Advanced Studies hosted our team for two weeks within the CAT program fellowship. It was a tremendously valuable opportunity for our team to meet in person and to work on the next steps of the project.




The project is presented at the Madrid IAS seminar. We thank all seminar participants for their valuable feedback! 




Our team is hosted by the Madrid Institute of Advanced Studies for two weeks. We work in a hybrid mode - some of our team members in Madrid IAS and some joining on Zoom.



Our project is discussed at the Quality of Government Institute. Marina Povitkina presented our project during the QoG workshop in person and other team members were able to join on Zoom for the discussion. We sincerely thank all QoG workshop participants for their feedback!  



The project team hosted two panels at the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) general conference: “Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Empirical Research: Methodological, Ethical and Security Challenges” and “Measuring Political Corruption - How to Hit a Moving Target?”, which took place online 24-28 August 2020. The participants discussed various novel methods of measuring corruption, methods of data collection and analysis, as well as ethics and security issues in corruption research. 



The project team presented the project idea at a three-hour internal webinar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Paris and received feedback from an interdisciplinary team of scholars, including anthropology, sociology, and history, see here 

The discussant of the presentation was Alena Ledeneva, Professor of Politics and Society at University College London.



The project idea is discussed at a co-creation session at the 4th Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Forum "Varieties of (anti)corruption: Learning from the past for the future” and receives feedback from the interdisciplinary group of junior scholars as well as advisory board members of the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network.