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Unit information: Conducting a Research Project using secondary data in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Conducting a Research Project using secondary data
Unit code POLI20001
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Mircea Popa
Open unit status Not open

SPAI20013 `Principles of Quantitative Social Science' or GEOG25010 `Spatial Modelling 2'



School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit forms part of the shared interdisciplinary pathway for students taking any of the '... with quantitative research methods' degree programmes in childhood studies, geography, politics, social policy and sociology. It may be open to other students within those Schools. The purpose of the unit is to prepare students to undertake a third-year dissertation using secondary data. It will focus on sources of secondary data, how to make sense of them, how to form a viable research question grounded in an appropriate academic research literature, and ways to answer the question quantitatively. It will address issues of research design, including sample size and the issue of statistical power, and also consider some of the underlying philosophical tenets of quantitative approaches, their strengths and weaknesses, how they compare with qualitative approaches, and when to decide when a quantitative or qualitative approach might be better. Practical classes will show how secondary data can be accessed and analysed in meaningful ways.

Intended learning outcomes

On completing this unit students will know:

how to form a viable research question that can be answered using secondary data;

where sources of secondary data may be obtained from;

how to analyse and present secondary data using methods of quantitative analysis;

why it is important to give consideration to potential sources of bias and uncertainty in the data; and

some of the statistical issues that arise from analysing large data sets.

Teaching details

Weekly lectures and practical classes

Assessment Details

750 word research proposal (25%)

3000 word individual project and written report based on analysis of a secondary data set relevant to the student's discipline (75%).

The assessments will evaluate all of the intended learning outcomes listed above

Reading and References

Smith E, 2008, Using Secondary Data in Educational and Social Research. Maidenhood: McGraw-Hill

Thomas G, 2013, How to Do Your Research Project: A Guide for Students in Education and Applied Social Sciences. London: Sage.

Vartanian TP, 2010, Secondary Data Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press.

White P, 2008, Developing Research Questions: A Guide for Social Scientists. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan