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Unit information: Investigating the Social in 2015/16

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Unit name Investigating the Social
Unit code SPAI20021
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Saffron Karlsen
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

This unit aims to introduce students to a wide range of issues of concern to social researchers and will give an overview of some of the different kinds of empirical research methods that are available to social scientists. It aims to give students some initial experience of planning and carrying out research, and to alert them to the problems that arise in the generation, interpretation and evaluation of evidence. The unit covers a range of qualitative methods including observation and interviewing, and quantitative menthods, such as survey research.


  • To provide an overview of the range of research methods available to sociologists;
  • To introduce students to practical research skills as a basis for future learning;
  • To provide sufficient knowledge for students to select appropriate research methods for particular projects, especially their dissertation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to

  • Critically discuss the issues involved in the generation, interpretation and evaluation of evidence
  • Indicate competence and some experience in the design and implementation of techniques appropriate to small-scale research
  • Demonstrate competence in the interpretation of quantitative and qualitative research data
  • Demonstrate ability in the dissemination of research findings via written report.

Teaching Information

2 hours of lectures and 1 hour seminar.

Assessment Information

Summative: 25% literature review (1500 words) and 75% report of research findings (3000 words)

Reading and References

  • Bryman, A. (2001) Social Research Methods Oxford University Press.
  • Gilbert, N. (ed.) (2001) Researching Social Life London: Sage Publications.
  • Seale, C. (ed.) (2004) Researching Society and Culture London: Sage Publications.
  • May, T. (2001) Social Research, 3rd Edition, Open University Press.