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Unit information: Philosophy and Research Design in the Social Sciences in 2021/22

Unit name Philosophy and Research Design in the Social Sciences
Unit code SOCIM0012
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Tsilipakos
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 discusses central philosophical issues in sociological and political research as a means of reflecting on research design; it is does not aim to be a 'how-to' manual. Key questions that will be addressed include: Is social science closely related to science and what is science like? What are the main positions in reflecting on social science and what are their historical origins? What kinds of claims can be made in sociological and political research? Should social scientists be committed to emancipatory values and can those values be justified? How should research ethics be taken into account when designing a research project? On the whole, we will consider the advantages and disadvantages of different philosophical and methodological approaches by looking at important philosophical texts and examples of empirical research.


  • To discuss key principles of sociological and political research and research design.
  • To discuss some controversies surrounding the principles of research design and causality.
  • To discuss some philosophical foundations of research design.
  • To discuss the core elements of a research project, such as theory, variables, concepts and measurement.
  • To discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different research strategies and methods.
  • To examine actual examples of sociological and political research and critique these research designs
  • To discuss key principles of research ethics

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this unit students will:

  • Be familiar with standard guidelines for research design and some controversies surrounding these principles
  • Understand the key steps in formulating a research project.
  • Know how theory, concepts and measurement are related.
  • Be aware of the philosophical foundations of research design
  • Understand the advantages and disadvantages of different research methods, including common problems faced by researchers.
  • Be aware of the ethical considerations associated with sociological and political research.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

Each of the learning outcomes will be assessed both formatively and summatively:

Formative assessment: a seminar presentation.

Summative assessment: 4,000 word essay.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. SOCIM0012).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.