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Unit information: Social Research Methods in 2015/16

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Unit name Social Research Methods
Unit code SOAD20004
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Turner
Open unit status Open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


Social Research Methods bring together staff with diverse research interests, approaches and disciplinary backgrounds with the purpose of introducing students to a range of methods that can be used to investigate a particular aspect of social life. Single honours students have to submit a dissertation in their final year which must have a strong methodological framework, and the unit has been designed with a view to covering a wide variety of possible ways students can approach and research a particular topic of inquiry for their dissertation. Joint honours students who do not have to submit a dissertation will find that the unit helps them to understand the process of social research from start to finish, shining light on several issues that might be encountered in work within and beyond university life. A range of theoretical perspectives that form the undercurrent of social research will be covered, to illustrate how empirical investigations of social life are always theoretically informed.


  • To raise student awareness of what defines and characterises social research
  • To introduce students to the meaning and relevance of quantitative and qualitative approaches to social research
  • To introduce some common methods used in gathering research data for analysis
  • To cover some of the important constraints – especially ethical constraints – which apply when research is underway, or when data is interpreted and used to make an argument.

Intended learning outcomes

  • An ability to plan and carry out a small-scale research project (i.e. an undergraduate dissertation)
  • An appreciation of reflexivity – a capacity to reflect upon what you are doing, and to recognise that social research is a form of intervention in social life. This paves the way for critical evaluations of other peoples’ research.

Teaching details

Lectures; classes involving exercises and group discussion.

Assessment Details

Summative Assessment:

  1. A multiple choice test covering both qualitative & quantitative methodologies (including principles of survey design), taken under exam conditions;
  2. A 1500 word review of a published piece of research (selected from a short list) that focuses on the methods/methodology that informed the research findings

Formative Assessment:

For the coursework (requirement for the award of credit points), students have to submit a 2000-2500 essay.

Reading and References

  • Babbie, E. (2007). The Practice of Social Research (11th ed). Belmont: Wadsworth Pub. Co.
  • Bryman, A. (2001) Social Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Gilbert, N. (ed) (2001, 2nd edition) Researching Social Life. London: Sage
  • Creswell, J. (2009). Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Gomm, R. (2004) Social Research Methodology: A critical introduction. Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • May, T. (2001, 3rd edition) Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process. Buckingham: Open University Press.
  • Seale, C. (Ed.) (2012) Researching Society and Culture (3rd ed). London: Sage
  • O'Sullivan, E., Rassel, G.R., & Berner, M. (2008). Research methods for public administrators (5th ed.). New York: Pearson Longman Publishers.