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Unit information: Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences in 2015/16

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Unit name Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences
Unit code SPAIM0029
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
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


This unit is designed as an introduction to research design and data analysis in quantitative social research. It includes questionnaire design; sampling and problems of missing data; sofftware packages - Word, Excel, Powerpoint, SPSS; inputting and manipulating data; deriving variables; reliability and scaling; levels of measurement- nominal, ordinal and interval; distributions and three-way tables; crosstabulations; chi-square test; causality and control variables; measures of association; secondary data analysis. The emphasis is on becoming a critical and intelligent user of statistics. Students will be guided through the basics of descriptive statistics to structured analysis using hypothesis testing. By the end of this unit students will be able to evaluate the research practice, data and interpretations of others and conduct their own analyses.


  • To familiarise students with aspects of computing most relevant to analysis of quantitative datasets in sociological research
  • To make students aware of the range of quantitative social research methods and their appropriateness for specific tasks and research questions
  • To provide practical training in data handling and hypothesis testing using SPSS for Windows
  • To encourage an enquiring and critical approach to data analysis
  • To give students a realistic experience of quantitative research based on the analysis of a full secondary dataset.

Intended learning outcomes

  • An awareness of main secondary data sources and the ability to access them
  • Capacity to investigate a substantive area of sociological interest using appropriate quantitative tools
  • Awareness of strengths and limitations of data sources and analytical techniques
  • Ability to utilise data analysis software with proficiency and confidence
  • Capacity to evaluate the research practice, data and interpretations of others

Teaching details

Each 2-hour session will consist of a brief introductory lecture and a longer practical computer session where students will be encouraged to use and experiment with data analysis using SPSS.

Assessment Details

A piece of secondary data analysis equ ivalent to a 4000 word essay.

Reading and References

  • Bryman, A (2001) Social Research Methods, 2nd ed., Open University Press
  • Fielding, J and Gilbert, N (2000) Understanding Social Statistics, Sage
  • Diamond, I and Jeffries, J (2001) Beginning Statistics, Sage.
  • De Vaus, D.A (1996) Surveys in Social Research, UCL press
  • De Vaus (2002) Analyzing Social Science Data, Sage
  • May, T (2002) Social Research, 3rd edition OUP