Design of Social research - SO833

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
(version 6)
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7 20 (10) DR BB Geiger







Module Summary:

This module aims to provide students with the skills to develop a research idea and to turn this into a coherent, achievable – and interesting! – research proposal. The course will be particularly useful for those doing empirical research in their MSc or PhD dissertation, or who will use social research after their studies.
In developing these skills, the course also provides an introduction to research methods and methodological debates. It will cover:

1. Key skills in research design – developing a research question; writing a research proposal; and ‘real-world’ considerations like ethics, cost, and feasibility;

2. Qualitative research design – an overview of different types of qualitative methods and the logic of qualitative design; when to apply qualitative methods; and key design issues such as choosing cases and planning qualitative analysis;

3. Quantitative research design – an introduction to the logic of quantitative research, and key issues such as turning the social world into numbers; when to apply quantitative methods; issues surrounding generalisation; how to interpret quantitative analysis results, and an introduction to the most common form of quantitative analysis;

4. Mixed-methods designs, which combine qualitative and quantitative research.
This course is complementary to the specialist courses in doing qualitative (SO817) and quantitative (SO819) research, and the course ‘Using Social Research – Advanced Critical Skills’ (SO832).


This module appears in:

Contact hours

22 hours in total
11 hours of lectures
11 hours of seminars



Method of assessment

Your understanding of the subject matter will be formally assessed on the basis of 100% coursework, which is in three parts:

10%- 500 word research question
30%- 2,000 word research proposal
60%- 3,000 word full research proposal

Preliminary reading

Bryman, A. 2012. Social Research Methods, 4th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Babbie, E. 2013. The Practice of Social Research.13th edition. UK: Wadsworth. Cengage learning.
Diamond, I & Jefferies, J (2001). Beginning statistics : an introduction for social scientists. London: SAGE.
Ragin, C. C. 1987. The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. This details the logic of using the comparative method.
Abbott, Andrew. (2003). Methods of Discovery. New York: Norton.
Habermas, J. (1972) Knowledge and Human Interests, London: Heinemann.
King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module successful students will:

1) have a good grasp of basic issues in the philosophy of social sciences
2)have an understanding of where research problems come from and how we can appropriately differentiate between different research problems and contexts,
3) be aware of the relation between theory, method and research design,
4) know a variety of sampling designs,
5) understand the logic of experimental research
6) have basic knowledge about survey and sampling techniques.
7) Understand the main ethical issues raised by social research

The aim is to discuss the formulation of research problems, the available designs for investigating them and the philosophical assumptions underlying them. The emphasis is on the interaction between problem, theory, research design and empirical analysis, i.e. the way that the formulation of a problem requires or excludes certain designs, and how research designs can affect the results of social research. An emphasis is placed on the critical choices and junctures which have to be made within the research process.

Students who will have achieved the above mentioned learning outcomes will have made considerable progress in developing the following key skills:

8) Communication: Demonstrate skills commensurate with postgraduate study in presentation and debate, both verbal and written, and in utilization of research and empirical data;
9) Problem Solving: Be able to address a large number of complex problems in carrying out research at the postgraduate level, particularly issues related to the design of social research;
10) Information Technology: Be able to gather library and web-based resources appropriate for postgraduate study; make critical judgments about their merits and use the available evidence to construct a developed argument to be presented orally or in writing

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