Understanding Social Research - SO926

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 2)
Spring 7 20 (10) MS A Kosaraju checkmark-circle


This course introduces students to the logic and methods of social research. It aims to familiarize students with central topics in research design and the ethics of social research so that they can apply this knowledge to their understanding of fields of social and public policy. The module introduces students to both positivist and critical/interpretive approaches and the debates behind their selection for conducting research. It will invite them to consider how research questions are generated and answered. It will enable students to identify common mistakes in the social research methods used to develop sector relevant policy and how to effectively and systematically address issues. Topics will also include: ethics and informed consent; sampling for qualitative and quantitative research; methods of primary and secondary data collection, methods of qualitative and quantitative analysis. It will give them an opportunity to learn and practise introductory skills in the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 15
Private study hours: 185
Total study hours: 200



Method of assessment

100% coursework comprising:

Coursework assignment 1- critique of Research Article (2000 words) - 30%
Coursework assignment 2 - Research Design (3000 words) - 55%
Coursework - online forum contribution – 15%.

Both written assignments must be passed in order for the module to be passed overall

Indicative reading

Becker, S., & Bryman, A. (Eds.). (2004). Understanding Research for Social Policy and Practice. Bristol: Policy Press.
Bryman, A. (2012). Social Research Methods. Fourth edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cresswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design. London: Sage.
Fielding, J. L., & Gilbert, G. N. (2006). Understanding Social Statistics. London: Sage.
Gilbert, N.G. (2008) Researching social life, 3rd Edition. London: Sage.
White, P (2009). Developing Research Questions: A Guide for Social Scientists. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Have systematic understanding and critical awareness of the main types of social research that are used in fields of social and public policy (positivist, interpretative; qualitative, quantitative; inductive, deductive; observational, experimental, participative, action, and visual).
2. Be able to autonomously specify research questions (and if appropriate, construct hypotheses) and construct a research design appropriate to the questions being asked.
3. Have systematic understanding and critical awareness of the ethical issues raised by social research.
4. Be able to critically assess the methodological choices made in published research studies.
5. Use a comprehensive understanding of appropriate techniques to critically assess whether the design of a research project is appropriate for answering its questions.
6. Have a systematic understanding and critical awareness of the main approaches to the analysis of qualitative (grounded and deductive coding) and quantitative (descriptive and inferential statistics) data.

The intended generic learning outcomes.

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Systematically communicate research results to academic and general audiences at a high level
2. Demonstrate self-direction and originality in managing their time, prioritise workloads and manage stress as well taking independent responsibility for their learning and professional development.
3. Access and evaluate ICT and library based resources appropriate for postgraduate study; make critical judgments about their merits and use the available evidence to construct and communicate a developed argument
4. Have a comprehensive understanding of appropriate techniques enabling them to demonstrate self-direction and originality in solving problems that are common in social research.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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