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PL20878: Research design and methods

Follow this link for further information on academic years Academic Year: 2018/9
Further information on owning departmentsOwning Department/School: Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
Further information on credits Credits: 6      [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Further information on notional study hours Notional Study Hours: 120
Further information on unit levels Level: Intermediate (FHEQ level 5)
Further information on teaching periods Period:
Semester 1
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Summary: ES 67%, OT 33%
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Detail:
  • Practical Assignment (OT 33%)
  • Essay (ES 67%)
Further information on supplementary assessment Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Further information on requisites Requisites: This unit is only available to students on politics programmes.
Further information on descriptions Description: Aims:
The aim of this unit is to provide students with a detailed knowledge of key methodologies and research techniques in preparation for the final year dissertation.
It provides an introduction to the principles, philosophies and practice of research design in social and political science. It introduces students to a selection of qualitative and quantitative research techniques that are available to social and political scientists. It also provides students with an overview and initial experience of planning and conducting political research before the dissertation.
The unit will provide an overview of approaches to theory construction and research design, the selection and definition of a research question, specification of key concepts used in political research, hypotheses testing and an introduction to the different types of hypotheses (correlational and causal). It will also introduce students to qualitative, quantitative and mixed methodological approaches, and provide examples of how they have been used in the discipline. A key aim of the unit is to introduce students to qualitative methods in social and political science by discussing the central methodological concepts and principles that underpin them and examining the criteria for assessing the quality of qualitative research. This is applied to interviews, focus groups, observations and other qualitative techniques.
The second part of the unit provides students with a foundation in statistics, introducing basic but important concepts (the level of maths is kept to a minimum and the unit is designed for those with no previous statistical knowledge). The main aims are to introduce students to the sample survey and its role in social and political research; examine the basic theory that underlies the sampling process; examine how sample data can be used to make inferences about populations from which it is drawn; introduce strategies and techniques of data analysis including cross-tabulation, correlation and simple regression; and introduce the concepts of statistical significance and tests.
Through a combination of show-and-tell lectures and workshops, the unit will provide students with software training for analysis of qualitative and quantitative data.

Learning Outcomes:
By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
* demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a range of approaches and methods employed in the study of politics;
* develop an understanding of approaches to theory construction and research design; understand the relationships between theory and data for political research;
* demonstrate an understanding of the stages involved in the research process from specifying a research question to analysing evidence using data analysis techniques;
* critically appraise up to three qualitative research methods used in political research;
* examine how the social survey is used as a key quantitative resources for political research;
* understand the process by which variables in a dataset are derived from the survey questionnaire;
* demonstrate the role of random sampling in survey research and provide an understanding of different sampling designs, including their strengths and weaknesses;
* demonstrate the ability to interpret and employ descriptive statistics, indicators, questionnaires and other quantitative data used in contemporary political analysis;
* develop an ability to use the data analysis software package SPSS;
* demonstrate the intellectual and practical skills - including understanding concepts and theories, working with numerical data, exercising critical judgement - to carry out, interpret and report a secondary data analysis;
* plan and carry out research for a dissertation.

Skills in the conduct and evaluation of political research are taught and assessed in this unit.


* An introduction to the principles of social and political research - approaches to theory construction aand research design (inductive and deductive); the role of theory in the selection and formulation of research questions; research questions and hypotheses
* An introduction to qualitative, quantitative and multi/mixed method designs - examination of different approaches and how they have been applied in political research
* A detailed overview of qualitative methods in social and political research; narrative/discourse analysis; interviews/elite interviews, observations, focus groups and qualitative comparative analysis and case studies
* Use of NVivo to examine qualitative data
* An overview of key statistical concepts used in political research
* Theoretical and practical overview of the use of surveys/questionnaires in political research - descriptive, exploratory analysis; populations and samples; different sampling designs
* Exploring relationships between categorical variables
* Exploring relationships with interval variables - correlation and simple regression
* Use of SPSS to examine survey data - application of political datasets including BES, Understanding Society, BSA.
Further information on programme availabilityProgramme availability:

PL20878 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
  • UHPL-AYB13 : BA(Hons) French and Politics with Year Abroad (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AYB12 : BA(Hons) German and Politics with Year Abroad (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AYB16 : BA(Hons) Italian ab initio and Politics with Year Abroad (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AYB15 : BA(Hons) Russian ab initio and Politics with Year Abroad (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AYB17 : BA(Hons) Spanish and Politics with Year Abroad (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AFB30 : BSc(Hons) Politics and International Relations (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AAB30 : BSc(Hons) Politics and International Relations with Study year abroad (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AKB30 : BSc(Hons) Politics and International Relations with Year long work placement (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Politics with Economics (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AAB10 : BSc(Hons) Politics with Economics with Study year abroad (Year 2)
  • UHPL-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Politics with Economics with Year long work placement (Year 2)