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XX50170: Principles & skills of social research

[Page last updated: 15 October 2020]

Follow this link for further information on academic years Academic Year: 2020/1
Further information on owning departmentsOwning Department/School: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences (units for MRes programmes)
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: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Further information on teaching periods Period:
Semester 1
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Summary: OR 100%
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Detail:
  • Mini Viva (OR 100%)
Further information on supplementary assessment Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Further information on requisites Requisites:
Description: Aims:
The course aims to:
* critically introduce the epistemological and methodological traditions in social research and the basic principles of social research design;
* critically introduce key epistemological aspects of the relationship between measurement and meaning;
* critically introduce the ethical and policy issues surrounding the practice of social research;
* introduce key skills for designing, organising a research project and collecting data; conducting critical reviews of published research; and disseminating and communicating research.

Learning Outcomes:
By the end of the course students are expected to:
in terms of Knowledge and Understanding:
* understand the significance and rationales of alternative epistemological paradigm, research methodologies and modes of social scientific enquiry
* understand the principles of alternative research designs and corresponding techniques of social analysis
* understand the social, political and ethical context of the social research process
in terms of Intellectual competence
* have developed their capacity in problem solving, conceptualising the dimensions of a problem and operationalising its key parameters
* understand the contextual character of methods and how they become established as definitive of a discipline or of research fields within a discipline
in terms of Professional and Practical competence
* be able to evaluate research, including undertaking refereeing and book reviews;
* be able to organise a research project and collect data using a variety of methods including using Internet-based tools, as well as generate data
* understand issues posed by social research in relation to ethics, confidentiality and legality
* respect, consider and attend to the rights of other researchers and research participants;
* develop their competence in formulating research proposals for external funding and complete end-of-award reports to sponsors;
in terms of transferable/Key skills
* develop their competence in critical oral argumentation, particularly in terms of the application of complex general principles to particular practical situations
* develop their competence in effective writing, presentation and dissemination of research findings to practitioners and lay audiences;
* develop career management skills, including skills in using new technologies for obtaining information about new career opportunities, evaluation of personal and career development needs, self-promotion and marketing.

During the course students are expected to develop their skills in the following areas:
* Comprehensive and scholarly written communication (e.g. essays) (Taught/Facilitated/Assessed)
* Ability to select, summarise and synthesise written information from multiple sources (T/A)
* Ability to develop rigorous arguments through precise use of concepts and models (T/F/A)
* Ability to produce work to agreed specifications and deadlines (T/F/A)
* Ability to work independently, without close supervision of guidance (T/A).

The unit is delivered through lectures and seminars that stimulate participation by students. The main topics to be covered include: ontology and epistemology in social research, research question design and formulation, literature reviews, criteria for evaluating research and strategies to enhance research quality, the use and misuse of mixed methods, preparing research proposals and communicating research.
Further information on programme availabilityProgramme availability:

XX50170 is a Designated Essential Unit on the following programmes:

Department of Education Department for Health Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
  • THXX-AFM50 : MRes Politics & International Studies
  • THXX-AFM51 : MRes Politics & International Studies (Leading to PhD)
Department of Psychology Department of Social & Policy Sciences

XX50170 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Computer Science
  • RSCM-AFM51 : Integrated PhD Accountable, Responsible and Transparent Artificial Intelligence
  • TSCM-AFM51 : MRes Accountable, Responsible and Transparent Artificial Intelligence
  • TSCM-AFM52 : MSc Accountable, Responsible and Transparent Artificial Intelligence


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2020/21 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2021/22 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2020/21.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.