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SP50324: Doing research for international development

[Page last updated: 04 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 12 [equivalent to 24 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 240
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Academic Year
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Policy Brief (CW 40%)
  • Dissertation Synopsis (CW 60%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
* To provide students with key academic skills necessary for them to successfully complete their chosen pathway programme, focusing especially on the ability to search and review information to answer a question and the ability to argue on the basis of evidence.
* To equip students with key transferrable skills to successfully perform in their professional life and as graduate students, focusing especially on the ability to work as a group and to undertake inter-disciplinary projects that respond to development challenges.
* To prepare students to undertake successfully the dissertation or practicum stage of their chosen Masters of International Development pathway, which will include introducing students to the research methods used in international development to consider responses to contemporary global challenges.
* To build student capacity to undertake a piece of independent research, which they will write up in a dissertation synopsis
* To reflect on the ways in which research feeds into development policy.

Learning Outcomes:
* An understanding of quantitative and qualitative methods used in international development;
* Critical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different research methods with respect to different research objectives in international development;
* An awareness of the ethical issues raised by the use of different research methods across a range of contexts;
* Understanding of approaches to the systematic management of research and other evidence in international development;
* Understanding the purpose of and skills involved in conducting a literature review;
* A deeper and more critical understanding of how to formulate and develop an original research question.

* The ability to find relevant information on a subject or in response to a question within set deadlines;
* The ability to synthesise and interpret evidence for policy making and evaluation;
* The ability to be critical consumers and users of research evidence;
* The ability to work independently and as part of a group;
* The ability to communicate a message effectively to an audience;
* The ability to frame an argument, anticipate and respond to objections.

Content: The unit is based on learning by doing. As such, learning is undertaken through independent study, guided group work, introductory lectures on research design and methods, and writing up an assignment on a research skills exercise (e.g. article review or applied exercise on research methods) and dissertation synopsis.
In the first semester, students engage in activities designed to introduce them to the basics of research design and research methods, as well as to help them write essays and develop research and analysis skills for international development. The unit will include activities aimed at developing the practical skills necessary for undertaking literature reviews, comparing and contrasting a range of research methodologies, and formulating an argument. They will be assessed through a written assignment drawn from a research skills exercise undertaken in class.
In the second semester, students continue working through the foundations of research design by applying the relevant lessons to their own interest areas, engaging in workshops designed to launch their individual dissertation projects. Issues covered will include developing a research question, choosing an appropriate methodology, understanding case studies and using evidence effectively. They will apply these lessons to their own interest area and write this up as a dissertation synopsis.

Programme availability:

SP50324 is a Designated Essential Unit on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • THSP-AFM19 : MSc International Development
  • THSP-AWM19 : MSc International Development
  • THSP-APM19 : MSc International Development
  • THSP-AFM22 : MSc International Development, Social Justice and Sustainability
  • THSP-AWM22 : MSc International Development, Social Justice and Sustainability
  • THSP-APM22 : MSc International Development, Social Justice and Sustainability
  • THSP-AFM20 : MSc International Development with Conflict and Humanitarian Action
  • THSP-AWM20 : MSc International Development with Conflict and Humanitarian Action
  • THSP-APM20 : MSc International Development with Conflict and Humanitarian Action
  • THSP-AFM21 : MSc International Development with Economics
  • THSP-AWM21 : MSc International Development with Economics
  • THSP-APM21 : MSc International Development with Economics


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • 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.