- Academic Registry
Programme & Unit Catalogues

SP50144: Research for policy: concepts, methods and values

[Page last updated: 01 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Semester 2
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • CW Part 1 (CW 50% - Qualifying Mark: 40)
  • CW Part 2 (CW 50% - Qualifying Mark: 40)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Learning Outcomes: By the end of the course students are expected to achieve the following outcomes:
Knowledge and understanding of:
* the key issues in current debates about evidence-based policy in the UK
* approaches to the systematic management of research and other evidence for policy making
* the challenges of applying and disseminating research into policy and practice
* the main methods used for the evaluation of new policies and programmes
Intellectual competence
* critical awareness of the meaning and nature of 'evidence' in policy making and evaluation
Professional and practical competence
* the ability to synthesise and interpret evidence for policy making and evaluation
* the ability to be critical consumers and users of research evidence
Transferable/Key skills
* competence in critical oral and written argument.

Aims: The development of 'evidence-based' policy has become central to government thinking about policy development and to the machinery of government. This unit will:
* introduce students to the main current debates and key literature on 'what works'
* debate the meaning and impact of 'evidence-based' policy
* explore some of the main methods for generating research evidence
* examine examples of the impact of research on policy across a range of policy areas.

Skills: During the unit students will be expected to develop their skills in the following areas:
* Ability to select, summarise and synthesise written information from multiple sources (Facilitated/Assessed)
* Comprehensive and scholarly written communication (Facilitated/Assessed)
* Ability to develop rigorous arguments through precise use of concepts and models (Facilitated)
* Ability to work independently, without close supervision of guidance (Facilitated).

Content: The unit will be taught partly by lectures but mainly in a seminar/reading group format. There will be required reading for each session and practical exercises in evaluating evidence for policy purposes, hence the relatively high proportion of time devoted to private study. There will be a strong focus on the interpretation and use of research evidence for policy. The content will include the following:
* Critical introduction to the theory and practice of 'evidence-based' policy and practice. The interface between researchers and government
* Systematic evidence management for policy - systematic reviews, secondary analysis, e-resources (data-bases, etc), social indicators and audits.
* Research methods for policy - evaluating processes and outcomes, combining qualitative and quantitative methods, longitudinal studies, RCTS, experiments and quasi-experiments.
* Learning from others and from experience - policy transfer, pilots, prototypes and demonstration projects.
* Evidence-based practice and the development of guidelines.
* Assessing impacts - methods of analysis for assessing the impact of policy or practice interventions, isolating effects in the context of multiple interventions.
* Making an impact - case studies of research and policy in practice.
Throughout the unit examples will be drawn from specific policy areas and examples, both from the UK and other countries, and also from a supra-national perspective, in particular in respect of the EU.

Programme availability:

SP50144 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • 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.