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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: Designing and Doing Social Research (SCIL10062)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course is for anyone who wants practical experience and skills in social research. The course is designed to mimic a real world research scenario, in which a multi-disciplinary research team takes varying approaches to a topic but works together towards the same goal. The emphasis is on learning while doing, and giving you a structured environment where you can learn how to reflect on your research while you are doing it. Many of the skills you learn on the course will be relevant to your honours project or dissertation, and to your future career.

he course is taught through lectures and group work. The lectures give you grounding in various research skills, debates and controversies in social research. The main focus of the course is the group work. The class is divided into two project streams, each of which is given a contemporary topic to investigate. You sign up for a group and conduct a research project under the guidance of a research supervisor. Each group takes one approach to the topic. Every week the group contributes to a wiki, which is open to the whole class. You will be able to see what other groups are doing and how your work fits in with them. You will learn from your peers in your group and in the whole class and contribute to their learning.'
Course description 'You will join a group that will take one of the following approaches:


Examine what can be, and is, said about this topic on a population level. What population level data is there, including statistics and surveys? How are population categories derived? How is the population constructed, by institutions, researchers and individuals? Do people perceive themselves as belonging to this population or to being affected by this problem? Does the population ¿act¿ as one? Is it acted upon as one? For instance, a prison population is acted upon all the time, and occasionally acts, in the form of riots. Other forms of action are restricted (e.g. they cannot vote). What divisions exist in the population? What defines it? What are its limits? What, if any, relationships cut across population categories?


The group will be asked to use observational methods, and to reflect on what can be observed, how and by whom. Consider the settings available to you to observe ¿ are they public spaces, institutions, commercial spaces, private? What roles are normal in those settings? Who may enter? What activities and interactions is it possible for you to observe, and which are difficult or impossible? What is your role in the setting going to be: an insider, or an outsider? Does your presence affect what is going on?


A full-scale ethnography is obviously not possible in this timescale so you will be asked to use immersive methods and ethnographic engagement with the setting. The core of ethnography is participant observation. Consider some of the questions asked of the Observation group. You can also ask what kind of participant you are? How do other people involved in the setting see your role? How are you affected by participating?

Visual Methods

In society we rely heavily on visual information but most research focuses on words and actions. We would like this group to examine the visual elements of the topic. What challenges do visual data present for this topic? What kinds of visual data are available to you ¿ adverts, magazine articles, banners, videos? How is it produced and for what purpose? What visualisations are there, e.g. maps, diagrams, flowcharts? Can you collect or produce any visual data yourselves?


Every subject is surrounded by a discourse, meaning the talk of experts, politicians, participants and others that defines and categorises the activity. The group will analyse discourse production and consumption. Who produces the discourse and how is it heard? What are the benefits and limits of various approaches to discourse analysis? Are you looking at what is said, or how it is said? Will you include non-verbal data such as images as part of discourse?

Policy, politics and practice

The group will look at the links between evidence, policy and intervention on this topic (if there is one). Who formulates policy and how is social research evidence used? How is evidence filtered and selected? Does evidence frame or provide a basis for intervention? What are the politics of this topic? What kind of interventions are there: public health, education, treatment, regulation, policing? Can research evidence shape these interventions?'
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 2 social science courses (such as Sociology, Politics, Social Policy, Social Anthropology, etc) at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  109
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 165 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students will understand the principles and approaches to social research, and have the ability to compare different perspectives on research methods
  2. Students will be able to design their own research project and methodology, write it up and present it to their peers
  3. Students will learn to work with others in a group around a common problem, allocate tasks and responsibilities, mediate and manage group work processes
  4. Students will be able to evaluate different methodological approaches to various research topics of current relevance
  5. Students will be able to compare and critically assess research findings, and make judgments on research quality and validity
Reading List
The main textbook for the course is Rossman, Gretchen, and Sharon F. Rallis. 2003. Learning in the Field: An Introduction to Qualitative Research. Sage Publications. You might also like: Clough, Peter, and Cathy Nutbrown. 2007. A student¿s guide to methodology: justifying enquiry. Sage, and David Silverman, 2007, A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about qualitative research, Sage.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills You will have demonstrable skills in:

· Team and personal management

· Report writing, summarising, and presentation

· Analytical and critical thinking

· Evaluation of your own and others¿ work'

KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Angus Bancroft
Tel: (0131 6)50 6642
Course secretaryMrs Shazia Leonard
Tel: (0131 6)50 4457
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