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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Advanced Issues in Sociological Research and Sociology Writing Workshop (SCIL11007)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryThe course focuses on the articulation of the sociological perspective into the design of research projects, data collection and analysis. It draws on current research projects in the Sociology group, which are at the leading edge of the discipline, and entail the creation of new quantitative and qualitative data sets, as well as the analysis of secondary and archival data. Examples of current substantive research themes are national identity; society, governance and politics in a devolved Britain; family and intimate relationships; demographic change in Europe; organisational case studies; South Asian societies; sociology of financial markets; narrative and auto/biography; contemporary culture and scientific and technological knowledge.
Topics covered
During the Autumn Semester advanced techniques of research design, data collection and analysis are examined, using ongoing research projects to contextualise and demonstrate, for example, the use of statistical analysis techniques, case study, documentary and archival analysis and ethnography. Ethical and political considerations, and questions of epistemology and ontology, are set in the context of specific projects.

In the Spring Semester, the emphasis is on conceptual, logistical, ethical and practical issues in sociological research in relation to the students' own work. The focus is the transition from theoretical and empirical literature to formulation of original research.

Course description The Course is a compulsory requirement for all postgraduate research students studying for the MSc by Research and/or Year 1 PhD in Sociology and Socio-Cultural Studies. Those PhD students who have previously completed the MSc by Research in the School of Social and Political Science are not required to attend, but may wish to do so, because the class meetings prepare participants for the end of year New Directions conference, where all Year one Postgraduate Researchers are required to present their research proposal to the Sociology group and other academic colleagues.

The course focuses on the craft of research, the articulation of a sociological and socio-cultural perspective, its translation into the design of a research project and its expression in academic writing. It draws on leading edge research in Edinburgh Sociology. In the writing workshops, we explore particular aspects of the craft of academic writing. The second semester offers preparation for the presentation given towards the end of the academic year in New Directions.

Outline Content

1. Introduction and writing an academic CV This introductory session begins by organizing an Academic Curriculum to best reflect your work, interests, skills and experiences. A template will be provided.

2. Reviewing or assessing a journal This task is intended to prompt you to think about the discipline of Sociology in a slightly different way, and to locate your research interests within it. In small groups, you will assess two journals: Is it a specialist journal or a general journal? What kinds of articles do they publish? Are they predominantly qualitative or quantitative? What is the word length? Is there variety in the subject matter? What do the articles in the particular issues that you've chosen have in common? Do the articles begin with an empirical problem or a theoretical one?

3. Writing and editing a book review for publication, Session I We will devote two sessions to this assignment. It has several aims. First, it is intended to complement the 'literature review' section of your MSc/PhD project; second, it invites you to think critically - but generously - about a new book in your field, and to locate it within the wider literature; third, it encourages you to concisely analyse both argument and content; fourth, it gives you the opportunity to edit someone else's book review, and thereby gain a new perspective on editing your own work; and finally, it gives you a chance to direct your review toward a book review editor of a relevant journal. So in the first session we begin by choosing a book and a journal that will publish your review.

4. Craft of research: Ethnographing Cultural Production Back Home This week we will look more closely at some of the considerations involved in being a participant observer at home. We will seek to address a number of questions on the positionality of the researcher in the field, continuously (and immediately) renegotiating boundaries of friendship, intimacy, professional collaboration, family, and research. How do these complexities influence ethnographing situated cultural production?

5. Writing and editing a book review for publication, Session II We continue from Week 3, session 1.

6. Craft of research: Reflections of an Early Mid-Career Researcher We discuss some common misconceptions about graduate school and life after graduate school that incoming postgraduate students tend to hold.

7. Craft of Research: Researching the Ordinary Political challenges arising from austerity and sustainability, alongside the emergence of technically sophisticated 'mobile' and 'live' methods, have helped to focus social scientific attention on the ordinary or the everyday. In this session we will look at some of the challenges of researching the ordinary, taking as an example the Liveable Lives project, a study of everyday 'kindness'. In particular we will look at research participants' reflexivity; that is, their experience of having their ordinary, everyday lives researched.

8. & 9. Writing for lecturing (in small groups) This semester we begin writing about your project for different academic audiences. This workshop on writing a lecture outline has two objectives. Most immediately, it asks that you think creatively and imaginatively about how to present to first-year students some dimension, idea, or particular area of your work about which you are especially enthusiastic. And secondly, it asks you to think not only about the best way to present something to attract interest in Sociology, but also to be mindful of how it might be at once engaging and accessible to a first-year class.

10. Revisiting the book review We return to the books reviews and assess progress, revisions and publication strategies.

1-3. Writing a research proposal, Sessions I-III The next 4 workshops encourage you to think about your research proposal, both for Board Paper purposes and in terms of how it might be presented to a grant or funding organization. Of necessity, you will have to pay particular attention to your methods/data: are your indicators really assessing (measuring) what you think they are? Does your evidence answer your question? Do you have access to interviewees? What is the difference between a literature review and a theoretical framework? It will also prompt you to carefully consider the potential impact of your research and, where relevant, its policy implications. We will do individual and group work as we craft research proposals.

4. Writing for publication This final workshop is not intended as an endpoint, but as a springboard for a potential publication. We will pull together some of what we have done in previous workshops and explore how to think about preparing an article or working paper based on some aspect of the research that you will undertake after this course ends.

5-10. Project presentations These last sessions are designed for crafting, delivering, critiquing and improving your project presentations, both in terms of content and delivery in advance of New Directions.

The Course takes the form of a participatory workshop, meeting for weekly for two hours.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  28
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Please contact the School directly for a breakdown of Learning and Teaching Activities
Assessment (Further Info) Please contact the School directly for a breakdown of Assessment Methods
Additional Information (Assessment) This is a pass/fail course, to achieve a pass in the course students are required to:
- Attend every session
- Prepare an academic Curriculum Vitae
- Outline and present a first-year lecture in a small group based on your area of interest
- Present your research project to the class for extensive comment and feedback
- Write and submit to a book review for publication
- Make a research presentation to the New Directions Conference
- Attend all Sociology Seminar series talks and be prepared to discuss them in class
Feedback Students receive written or oral feedback on each of the submitted pieces of work (CV, book review, class presentation, and New Directions presentation), and on their research presentation by the course convener and peers in-class, and by Sociology staff and students at the New Directions conference.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Critically engage in debate with researchers who are generating and analysing quantitative and qualitative data, and solving the epistemological, political, ethical and practical problems entailed
  2. Evaluate and design the sociological formulation of research questions, design, methods and data analysis
  3. Use at a high level of sophistication a range of data sources and techniques for their analysis
  4. Effectively present their research plans orally to their peers and colleagues
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Radhika Govinda
Tel: (0131 6)50 3916
Course secretaryMs Aikaterini Charvala
Tel: (0131 6)50 4296
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