Postgraduate Course: Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection (PGSP11016)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||Data Collection is concerned with the techniques and practices of doing empirical research. This course teaches professional competence in gathering information by talking to people, collecting documents, conducting surveys and observing social interaction. We cover a range of associated issues, including identifying and using different sources; recruiting and negotiating access to research respondents; formulating questions and managing interviews and focus groups; sampling populations and designing surveys; recording observations; research ethics, and analysing qualitative data.
PLEASE NOTE that the course provides a basic introduction to key methods of data collection in social and political research. It is a core course for all students taking MSc by Research, MSc Social Research or PhD programmes in SSPS. Students who have taken research methods courses at undergraduate level or on other postgraduate programmes are likely to be exempt from this course, and are recommended to choose more advanced options. Exemptions are made at the discretion of a student's supervisor and/or programme director.
Data Collection is concerned with the techniques and practices of doing empirical research. This course teaches professional competence in gathering information by talking to people, collecting documents, conducting surveys and observing social interaction. We cover a range of associated issues, including identifying and using different sources; recruiting and negotiating access to research respondents; formulating questions and managing interviews and focus groups; sampling populations and designing surveys; recording observations; research ethics and methods for qualitative data analysis.
This session will describe how the course will run, map out course requirements including assessment, discuss the difference between data collection and research design, and between primary and secondary data collection and data analysis, and give a short history of data collection within the social sciences.
2: Interviews and Focus Groups
If you want to find out about something, ask someone who knows. This lecture considers the role and purpose of interviews and focus groups in data collection, discussing the different ways they might be carried out, and with whom.
3: Survey Method
The focus here is on understanding how surveys produce knowledge, what they are used for, how to sample respondents or cases, and how to assess their validity.
4: Questionnaire Design
Design principles, including what to include, length and how to increase response rates, as well as detailed illustrations and comments on forms of questions and response formats.
5: Ethnographic Methods
This lecture will cover ethnographic research methods, particularly as applied to studying science and technology, sociology, social policy etc. It will explain the distinctive aims and applications of ethnographic work and suggest ways of talking about what you are doing. The session will also introduce you to some of the ways in which this kind of data might be recorded and analysed.
Ethics is a horizontal strand running through all of the data collection methods discussed in the course. This lecture will provide an overview of the principles and issues to consider when assessing the ethical dimension of your work as a researcher, including RCUK ethical guidelines.
7: Using Documents
What is a document? What should count as a document in social research, and on what terms? This lecture reviews some of the different kinds of document available to social scientists, how they are used and what they might mean.
8: Visual Data
How might photographs act as a tool for data collection? Are photographs 'texts'? Are they any use as evidence? The session will also provide a brief introduction to other forms of visual data, including more participatory and arts based approaches, as well as how different forms of visual data are recorded.
9: Online Methods
This lecture will consider the use of the internet as a medium for social research, reflecting on the practicalities, challenges and ethical issues facing researchers using online methods. It will also introduce you to some of the opportunities and challenges of using digital data and big data for your research.
10: Introduction to Qualitative Data Analysis
This lecture will cover methods for qualitative data analysis including introduction to the use of computer packages such as Nvivo.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1)
|Course Start Date
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Additional Information (Learning and Teaching)
"Assessment includes practical work
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||There are two parts to the assessment:
1. Workshop participation 20%.
2. 3,500-word essay 80%
||You will be required to attend workshops as part of this course where you will practise the techniques that you have learned about in lectures and discuss how you might apply these methods in your own research. You will receive summative feedback from your workshop facilitator and formative feedback from your peers. You should reflect on this when writing your essay.
You will receive written feedback on your account of your data collection exercise, in particular, on your ability to reflect critically on the appropriateness and effectiveness of the method used.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the principal methods of data collection used by social scientists
- Plan and use one or more of these methods in developing an empirical research project
- Critically reflect on the appropriateness and effectiveness of different methods in different circumstances
- Discuss the essential problems and methods of data collection with peers and others, both orally and in writing
- Display appropriate levels of responsibility in working alone and in collaboration with others, notably in the application of ethical and other professional guidelines
|Becker, H.S. (1998) Tricks of the Trade: How to think about your research while you're doing it, London: University of Chicago Press|
Ritchie, J and Lewis, J (eds) (2014) Qualitative Research Practice: A guide for social science students and researchers, Sage
Bryman, A. (2016) Social Research Methods, 5th Edition, Oxford University Press
Smith, L. (2021) Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples, 2nd Edition, London: Zed Books
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Miss Emma Davidson
|Course secretary||Mrs Beth Richardson-Mills
Tel: (0131 6)51 1659