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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Postgraduate Course: Criminological Research Methods (LAWS11499)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the processes of scoping out and designing empirical research in criminology and criminal justice. Key topics include: situating research within a field of academic literature; developing research aims and questions; methods of data collection and their strengths and weaknesses; critical reflexivity and standpoint; and research ethics.

Course description This course explores the processes of scoping out and designing empirical research in criminology and criminal justice. It examines the relationship between theory and method and provides students with a critical understanding of research evidence. The course exposes students to current practical and policy issues in criminal justice and engages them with the skills and technologies that are deployed to scope out a field of literature. The strengths and weaknesses of a range of qualitative and quantitative data generation approaches are assessed in the context of how they can be applied to particular research problems. Right from the outset the themes of the politics of research, ethics, and reflexivity are introduced and run through the entire course. The course aims to take students on the journey of a researcher; supporting them to scope out and then design an empirical research project on a topic of their own devising.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  25
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Literature Review of 2500 words (30%):
Description: A short literature review on a topic of the student¿s choice. The review must situate the topic in the wider academic literature, review it critically identifying important themes, gaps and problems within it, and come to conclusions about what are important questions for further study that emerge from it.

Research Proposal of 2500 words (70%)
Description: A Research Proposal providing succinct referenced academic background to the chosen topic area, and demonstrating how the project fits with and contributes to existing research. It will then state the aims of the proposed project and the specific questions that will be explored. It should then set out a research design, indicating the proposed methodology for answering or exploring these questions and should justify the chosen approach as appropriate whilst also being reflective about its possible limitations. Throughout the proposal, but particularly in the discussion of methodology, there must be attentiveness to ethical issues.

Feedback Feedback for the summative assessments will be provided in writing on LEARN to the standard 3 week turnaround deadlines (see above).

The assessments include progressiondoing a Literature Review (scoping out a problem) is a necessary stage towards then writing a Research Proposal (as research design to generate new information about that topic). Therefore, the feedback on the Literature Review will offer some feedforward reflections to help the student to progress to the next stage of the research journey. The feedback for the Research Proposal will also include feedforward regarding practical possibilities and problems if the research design were to be implemented (designed to be useful if the student is taking the second semester Applied CRM and/or thinking about an empirical Dissertation)

Workshop with Practitioners. In week 4 students hear from and can pitch ideas to a team of local criminal justice practitioners, getting feedback on their emerging topic ideas for the Literature Review.

Research Questions, Research Design and Ethics II. This week 10 seminar is designed around students being able to pitch and get oral formative feedback on their emerging Research Proposal designs.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Undertake effective searches of academic and other relevant literatures using library and online search skills
  2. Describe and critically evaluate different approaches towards research design and data generation
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of issues of power, reflectivity and ethics as they pertain to empirical research
  4. Apply theory and an understanding of research design, data generation and ethics to the development of an original design for empirical research
Reading List
SAGE Research Methods Online (available through DiscoverED)

Robson, C. and McCartan, K. (2016), Real World Research. (4th edn.) Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons.

King, R.D. and Wincup, E. (eds.) (2007), Doing Research on Crime and Justice. (2nd edn.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Graduate Attributes: Skills and abilities in Research and Enquiry. A student who has completed this course will be able to:
1. Formulate appropriate, viable research questions to investigate complex questions.
2. Design a research project to interrogate criminological questions utilising appropriate and justified methodological approaches.
3. Conduct a systematic review of theoretical and empirical literatures on criminological questions.

Graduate Attributes: Skills and abilities in Personal and Intellectual Autonomy. A student who has completed this course will be able to:
1. Work independently on the design and development of a research project.
2. Work reflexively on a piece of social research, adapting as necessary to individual and classroom feedback.
3. Evaluate different methodological approaches through critical reflection and applying them to real world problems.
4. Recognise the role of theory in social research.
5. Take ownership of their research with an ability to demonstrate its contribution to knowledge while also being cognisant of both its strengths and its weaknesses.
6. Assess the ethical probity of empirical research.

Graduate Attributes: Skills and abilities in Personal Effectiveness. A student who has completed this course will be able to:
1. Utilise existing literatures (theoretical, methodological, policy, legal) in the formulation of research questions and research project designs and critiques
2. Understand different approaches to data generation and be able to apply them to real world problems.
3. Communicate clearly and succinctly about research design and ethics to different audiences: peers, practitioners and academic staff.

Graduate Attributes: Skills and abilities in Communication. A student who has completed this course should be able to:
1. Communicate clearly formulated research problems, proposals and designs in seminar discussion and in the context of formal, referenced, academic writing.

Keywordscriminology; criminal justice; methodology; research methods; research ethics; reflexivity
Course organiserDr Anna Souhami
Course secretaryMiss Lauren Ayre
Tel: (0131 6)50 2010
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