RESEARCH METHODS: THEORY AND PRACTICE

SHE Level 3
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code M3L424404
Module Leader Emmanuelle Tulle
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject Sociology
Trimester
  • B (January start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Normally successful completion of a Level 2 module or equivalent.

Summary of Content

This module aims to equip students with an understanding of the principles, processes and skills in conducting research. It is also designed to give students the pre-requisite knowledge for the Honours Dissertation. As a department-wide module, it adopts a multidisciplinary approach through which students are introduced to a comprehensive range of traditional and innovative research methods used in the Social Sciences and in media and journalism. It will sensitise students to the ethical challenges of conducting research in a wide range of social contexts. The module will equip students with awareness and skills in quantitative research and analysis in line with the acknowledged need to develop quantitative skills in UK research and to enhance employability. The delivery is split into three parts. In Part 1, the module explores generic themes and debates underpinning the competing and complementary approaches to knowledge and what is constructed as truth and corresponding research strategies. In Part 2, the module focuses on quantitative techniques with a particular focus on data analysis using SPSS and the interpretation of numerical results. In Part 3, students engage with specific research perspectives and techniques in use in the disciplines represented in the Department. By the end of the module students will be equipped to select and develop a topic for their Honours Dissertation and to reflect on the best research strategy.

Syllabus

Part 1: Approaches to knowledge and truth, what is social research, what is it for? Epistemological considerations. Research strategies and evidence. Ethics, power and positionality in research. The importance of the research question. Reviewing the literature. Part 2: Introducing quantitative research and SPSS. Key concepts and principles. Measurement and survey design. Sampling. Quality in quantitative research. Quantitative data analysis. (e.g. Police Statistics, Victim Surveys, European Social Survey, Opinions and Lifestyle Survey from UK Data Service). Part 3: Introducing qualitative research. Key concepts and principles. Data as text. Discipline-specific and specialist methods: archival work and other documents as sources of data (maternal health, mental health policy), focus groups (e.g. evaluation of criminal justice initiatives or police training; citizen engagement) , oral history, qualitative interviews, ethnography and participant observation (e.g. investigating physical activity in old age, civil servants or political actors), visual methods (e.g. investigating children's play), internet and email based research, discourse analysis, content analysis (e.g. representations of crime in the media; Stan Cohen's research on 'Folk Devils and Moral Panics') , interpretive analysis. Optional online workshops: These workshops will be led by specialists and reflect expertise within the staff group. They are designed to provide additional specialist training for students who wish to deepen their knowledge in particular research techniques or data analysis. e.g. netnography, mixed methods research, life history interviews, go-along interviews, Using NVivo, quantitative content analysis

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, the student should be able to:1. Demonstrate an historically grounded understanding of key assumptions, debates and theories behind the research process, including competing definitions of what is 'scientific' and what counts as legitimate knowledge;2. Demonstrate critical awareness of the main philosophical and methodological perspectives surrounding the use of evidence and the analysis and interpretation of results;3. Develop an integrative approach to formulating and addressing research problems through evidence-based solutions and arguments;4. Understand issues related to ethical, cross-cultural and professional sensitivity in the context of research design and data handling;5. Understand the key principles of quantitative methods and analysis.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

The aim of the module is to help students grow as independent learners in preparation for the demands of Honours level work, particularly the Honours dissertation and placement modules. Strong emphasis is therefore placed on research methods skills and the critical engagement with knowledge. The module is taught by a combination of lectures, seminars, labs and workshops. Module delivery will make full use of blended learning by a mix of face-to-face teaching and online resources. Practical support is also provided in seminars and laboratories, which provide the opportunity for collaborative, contextualised and self-directed learning. This approach is designed to stimulate students' interest and engagement in the themes and issues of research, which they will apply in the design of their own projects at the end of the module. Later in the module, the focus shifts to more specific disciplinary approaches. Students will be introduced to a range of research techniques consistent with their disciplinary preferences and needs. In particular students are introduced to traditional research techniques as well as emergent and innovative techniques such as visual methods, internet-based data collection, blogs and internet forums, go-along interviews, etc85 These skills will be reinforced in seminars and workshops. Some specialist workshops will take place using online talks and the wiki facility of the VLE. To ensure a positive learning experience for direct-entry students the module is delivered in Semester B when these students will have become more familiar with the demands of study in a University environment. Students will be supported in becoming independent learners through the combination of lectures, reading and guided seminar and lab work. GCULearn plays a vital part in the GSBS learning and teaching strategy as a blended learning tool. The School will ensure that all modules are not only GCULearn-enabled, but also at the cutting edge in developing online learning materials. Academic staff and the Learning Technologists will continue to work together to develop and operate all modules on GCULearn, ensuring effective student support and information sharing. Students are provided with formative and summative feedback via a variety of mechanisms. Feedback on coursework is normally provided within 3 working weeks of submission.

Indicative Reading

-567 Books and articles: Atkinson, P. and Hammersley, M. (2007) Ethnography: Principles in Practice, 3rd Edition, London: Routledge. Baert, P. (2005) Philosophy of the Social Sciences: Towards Pragmatism , Cambridge: Polity.(core text 2) Barbour, R. (2014) Introducing Qualitative Research: A Student's Guide , 2nd Edition, Sage: London. Bryman, A. (2016) Social Research Methods . 5 th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Core text 1) Jupp, V., Davis, P. and Francis P. (eds.) (2010) Doing Criminological Research, 2nd edition , London: Sage. May, T. (2011) Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process . 4th edition, Maidenhead: Open University Press. Rowntree, D. (2000) Statistics Without Tears: An Introduction For Non-Mathematicians . 2nd edition, London: Penguin. Seale, C. (ed) (2012) Researching Society and Culture, 3rd Edition, London: Sage. Seebohm Rowntree, B. (1922) Poverty: A Study of Town Life London: Routledge Silverman, D. (2013) Doing Qualitative Research: A Practical Handbook 4th Edition , London: Sage. Stoneman, S. and Gilbert, N. (eds) (2001), Researching Social Life, 4 th edition, London, Sage. -567 Online sources: The ERSC Research Methods Programme <http://www.ccsr.ac.uk/methods/publications/> Forum: Qualitative Social Research. A special issue on 'Qualitative and quantitative research: conjunctions and divergences' <http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs/fqs-e/inhalt1-01-e.htm> Quantitative and qualitative research <http://writing.colostate.edu/references/research.cfm> The qualitative-quantitative debate

Transferrable Skills

By the end of this module students will have gained competence in the following key areas: - Enhanced understanding of the contested nature of knowledge; - Confidence in undertaking research and analysing data; - Strong written and oral communication skills; - Enhanced IT skills.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Practicals (FT) 4.00
Independent Learning (FT) 138.00
Assessment (FT) 26.00
Seminars (FT) 8.00
Lectures (FT) 24.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Coursework 1 n/a 30.00 n/a class test - quantitative analysis
Coursework 2 n/a 70.00 n/a 3000 research proposal