MY500      Half Unit
Fundamentals of Social Science Research Design

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jonathan Jackson COL.8.08


The course is available to all research students.

Course content

Research design can be considered as a form of problem oriented practical scholarship. It is one of the key components in the empirical social scientific study of social issues. Design is the means to provide relevant information on a research question in an efficient way that meets the criteria of public accountability, in the sense of openness to public scrutiny. Any research design is characterised by both opportunities and constraints, and the selection of the optimal design is always a trade off between the strengths and weaknesses of different options, viewed in the context of feasibility. Drawing on a variety of examples from the social scientific literature, this course will explore design considerations and options, issues of data quality and analysis, and reporting. The broad aims of the course are to: increase awareness of the role of research design in the social sciences; introduce a range of design options; and foster an appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the different options for particular research objectives. At the end of the course, students will be able to bring a more critical reading to the literature and have acquired a basic knowledge of social research design as a contribution to the PhD thesis.


20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 2 hours of lectures in the ST.

Indicative reading

Robson, Colin (2011, 3rd edition). Real World Research. London: John Wiley. Additional sources: Trochim, William and James Donnelly (2008 3rd edition). The Research Methods Knowledge Base. Atomic Dog. [TD]. Gerring, John (2011, not yet published). Social Science Methodology: A Unified Framework. Cambridge University Press. [JG]. King, G., Keohane, R. ; Verba, S. (1994) Designing Social Inquiry, Princeton UP. [KKV]. Geddes, B. (2003) Paradigms and Sand Castles: Theory Building and Research Design in Comparative Politics, University of Michigan Press [BG]. Brady, H. ; Collier, D. (eds) (2004) Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards, Rowman ; Littlefield. (A kind of reply to KKV). [BC]. Bauer, Martin and George Gaskell (2000, eds). Qualitative Researching with Text Image and Sound. London: Sage. Geortz, Gary (2006). Social Science Concepts. Princeton U.P. Gerring, J. (2001) Social Science Methodology: A Criterial Framework, CUP. Robertson, J.D. and Perry, R. (2001) Comparative Analysis of Nations: Quantitative Approaches, Westview Press. Scarborough, E. ; Tanenbaum, E. (eds) (1998) Research Strategies in the Social Sciences: A Guide to New Approaches, OUP.


Research proposal (100%) in the ST.
A research design proposal in preparation for the PhD thesis, not to exceed 5000 words. Due the first week of summer term.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2012/13: 10

Average class size 2012/13: Unavailable

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2011/12 - 2012/13 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: %



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