Research Methods for Social Policy

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael Shiner OLD2.49

Professor Tim Newburn OLD2.27


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Social Policy, BSc in Social Policy and Criminology, BSc in Social Policy and Economics, BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course aims to give students a comprehensive introduction to methods of social research in social policy.

The design and analysis of social policy research. The nature of social measurement. The concept of statistical inference. Data collection by means of social survey, depth interviews, participant observation and documentary methods. Descriptive and inferential statistics, including bivariate and multivariate techniques. Analysis of data particularly from surveys. The use of computers in data analysis. Ethics and politics of Social Policy Research. Strengths and weaknesses of commonly used research methods. Methods of analysing qualitative data. Case studies and experimental designs.


The course combines two elements:

SA201.1 Data Analysis for Social Policy: Dr M Shiner.

Lectures: 9 x SA201.1. Classes: 9 x SA201.1.

Weeks 7, 8, 9, 10 (MT); and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (LT).

Five additional classes during the last 5 weeks of the LT covering the individual project.

SA201.2 Research Methods for Social Policy: Professor T Newburn

Lectures: 11 x SA201.2.fortnightly Classes: 11 x SA201.2.

Weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (MT); 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (LT); and two revision classes (ST).

Formative coursework

For the Research Methods class, students work in small groups on a research project of their choice and then write individual essays on an aspect of this exercise of 2,000-3,000 words. Participation in group work in class, and in preparation for classes, is essential.

For the Data Analysis class, students will use a computer to analyse data, and will be expected to produce summaries and interpretations of their results. Students are also expected to submit an essay based on a past exam question at the beginning of the Lent term. Completion of a project report is a condition of examination entry.

Indicative reading

Alan Bryman (2012) Social Research Methods, 4th edition Oxford University Press; Alan Bryman and Duncan Cramer (2005) Quantitative Data Analysis with SPSS 12 and 13, Routledge Press; Joseph Healey (2005) Statistics: A Tool for Social Research, Wadsworth Press.


Exam (75%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Project (25%) in the LT.

The project topic will be given out early in the LT, and the project report must be handed in to the Undergraduate Administrator in the last week of the LT.

Student performance results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

Classification % of students
First 4.7
2:1 55.1
2:2 37.8
Third 1.6
Fail 0.8

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2012/13: 39

Average class size 2012/13: 11

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

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

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 61.5%



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