Social Research Methods

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ursula Henz and Dr Jesse Potter


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Sociology and MSc in Sociology (Research). This course is available on the MSc in Economy, Risk and Society and MSc in Political Sociology. This course is not available as an outside option.

Part-time students taking the MSc over two years may take the course in either the first or second year.

Course content

The course covers both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Special topics include: different epistemological positions; formulating research problems; the social context of research; ethical aspects of research; concepts and their measurement; attitude measurement and scaling; inference and generalization including probability and non-probability sampling; research design, including experimental and quasi-experimental; comparative research; methods of data collection including questionnaire design, structured, semi-structured and unstructured interviewing, ethnography and participant observation; introductions to contemporary survey research techniques by telephone and by the Internet; other sources of data for sociological research; analysis of qualitative data, including computer assisted analysis. As the course does not cover quantitative data analysis, students might consider taking MI451 to complement the course.


The course is taught by a mixture of lectures, seminars and workshops. It normally provides two hours of teaching each week in MT, with 3 hour workshops in the LT and three revision seminars in ST. 

Formative coursework

Students must participate in group presentations and undertake several pieces of compulsory practical work during the year. 

Indicative reading

There is no single textbook that covers the content of the whole course. Useful books are: R H Hoyle, M J Harris & C M Judd, Research Methods in Social Relations (7th edn 2002); D A de Vaus, Surveys in Social Research (5th edn 2001); R M Groves, F J Fowler Jr., M P Couper, et al. (2004): Survey Methodology (2nd edition 2009), C Marsh, The Survey Method (1982); A N Oppenheim, Questionnaire Design, Interviewing and Attitude Measurement (new edn 1992); A Bryman, Quantity and Quality in Social Research (1988); N Gilbert Researching Social Life (2008, third edn); M Hammersley & P Atkinson, Ethnography: Principles in Practice (3rd edn 2007); H Becker Tricks of the Trade (1998); J Creswell Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design (2012, 3rd edn); D Silverman Doing Qualitative Research (2010, 3rd edition); D Silverman and A Mavasti Doing Qualitative Research: A comprehensive review (2008); M Q Patton, Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods (3rd edn 2002); J. Mason Qualitative Researching (3rd edn 2013).


Exam (35%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Coursework (15%) and presentation (10%) in the LT.
Research project (40%) in the ST.

Exam will be held during the Summer Term exam session.

The Michaelmas Term session is assessed by two methods: (a) one piece of coursework (15% ) and (b) a two-hour written examination in the ST (35%).

The Lent Term session is assessed by a qualitative research project (10% presentation; 40% project write-up).

Two hard copies of each assessment, with submission sheets attached to each, to be handed in to the Administration Office, S219A, no later than 16:30 on the submission day. The Michaelmas Term coursework is due on the second Friday of Lent Term and the Lent Term project is due on the fourth Tuesday of Summer Term. An additional copy of each assessment is to be uploaded to Moodle no later than 18:00 on the same day each is due.

Attendance at all seminars and submission of all set coursework are required.

Student performance results

(2009/10 - 2011/12 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 4.9
Merit 55.6
Pass 34.6
Fail 4.9

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2012/13: 22

Average class size 2012/13: 11

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills