SO491      Half Unit
Quantitative Social Research Methods

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ioanna Gouseti STC.S105a

Availability

This course is compulsory on the MSc in Sociology and MSc in Sociology (Research). This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Sociology, MSc in Economy, Risk and Society and MSc in Political Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course has two main goals. It first introduces students to a range of quantitative methods used in contemporary social research. Some of these methods are widespread, others less so, and the class will be keen to explore a wide variety of them, from linear regression to network analysis structural equation modelling. The course’s second goal is to reflect on the design of quantitative social research. By research design we here mean the articulation of research interest or question, data, and method. This articulation is most critical when it comes to crafting powerful sociological arguments and theories that are supported by empirical evidence. Our interest in the design of quantitative research will allow students to discuss problems of measurement and sampling, conceptualization, inference, and causality. It will also expose students to important debates and divides in quantitative sociology, such as the one between approaches aiming at the establishment of causality on the one hand, and approaches interested in the analysis of probabilities on the other. To achieve these two goals, we will use a case study approach. For every method we cover, we will read a selection of articles taken from the major generalist journals in the discipline. By analyzing and criticizing the operationalization of quantitative methods in these articles, we will cover issues of research design and get a sense of what each method does (and does not do), of the vision of the social world it conveys, and of the type of questions it can be applied to.

Teaching

30 hours of workshops in the MT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students must write memos based on course readings.

Indicative reading

Abbott, Andrew. 2004. “Ideas and Puzzles”, Chapter 7 in Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for Social Sciences. New York: Norton (p. 211-248).

Leifer, Eric. 1992. “Denying the Data: Learning from the Accomplished Sciences”, Sociological Forum 7: 283-299.

Lieberson, Stanley, and Freda Lynn. 1998. “Barking Up the Wrong Branch: Scientific Alternatives to the Current Model of Sociological Science”, Annual Review of Sociology 28: 1-19.

Fox, Cybelle. 2004. “The Changing Color of Welfare? How Whites’ Attitudes toward Latinos Influence their Support for Welfare”, American Journal of Sociology 110: 580-625.

Salganik, Matthew J., Peter S. Dodds, and Duncan J. Watts. 2006. “Experimental Study of Inequality and Unpredictability in an Artificial Cultural Market”, Science 311: 854–856.

McPherson, Miller, Lynn Smith-Lovin and Matthew E. Brashears. 2006. “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades”, American Sociological Review 71: 353-375.

Burt, Ronald S. 2004. “Structural Holes and Good Ideas”, American Journal of Sociology 110: 349-399.

Assessment

Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Other (50%) in the MT.

The course is assessed by two 1,000 word memos due in MT Weeks 9 & 11 (50%) and an unseen 2 hour exam (50%).

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Controlled access 2016/17: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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