Social Policy Research

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Tania Burchardt 32LIF3.34


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Social Policy (Research) and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available on the MPA in European Public and Economic Policy, MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MSc in Social Policy (European and Comparative Social Policy) and MSc in Social Policy (Social Policy and Planning). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course is capped at 45 students. All students for whom the course is compulsory will be allocated a space. Any remaining places (of which there are usually several) will be allocated on the basis of the statements provided by students in their course choice form. This will be done on the Monday following the opening of the course choice system and every two days thereafter, until the course is full.

Course content

The course equips students to critically assess the ways in which a wide range of research approaches are used in the study of social policy questions. This includes: an overview of the varied traditions and approaches to social policy research; Historical methods; Participatory research; Researching organisations; In depth interviews (especially with service users and clients); Evaluation of policy reform; Social experiments and pilots; Geographical methods; Social surveys and the analysis of large datasets; Longitudinal and life history analysis; Micro-simulation techniques; Systematic reviews and meta-analysis; and Comparative research. The relationship between research and policymaking is a theme that runs throughout the course.


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of lectures, 13 hours and 30 minutes of seminars and 15 minutes of help sessions in the LT.

Revision lecture and 15 minute help session in the summer term.

The lectures will be given by a member of staff or external expert in that particular method or topic and are followed by a seminar examining research exemplifying the approach and the issues raised. The help sessions are short one-to-one tutorial sessions with the seminar leader to discuss feedback on essays.

Formative coursework

Students will make at least one seminar presentation per term. In addition to written essays based on two seminar presentations, students will write at least two essays of no more than 2,000 words for the course.

Indicative reading

P Alcock et al (Eds) (2012), The Student's Companion to Social Policy, 4th edn; C Hakim (2000), Research Design: Strategies and choices in the design of social policy, 2nd edn; A Bryman (2012), Social Research Methods, 4th edn.

Additional references will be supplied at the start of the course and in lectures.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 16
Merit 64.2
Pass 17
Fail 2.8

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2014/15: 35

Average class size 2014/15: 12

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

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

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 85%



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