Social Research Methods

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Fabien Accominotti STC S206, Dr Kay Inckle STC S110 and Dr Patrick Mcgovern STC S119E


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 introduces students to the theory and practice of research methods in sociology, comprising both qualitative and quantitative methods. The first ten sessions (in the Michaelmas Term) cover quantitative methods and the design of quantitative social research. As the course does not cover hands-on quantitative data analysis, students are encouraged to take MY451 and MY452 to complement it. The ten seminars in the Lent address issues of research design, data collection and analysis in relation to qualitative research methods. Separate syllabi detailing course objectives, course style, readings, teaching arrangements and student assessment and for each of the two terms will be distributed at the beginning of each sequence.


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

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.

Papachristos, Andrew V., David M. Hureau, and Anthony A. Braga. 2013. “The Corner and the Crew: The Influence of Geography and Social Networks on Gang Violence”, American Sociological Review  78: 417-447.

Bruch, Elizabeth E., and Robert D. Mare. 2006. “Neighborhood Choice and Neighborhood Change”, American Journal of Sociology 112: 667-709.

Biernacki, Richard. 2012. Reinventing Evidence in Social Inquiry: Decoding Facts and Variables. New York: Palgrave MacMillan


Exam (25%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Coursework (25%) in the MT.
Presentation (10%) in the LT.
Research project (40%) in the ST.

The Michaelmas Term session is assessed by two methods: (a) one piece of coursework (25% ) and (b) a two-hour written examination in the ST (25%). 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, S116, no later than 16:30 on the submission day. The Michaelmas Term coursework consists of two 1000-word memos; these are due on the Wednesday of week 9 and the Wednesday of week 11, respectively. 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

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 9.8
Merit 52.4
Pass 35.4
Fail 2.4

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2014/15: 25

Average class size 2014/15: 26

Controlled access 2014/15: No

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

Course survey results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

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

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 90.1%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)