Research Methods for Social Policy

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Eileen Munro OLD 2.33 and Dr Amanda Sheely OLD.2.52


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 with permission 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. 


The course combines two elements:

SA201.2 Research Methods for Social Policy: Professor E Munro

MT Lectures: 10 x 1hr SA201.2. Classes: 10 x 1hr SA201.2.

ST: Revision session 1hr

SA201.1 Data Analysis for Social Policy: Dr A. Sheely

Lectures: 10 x 1hr SA201.1. Classes: 14 x 1hr SA201.1.

MT Lectures: weeks  8, 9, 10, 11 (MT);

LT Lectures:  weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 (LT)

MT Classes: weeks 8, 9, 10, 11 (MT);

LT Classes:  weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 (LT)

Formative coursework

For the Research Methods class, students submit an essay by the end of the MT from a list of questions relating to their work on the summative project.

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. Each week of the course, students will be assigned a formative homework assignment.


Indicative reading

Alan Bryman (2012) Social Research Methods, 4th edition Oxford University Press; Alan Acock (2016) A Gentle Introduction to Stata, 5th edition Stata Press; Charles Wheelan (2014) Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data W&W Norton & Company, Inc.


Project (50%, 5000 words) in the ST.
Essay (50%, 3000 words) in the LT.

The first assignment asks students to apply their learning from the Michaelmas Term to create a research proposal. This proposal will describe the type of study design, sampling strategy, and data collection method that will be used for the summative coursework due in Lent Term. This proposal will also include a critique of 3 research articles in depth, identifying the methods used, their appropriateness to the particular questions being addressed, the sample and measurements used and the validity of the conclusions reached. The 

The second assignment is designed to illustrate the whole research process albeit on a small scale. In the Michaelmas Term, you will learn about the research process from having an area of interest, focusing on a specific research question relating to the gender wage gap, and collecting evidence to help you answer that question. In the classes, you will work in small groups to prepare a semi-structured survey instrument that you will each then administer to 4 adults in your life. There will be variation in the specific research question chosen by each small group in relation to the broader issue of the gender wage gap but the instrument will also contain some closed questions common to all the instruments. This will produce both qualitative data and quantitative data. The assignment will include the analysis and discussion of both sets of data.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
First 4.5
2:1 48.5
2:2 37.9
Third 5.3
Fail 3.8

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2016/17: 40

Average class size 2016/17: 11

Capped 2016/17: Yes (45)

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

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

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 67%



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