Social Policy Research

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Tania Burchardt 32L 3.30


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Social Policy (Research) and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available on the MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MPA in Social Impact, MPhil/PhD in Demography/Population Studies, MPhil/PhD in Social Policy, MSc in Social Research Methods and Master of Public Administration. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course is capped at 30 students. All students for whom the course is compulsory will be allocated a space. Any remaining places will be allocated on the basis of the statements provided by students on LSE for You. Priority for these additional places will be given to Social Policy students. No places will be offered until the date listed on LSE for you.



Course content

The course equips you with transferable research design skills, including the design of policy evaluations, and an in-depth understanding of the role of different types of research in the social policy-making process. Lectures are given by leading academics engaged in research using the methods under consideration, many of whom have achieved substantial policy impact. Students are encouraged to critically assess applications of a wide range of research methods to contemporary national and international social policy questions. Topics include: the uses and abuses of quantitative and qualitative research, mixed methods, policy evaluation (including Randomised Controlled Trials); innovations in research;  longitudinal analysis; micro-simulation techniques; systematic reviews, meta-analysis and meta-ethnographies; and small area, geographical and internationally 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. 12 hours and 30 minutes of lectures, 13 hours and 30 minutes of seminars and 15 minutes of help sessions in the LT. 2 hours and 30 minutes of lectures and 15 minutes of help sessions in the ST.

In the first half of the course (MT), SA451 lectures are held jointly with SA4AB Researching International Social and Public Policy. The second half of the course (LT) considers more advanced topics and is SA451 only. Dedicated SA451 seminar groups are held throughout and examine social policy applications of research exemplifying the approach and the issues raised in the preceding lecture. The help sessions are one-to-one tutorial sessions with the seminar leader to discuss feedback on essays and progress on the course.

Formative coursework

There will be three compulsory formative pieces of coursework. In addition, there will be one optional formative assignment. These formative assignments are designed to prepare students for both the summative coursework and the exam. Written and verbal feedback will be provided.

Indicative reading

P Alcock et al (eds) (2016), The Student's Companion to Social Policy, 5th edn;

C Robson (2016) Real World Research, 4th edn

A Bryman (2015), Social Research Methods, 5th edn

J Parkhurst (2017) The politics of evidence: from evidence-based policy to the good governance of evidence. Routledge.

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


Exam (75%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (25%, 3000 words) in the ST.

For the summative coursework essay, students will be asked to design a research project to address a specified socal policy research question, and provide a justification for their proposed design.

The exam focuses on assessing students' abilities to critique social policy research approaches. Students will be asked to answer 3 out of a choice of 9 questions based on the research approaches we have studied during the course.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 23.2
Merit 50
Pass 24.4
Fail 2.4

Teachers' comment

In response to student feedback, SA451 is from this year moving to 25% assessed coursework, reducing the exam component to 75%. One-to-one support and feedback will be given to help students prepare for both components of the assessment.

Students from a range of programmes have highly valued this course in previous years. They tell us it re-enforces their learning in other courses and helps them with their dissertations, as well as contributing to their career prospects in policy and research jobs.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2017/18: 49

Average class size 2017/18: 16

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Lecture capture used 2017/18: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

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

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 100%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)