SP420      Half Unit
Understanding Policy Research (Advanced)

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Tania Burchardt 32L 3.30


This course is compulsory on the MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Research). This course is available on the MSc in International Social and Public Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Development), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Migration) and MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Non-Governmental Organisations). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All Social Policy Courses are ‘Controlled Access’. Please see the link below for further details on the allocation process.




Course content

The course equips you with transferable quantitative and qualitative 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 and public policy-making process. It is an advanced course and students are expected to already have a grasp of basic research design principles and their application to social and public policy, for example as covered in MY400 Fundamentals of Research Design or SP401 Understanding Policy Research, both of which run in the MT, although these courses are not a formal pre-requisite. 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 complex research methods to contemporary national and international social and public policy questions. Topics may include uses of: mixed methods, policy evaluation; participatory research; researching organisations (including organisational anthropology); longitudinal and life history 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 LT. 1 hour and 30 minutes of lectures and 15 minutes of help sessions in the ST.

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 one-to-one tutorial sessions with the seminar leader to discuss feedback on essays and progress on the course.

Formative coursework

There will be one compulsory formative coursework essay, which will follow from a seminar presentation. In addition, there will be one optional formative assignment. These formative assignments are designed to prepare students for the exam. Written and verbal feedback will be provided.

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 (2015), Social Research Methods, 5th edn.

J Parkhurst (2016) The Politics of Evidence

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


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.

The exam focuses on assessing students' abilities to critique social policy research approaches. Students will be asked to answer 2 out of a choice of 7 questions based on the research approaches we have studied during the course.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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