MY400      Half Unit
Fundamentals of Social Science Research Design

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alasdair Jones COL8.12


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Applied Social Data Science and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Demography/Population Studies, MPhil/PhD in Social Policy, MPhil/PhD in Social Research Methods, MPhil/PhD in Sociology, MSc in Applied Social Data Science, MSc in Gender (Research), MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in International Migration and Public Policy and MSc in Statistics (Research). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Research students please see MY500.

Course content

Research design necessitates trade-offs between the strengths and weaknesses of different feasible options.  This course aims to introduce the broad range of design options and to foster an appreciation of these alternatives for particular research objectives.  Drawing on a variety of examples from the social scientific literature, this course will explore design considerations and options across quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods research. At the end of the course, students will be able to read a wide variety of empirical social science with a critical and balanced perspective and will be better equipped to implement and make arguments defending the methods they use in their dissertations.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totaling a minimum of 20 hours across Michaelmas Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online seminars and lectures delivered as short recorded videos.

This course has a Reading Week in Week 6 of MT.

Formative coursework

For the formative coursework, students will be expected to articulate and set-up (via recourse to the literature) a research question or set of interlinked research questions that they would like to answer for a topic of their choosing. Assignments should be 1-2 pages long (including in-text citations and reference list).

Indicative reading

Robson, Colin and McCartan, Kieran (2015, 4th edition). Real World Research. London: John Wiley.


Research proposal (30%) and other (10%) in the MT.
Research design (60%) in the ST.


(MT: Research proposal 1500 words, 30%; seminar participation (including online seminar participation), 10%; ST: Research design: 4000 words, 60%)


Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2019/20: 78

Average class size 2019/20: 11

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information