SO491      Half Unit
Quantitative Social Research Methods

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Burak Sonmez STC.S206


This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Cities Programme, MPhil/PhD in Sociology, MSc in Economy, Risk and Society, MSc in Political Sociology and MSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course has two main goals. It first introduces students to a range of quantitative methodologies used in contemporary social research. Some of these are widespread, others less so, and the class will be keen to explore a wide variety of them, from experimental and survey methods to linear regression and structural equation modelling. The course’s second goal is to reflect on specific topics of the design of quantitative social research and the analysis of quantitative research data. The specific topics involve the articulation of research interest or question, the choice of appropriate quantitative methods to address research questions, and the key strategies for the analysis of quantitative data. This process is most critical when it comes to crafting powerful sociological arguments and theories that are supported by empirical evidence. Our interest in the design of quantitative research and the analysis of quantitative data will allow students to discuss problems of measurement and sampling, conceptualization, inference, and causality. It will also expose students to important debates and divides in quantitative sociology, such as the one between approaches aiming at the establishment of causality on the one hand, and approaches interested in the analysis of probabilities on the other. To achieve these two goals, we will use a case study approach. For every method we cover, we will read a selection of articles taken from the major generalist journals in the discipline. By analyzing and criticizing the operationalization of quantitative methods in these articles, we will cover issues of research design and get a sense of what each method does (and does not do), of the vision of the social world it conveys, and of the type of questions it can be applied to.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, online materials and workshops totalling a minimum of 20 hours in the MT.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students must write memos based on course readings and class activities.

Indicative reading

Abbott, A. (2004). “Ideas and Puzzles”, Chapter 7 in Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for Social Sciences. New York: Norton, pp. 211-248.

Fox, C. (2004). “The Changing Color of Welfare? How Whites’ Attitudes toward Latinos Influence their Support for Welfare”, American Journal of Sociology 110, 580-625.Legewie, J. (2013). Terrorist Events and Attitudes toward Immigrants: A Natural Experiment. American Journal of Sociology, 118(5), 1199-1245.

Piketty, T., & Saez, E. (2003). Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(1), 1-39.

Lim, H., & Duan, H. (2015). Should we blame the graduates for their unemployment? A happiness approach. Hitotsubashi Journal of Economics, 56(2), 243-258.

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.

Savage, M., Devine, F., Cunningham, N., Taylor, M., Li, Y., Hjellbrekke, J., . . . Miles, A.(2013). A New Model of Social Class? Findings from the BBC's Great British Class Survey Experiment. Sociology: The Journal of the British Sociological Association, 47(2), 219.


Memo (40%) in the MT.
Take-home assessment (60%) in January.

The course is assessed by one 2,500-word memo due in the week following the end of MT (40%) and a take-home exam (60%) in the January exam period.

An electronic copy of the first assessed memo to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the Tuesday following the end of Michaelmas Term.

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

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: Sociology

Total students 2019/20: 21

Average class size 2019/20: 22

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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