Research Methods for Social Policy

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Amanda Sheely OLD.2.52


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Criminology, BSc in International Social and Public Policy, BSc in International Social and Public Policy and Economics, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Social Policy, BSc in Social Policy and Economics, BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

The course aims to give students a comprehensive introduction to methods of social research in social policy.

By the end of the course students should:

1. Be familiar with the stages of the research process and different approaches to social policy research.

2. Appraise different methods and their appropriateness to particular questions.

3. Be able to conduct and clearly present the results of basic analyses of quantitative and qualitative data.

4. Be able to critically assess research studies and their use of methods.

5. Understand the ethical issues involved in conducting research.


The course combines two elements:

SA201.2 Research Methods for Social Policy: Dr A. Sheely

MT Lectures: 10 x 1hr SA201.2. Classes: 10 x 1.5 hr SA201.2.

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

Lectures: 9 x 1hr SA201.1. 1x 2hr SA201.1 Classes: 10 x 1.5 hr SA201.1.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT and 1 piece of coursework in the LT.

For SA201.2, students will submit a critique of an assigned research article.

For SA201.1, students will create and present a poster that outlines the design of their research study, including an overview of the literature, their research question, qualitative and quantitative sampling and data collection strategies, and ethical considerations.

Indicative reading

Marilyn Lichtman (2014) Qualitative Research for the Social Sciences. Sage Publications. 

Robert de Vries. (2018) Critical Statistics: Seeing Beyond the Headlines. Macmillan International.

Alan Acock (2016) A Gentle Introduction to Stata, 5th edition. Stata Press.



Essay (30%, 2000 words) in the MT.
Essay (70%, 5000 words) in the ST.

The first assignment asks students to apply their learning from the Michaelmas Term to critique two research articles. This critique will include identifying the methods used, their appropriateness to the particular questions being addressed, the sample and measurements used and the validity of the conclusions reached. Students will also be expected to synthesise findings across articles in order to justify the qualitative and quantitative research questions that they will explore in LT. The coursework will be due in the second week of Lent Term.

For the second assignment, students will design and carry out a small mixed-methods research study related to a given topic. In the essay, students will describe and justify the their choice of research methods for both the qualitative and quantitative components of the project (research question, sampling, data collection, data analysis, and ethical considerations). The assignment also includes the presentation and discussion of results from the research study. The second assignment is due the first week of Summer Term. 

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills