Research Methods for Social Policy

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Amanda Sheely OLD.2.52


This course is compulsory on the BSc in International Social and Public Policy, BSc in International Social and Public Policy and Economics and BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics. 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 piece of coursework in the MT and 1 presentation and 1 essay in the LT.

The three formative assessments for the course are condensed components of the final summative coursework.

The first formative includes completing an ethics form for the qualitative component of the study, as well as drafting an interview guide that students will use in their interviews. In the second formative, 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. This assessment includes both turning in the poster, as well as a verbal presentation where students will answer questions about their studies. The last formatie is a short essay where students write an interpretation of their quantitative regression results.

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 (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.

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 in Summer Term. 

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: Social Policy

Total students 2019/20: 44

Average class size 2019/20: 16

Capped 2019/20: Yes (45)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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