Foundations of Social Policy Research

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Lucinda Platt (OLD.2.25)


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

This course is concerned with two questions that are essential to the study of social and public policy. First, how do we know what policies are needed, how they are experienced and whether they are effective? And second, how is this knowledge used: how (if at all) does it feed into the policy process and improve policies and outcomes?

SP101 aims to equip students to become informed consumers of research, able to read and evaluate research outputs that use a range of different approaches and methods to address questions in social and public policy. Students will be encouraged to think critically about the way that knowledge is constructed, about the nature of expertise, and about the influence of values and positionality on knowledge production. They will learn to assess the validity of claims made on the basis of research studies that use a range of different methods. The course will also explore the way evidence is used in policy making and in public discourse.

The course provides the foundations for students to become active researchers themselves in later stages of the BSc ISPP degrees, preparing them for the second year research methods course and for their third year dissertation.


Courses in Social Policy follow the Teaching Model outlined on the following page: https://www.lse.ac.uk/social-policy/Current-Students/teaching-in-the-department-of-social-policy


All teaching will be in accordance with the LSE Academic Code (https://info.lse.ac.uk/current-students/lse-academic-code) which specifies a "minimum of two hours taught contact time per week when the course is running in the Michaelmas and/or Lent terms". Social Policy courses are predominantly taught through a combination of in-person Lectures and In person classes/seminars. Further information will be provided by the Course Convenor in the first lecture of the course.


This course is taught in both MT and LT.

Formative coursework

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

The essay in MT will be a short article critique (500 words), with a longer essay (1,000 words) due in LT.

Students will receive feedback on both to help them build towards their final essay.

Students will also make and receive feedback on a group presentation in MT, which will provide the basis for their assessed blogpost.

Assessed quizzes as well as other class activities will provide further opportunities for students to check their learning.

Indicative reading

Becker, S., Bryman, A. and Ferguson (2012) Understanding Research for Social Policy and Social Work: Themes, Methods and Approaches. 2nd Edition. London: Policy Press.

Bryman, A. (2012) Social Research Methods, 4th edition. Oxford University Press.

Della Porta, D. and Keating, M. (2008) Approaches and Methodologies in the Social Sciences. Cambridge: CUP.

Gilbert, N. (2008) Researching Social Life 3rd ed. London: Sage. 

Hill Collins, P. and Bilge, S. (2016) Intersectionality (Key Concepts). London: Polity Press.

Howard, C. (2017) Thinking Like a Political Scientist. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Parkhurst, J. (2017) The Politics of Evidence: From evidence based policy to the good governance of evidence. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.


Essay (80%, 2000 words) in the ST and quiz (20%) in the LT.

Two forms of assessment will make up the overall grade for the course.

There will be two in-class quizzes on key terms and concepts during Lent Term; the better of the two quiz scores will count towards the grade (20%)

Students will submit a 2,000 essay in Summer Term (80%).

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2021/22: 45

Average class size 2021/22: 8

Capped 2021/22: Yes (60)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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