Research Methods for Social Policy

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Shuang Chen OLD.2.55


This course is compulsory on the 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 and BSc in Social Policy and Sociology. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.


Students must have completed Foundations of Social Policy Research (SP101).

Course content

This course introduces students to tools used by scholars and practitioners in the study of social policy, focusing on their application to addressing research questions and policy issues in various disciplines and contexts. The course is aimed at helping students transform from a consumer to a producer of research. Through various hands-on activities, students will gain first-hand experience of a research process from start to finish,and, subsequently, build confidence and competence for conducting independent dissertation research in the third year. In the process, students will develop life-long problem-solving and analytical skills not only essential for working in the field of social policy but also highly valued by and transferable to other sectors. 


This course is divided into two parts. SP201.2 in MT focuses on research design and qualitative methods. SP201.1 in LT focuses on quantitative methods, including statistical programming using STATA. 


By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  1. Formulate your own research question
  2. Propose appropriate data and methods to answer the question
  3. Recognise ethical issues in social research and address them in research design and conduct
  4. Conduct qualitative research, including collecting data from in-depth interviews, analysing the data, and writing up the results
  5. Appy basic statistical methods to quantitative data and interpret the results


The course combines two elements:

SA201.2 Research Methods for Social Policy

SA201.1 Data Analysis for Social Policy


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 project in the MT and 1 presentation and 1 problem sets in the LT.

  1. A qualitative research plan, including completed ethics forms. By completing this assessment and receiving feedbacks, you will be prepared to begin fieldwork. Importantly, you are required to obtain approval of your ethics forms before you are allowed to conduct any interviews.
  2. Poster presentation. Students will make a poster presenting their qualitative research project, including preliminary findings.
  3. A problem set. The problem set will follow a similar format as the summative quantitative take-home test.

The first two formative assessments are designed to help students succeed on the first summative assessment (i.e., a qualitative research project). The third formative assessment is linked to the summative quantitative take-home test.

Indicative reading

Weiss, Robert S. Learning from strangers: The art and method of qualitative interview studies. Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Imai, Kosuke, and Lori D. Bougher. Quantitative Social Science: An Introduction in Stata. Princeton University Press, 2021.



Project (50%) and take-home assessment (50%).

The summative assessments for this course consist of two components, each worth 50% of the final mark.

  1. A qualitative research project. For this assessment, you will design an independent qualitative research project, collect qualitative data, analyse the data, write up and discuss the findings. 
  2. A quantitative take-home test. The test will resemble a problem set and require students to analyse a given dataset.  

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 24.4
2:1 43.6
2:2 25.6
Third 4.5
Fail 1.9

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2021/22: 73

Average class size 2021/22: 7

Capped 2021/22: Yes (82)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (MT & LT)

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
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills