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2019/20 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

SLSP5301M Researching Society and Culture

30 creditsClass Size: 120

Module manager: Prof Nick Emmel

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module focuses on the development of the methodological imagination. It will lead students to chart a course that neither depends on grand theorising nor abstract empiricism, but brings theory into a relation with evidence to investigate the social and cultural world. Researching Society and Culture is intended to equip students with foundational skills to build a bridge between the philosophy of social methods and the methods to investigate social problems; the critical faculties to interrogate the assumptions social researchers (and they) bring to the purposeful choice of methods to investigate, describe, interpret, and explain the social world; and the practical resources to design ethical and potentially impactful research and apply research methods to answer research questions.


• Understand the significance of alternative ontological / epistemological positions and how these frame empirical research in the social sciences.
• Have confidence to engage with a range of standpoints in social research to critically evaluate who speaks for whom.
• Consider and apply good ethical practice across the entire research process.
• Evaluate how and when research questions are developed and refined in research and the ways in which research, its design and impact are framed by the questions asked.
• Critically evaluate and report the epistemic, methodological, and analytic assumptions in research.
• Demonstrate competence in understanding how a broad range of research methods (qualitative, quantitative or both in combination) can be rigorously applied.
• Show awareness of how research is managed, including understanding the challenges of accessing the field, research relationships, data and time management.
Demonstrate an ability to design a piece of social research, making practical use of methodological knowledge and skills developed in the module through oral presentation and written assignment.

Learning outcomes
On completion of the module you should be able to:
• understand the philosophical premises upon which (social) science research rests and the relation between these and different methodological perspectives and practical research strategies
• critically chart the relations between descriptive / explanatory social science and normative discourse
• engage reflexively and ethically with the production of knowledge in social research
• develop research questions that formally express intellectual puzzles in social science research
• understand the rationale for using particular qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods to access social insight and experience
• recognise and resolve key issues and questions in the design of social research, its description, interpretation, and explanation
• design a piece of social research, present this research for assessment and write a research proposal

Skills outcomes
An important feature of this course is the exposure of students to wide-ranging fields and disciplines across the social sciences so they may gain insights and learn from areas with which they are not familiar or would not normally come into direct contact with in the scholarly pursuits.


The module is divided into three parts:
Part one is foundational and seeks to introduce students to key philosophical and methodological debates in social science research.

Part two support students to critically evaluate the assumptions underlying social research methods and their practical application to real-world problems.

Part three considers research design and the practical application of the knowledge gained through the course.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours60.00
Private study hours220.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Students are supported through directed learning and diverse materials made available to them online through the VLE, these include guided reading, exemplars of research proposals and their application, and access to extensive on-line commercial (e.g. SAGE Methodspace) and methodological resources developed by teaching staff on the course. These build on existing resources already written in the School. All sessions include particular tasks to be completed in preparation for the session. These on-line resources will require approximately 6 hours of independent online learning a week over 10 weeks of the module.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students are monitored through practical exercises that are part of every session in this module. These sessions are tailored to bring teaching and learning into relation with its application in real world examples. Small group sessions and feedback allow for monitoring of students in their groups. Students are also encouraged to use staff open-door sessions, in particular to tailor their assignment work. The assignment is divided into three parts. The first part, a book review is submitted after week 4 of the course, feedback will support the students in developing their critical and analytic skills in the second half of the course. The oral presentation (again assessed) in Week 10 of the course provides an opportunity for students to build on feedback in developing their final written assignment for the course. General feedback will also be provided for all students from the presentations to support the students in developing their presentation skills and to meet the learning objectives of the module.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay or Dissertation1000 word book review20.00
Oral PresentationTwenty minute presentation of a research design10.00
Research Proposal4000 words70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 21/12/2018


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