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Research Design - RSS00002M

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  • Department: Research Centre for Social Sciences
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Lisa O'Malley
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

The objectives of this module are to enable students: to understand the principles of research design and related philosophical debates; to judge what methods and techniques are appropriate to particular research problems, and to develop their critical abilities to appraise published research findings in their own substantive areas of study.

Professional requirements


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module has been developed in line with the ESRC's Postgraduate Training and Development guidelines. The purpose of the module is to introduce students to the core principles of research design. The module considers the connection between research questions or hypotheses and the tools required to address them, and provides students with practical experience of applying some of those tools.



Module learning outcomes

In line with the ESRC Postgraduate Training and Development guidelines by the end of the module students will be able to:

· define and formulate research problems and questions, and, where appropriate, formulate hypotheses that can be tested;

· understand the rationale for using particular qualitative or quantitative research methods;

· understand the relationship between empirical research and theory generation and testing (theory-evidence links);

· understand different forms of sampling, sampling error, and case selection, and potential implications for the interpretation of research findings;

· understand and apply the concepts of generalisability, validity, reliability, and replicability (recognising that there are different perspectives on how these may be defined); and

· understand the integrated or complementary nature of the relationship between methods in mixed methods research designs.

Module content

The module considers the following topics:

Week 2: Research paradigms, research theory and mixed methods research

Week 3: Reviewing the literature and developing research questions/hypotheses (including a practical computer session in the library)

Week 4: General principles of quantitative sampling (including theory testing, validity and reliability)

Week 5: General principles of qualitative sampling (including theory generation and trustworthiness)

Weeks 6-8: Workshops on the following research designs: comparative; longitudinal; cross sectional; case study; experimental.

Week 9: Data management and ethics (including a practical computer session in the library)

Week 10: Assessment support



Task Length % of module mark
Essay - Research Design Brief (4000 words)
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Whilst the seminars and workshops provide regular feedback students will also have the opportunity to submit ongoing short pieces of work that will support the final assessment throughout the Autumn term and will receive feedback on this within a week. The lecture in week 10 will focus on the assessment and subsequent seminars will give students an opportunity to discuss the assessment in more depth.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - Research Design Brief (4000 words)
N/A 100

Module feedback

All feedback on summative work will be timely and will be provided in accordance with University policy.

Formative feedback will be provided within two weeks of submission. 

Indicative reading

There are a huge number of textbooks in the area of social research most of which are of a high quality. There is, however, no single text which covers all aspects. If you want to buy a general book though the following are certainly worth purchasing: Becker, S., Bryman, A. and Ferguson, H. (2012) Understanding Research for Social Policy and Social Work (Policy Press); Gilbert, N. (ed). (2008) Researching Social Life (Sage); Bryman, A. (2012) Social Research Methods (Oxford). If you want to buy a single text on qualitative methods amongst the best is D. Silverman (2010) Doing Qualitative Research (Sage) and also his (2011) edited collection Qualitative Research: Issues of Theory Method and Practice (Sage).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.