Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module SOCI59515: Perspectives on Social Research

Department: Sociology

SOCI59515: Perspectives on Social Research

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2020/21
Tied to


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • 1. To introduce students to the nature of social scientific research;
  • 2. To present the issues associated with establishing cause in the social sciences with reference to issues of generalizability and replicability;
  • 3. To present the problems of interpretation of meaning in the social sciences with reference to issues of generalizability;
  • 4. To outline the essentials of the quantitative programme of inductive research in the social sciences
  • 5. To outline the essentials of the qualitative programme of research in the social sciences
  • 6. To introduce students to ethical issues in the conduct of social research, including issues of power and equality.


  • What is social science?
  • What is social research?
  • Exploring causation.
  • What purpose does measurement serve in social science?
  • The nature and use of the social survey in social research, including considerations when designing data collection strategies and related research instruments.
  • Interpreting an interpreted world.
  • An introduction to design strategies that include quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods, including their relationship to different practical approaches to conducting research.
  • Combining quantitative and qualitative approaches.
  • Ethics and reflexivity in research.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module students will:
  • 1. understand the meaning of the terms epistemology, ontology, and methodology and the relevance of them to the practice of social research;
  • 2. understand the issues associated with the establishment of cause and meaning in social science;
  • 3. be familiar with the nature of the quantitative programme in social science;
  • 4. be familiar with the nature of the qualitative programme in social science;
  • 5. be aware of the implications of ethical issues for the practice of social research and be able to establish ethical guidelines for the conduct of their own research.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students will:
  • Be able to reflect on the relative strengths and weaknesses of using different methodological approaches to answer different types of questions.
  • Be able to connect epistemological, ontological and methodological concerns with each other, and have a developing understanding of the implications of these in relation to research design and data collection.
Key Skills:
  • Use reading and engagement in learning activities to inform and develop conceptual understanding.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • During periods of online teaching, for asynchronous lectures in particular, planned lecture hours may include activities that would normally have taken place within the lecture itself had it been taught face-to-face in a lecture room, and/or those necessary to adapt the teaching and learning materials effectively to online learning.
  • Lectures contribute to theoretical understanding of related concepts, and seminars provide opportunities for students to reflect on their own understanding of these concepts and how they apply to particular approaches to research in practice, building on their own reading and preparatory activities.
  • The summative assignment takes the form of an essay that will enable students to compare qualitative and quantitative approaches to the investigation of one from a list of appropriate topics and therefore demonstrate their understanding of the learning aims in practice.
  • The formative assignment will enable students to reflect on and develop their own understanding of material covered in the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 weekly 1 10
Seminars 10 weekly 1 10
Preparation & Reading 130
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Contributions in seminars and one short essay of not more than 1,000 words.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University