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Research Methods For Social Sciences (Module)

Module description

Please note that module information is indicative and may change year to year.

Bright ideas do not necessarily make good research. It is equally wrong to assume that data speak for themselves, thus constituting a sufficient condition for conducting research in the social sciences. Rather, bright ideas and sound evidence are better conceived as necessary but not sufficient conditions for conducting high-quality research in the social sciences. With this in mind, research methods can be seen as the bridge allowing to link theoretical considerations and empirical material, sometimes pushing the researcher to downscale her ambitions, some others opening up unforeseen avenues for research. Starting from this consideration on the role of methods in the social sciences, this module aims to provide students with a thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the main research methodologies and methods they are likely to employ when conducting research in the social sciences.

The module is structured in three parts, focusing respectively on the foundations of social science research and issues of research design, on the main qualitative and quantitative methodologies that students might employ in their final dissertation, and on more specific forms of data collection and data analysis.

Module aims

The module does not require students to have any previous knowledge of Research Methods. Students who take the module will be able to approach the discipline of IPE while being able to identify assumptions, define concepts with sufficient contextualisation, evaluate arguments in terms of comparative evidence, and generalise research findings. By the end of the module students should be in a much better position to:

Critically evaluate and assess academic research;

Identify the methodological choices informing research;

Identify and make sense different explanations or data.

Similarly, the students will be able to:

Better organise and conduct research their own projects in social sciences;

Formulate a consistent and specific question practically, through their own research project assignment;

Deploy what they have learnt in their study and assignments of IPE, their MA dissertations and in their future research. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

Critically evaluate and assess the methodological choices informing academic research in social sciences, particularly with respect to the identification of assumptions, the strength of arguments in the light of evidence, and the potential for generalising research findings;

Organise their own research projects in social sciences;

Formulate a specific research question and write an appropriate research design to carry out their research successfully.

Staff information

Not applicable

Teaching pattern

One 2-hour seminar, weekly

Indicative teaching schedule


Week 1: The scientific and the social in social science
Week 2: From research questions to research design
Week 3: Theory and concept development


Week 4: Qualitative methods I: the comparative method
Week 5: Qualitative methods II: single case study research and process tracing
Week 6: Quantitative methods I: Data basics
Week 7: Quantitative methods II: Descriptive and Inferential statistics


Week 8: Survey Design and Analysis
Week 9: Interviews, focus groups and participant observation
Week 10: Discourse and content analysis

Note that this teaching schedule is indicative and subject to change.

Module assessment - more information

One 4,000 word essay/research assignment (100%)

Key information

Module code 7AAOM019

Credit level 7

Assessment coursework

Credit value 15

Semester Semester 2 (spring)

Study abroad module No