Learning outcomes

The aims of this course are to help you to:

  • Understand the difference between a positivist approach and an interpretative approach in research in the social sciences
  • Understand why it is important to frame a good research question, and how to go about developing a good question.
  • Be aware of the personal values, priorities or contextual factors which might inform or influence your research study
  • Be aware of common research designs and be able to select the most appropriate design(s) for your study
  • Identify and select appropriate data collection methods
  • Describe the different approaches to data analysis in quantitative and qualitative methods

Using the module

Welcome to Research Methods in the Social Sciences. This course will aim to support postgraduate researchers undertaking independent research in the social sciences.

If this is the first time you have accessed Research Methods in the Social Sciences course, or if you need a brief reminder, here is some information on how the screens are organised, and some of the tools and features that are used throughout:


Content

  • The centre of each screen contains the core content for each course, presented either as text, interactive activities, graphics, videos or animations
  • Text highlighted in a box preceded by an arrow contains instructions on how to navigate the activities that follow
  • Note that your responses to the note-making and text entry activities (where you type responses in the space provided) can be printed and used as part of your ongoing work
  • At the top of each screen you will see an indication of the approximate time it will take to complete the core content. These estimates include time to watch videos and complete activities in the central section, but not to complete the 'Optional activities'.

Pods

Throughout this course, you will see additional learning opportunities in 'pods'. The pods in this course contain useful links to further resources and sources of guidance, as well as additional information expanding on the material in the main part of the screen. Exploring the information provided in the pods will enrich the learning experience.


Quiz

At the very end of each module, you have the opportunity to test your learning further with a multiple-choice quiz. This consists of five questions and can be taken more than once (a new set of questions will appear).

The Research Methods in the Social Sciences course is designed to gradually build up your understanding and skills. We recommend that you complete the modules in the order given, but they have been designed so you can access each of them independently according to your own requirements and those of your institution.

Expert panel

Authors

Revised Edition

Dr. Helen Aveyard

Dr. Helen Aveyard

Helen Aveyard (BSc, RGN, MA, PGDip, Ph.D.) is a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and author of the best-selling book Doing a Literature Review in Health and Social Care: A Practical Guide, 2nd ed. (Open University Press, 2010), in addition to A Beginner's Guide to Evidence Based Practice in Health and Social Care, 2nd ed. (Open University Press, 2013) with Pam Sharp and A Beginner's Guide to Critical Thinking and Writing in Health and Social Care (Open University Press, 2011) with Pam Sharp and Mary Woolliams. Helen's main teaching interests are research and evidence-based practice.


First Edition

Dr. Gordon Rugg

Dr. Gordon Rugg

Gordon Rugg has a multidisciplinary background, which includes work as an English Lecturer and in Archaeology. He also holds a doctorate in Psychology, and has carried out postdoctoral work on information science and human-computer interaction. A significant strand of his work involves a critical understanding of research and research methods from a student perspective; his books with Marian Petre (The Unwritten Rules of Ph.D. Research and A Gentle Guide to Research Methods) arose from this. He is also interested in how research actually happens, particularly in relation to how research can go wrong at various levels, ranging from logic and the use of evidence, through to psychological and social factors.


Reviewer

First Edition

Professor David Shaw

Professor David Shaw

David Shaw is Professor of Planning at the University of Liverpool, based in the Department of Geography and Planning. This is the oldest planning school in the world and combines professional planning education informed by policy research with a focus on analytical methods, in order to support the planning process and work with leading professional practice. David's research focuses on the way in which spatial planning as a concept can help to co-ordinate complex and contested questions concerning the best use of land, particularly in rural areas and more recently in a maritime context. David has worked in Birmingham and Malawi prior to joining the University of Liverpool.


Accessibility advisor

First Edition

Wilma Alexander

Wilma Alexander

Wilma Alexander is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy with Master's degrees in Human-Computer Interaction, Linguistics and Information Science. She has over 15 years of experience as a manager with the online learning team at the University of Edinburgh, where she specialised in usable and accessible digital practice, tutored on the groundbreaking Master's degree in Digital Education and developed online staff training on accessible e-learning and online tutoring skills. Since retiring from the University at the end of 2015, Wilma has provided consultancy services on all aspects of online learning, with a special focus on accessibility and usability issues.


Developed in conjunction with:

The Research Skills programme has been developed in conjunction with the following institutions:

  • Cardiff University
  • City University London
  • Cranfield University
  • Durham University
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Imperial College London
  • King's College London
  • Lancaster University
  • London Metropolitan University
  • Loughborough University
  • University College Dublin
  • University College London
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Bath
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Limerick
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Reading
  • University of Strathclyde