Research Design and Method Selection SPS4003

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Students will work through the process of creating a research proposal from the development of a testable research question, to appropriate method/data analysis selection and the presentation of findings. The course will introduce students to the wide array of methods available including exposure to qualitative approaches, mixed methods research designs, survey methods, and higher level quantitative approaches that are available in the more advanced Q-Step programme courses. This course will provide a solid approach to research that will link back to the School's subject areas and can be used to address topical question related to the areas of research being carried out within the subjects including inequality, welfare, crime, and health.


10 x 2 hour lectures during a 10 week semester - lecture led with group breakout sessions mixed in

  Likely to be Tuesday 10-12am.*

4 x 1 hour drop in lab session for help with research proposals during the last two weeks of the semester - GTA led


*All level 1 and level 2 lectures in SSPS have been mapped and the above represents the same time as Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences (using codes: CEES3027; CEES4073; POLITIC3018; POLITIC4137; PUBPOL3010; PUBPOL4137; SOCIO3021; SOCIO4095), so students will not be able to register for both courses in the same term.


Commensurate with other Level 4 courses offered in the SSPS and supported with blended learning via the VLE Moodle.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory entry requirements in line with those generally required by the MA Social Science degree. Recommended: successful completion (grade C or above) of QM1 - Measuring Your Social World, QM2 - Analysing Your Social World.

Alternative Recommendation: students who complete Statistics 1A, Geography 2 or Psychology 2 will be considered for a place on the above degrees even if they have not completed QM1 and QM2 (but have a grade C or above).

Excluded Courses

Recommended: the current Junior Honours cross SSPS course: Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences (using codes: CEES3027; CEES4073; POLITIC3018; POLITIC4137; PUBPOL3010; PUBPOL4137; SOCIO3021; SOCIO4095)




Each week the students will be presented with a discussion prompt on Moodle to respond to prior to the lecture. Responses will be used to feed into the class discussion for the week and used to track learning and changes in perceptions regarding research practices. Students will need to complete 5 of the 10 posted prompts (20% of final mark). Questions such as:

-Refine the following question into something testable (Research Questions, Week 1)

  -How would you approach measuring the following concept X (operationalization, Week 3)

-Is this "good" data, why or why not (Data, Week 4)

-How would you approach researching the following question (Week 8)

-What is unclear in the following table (Presenting findings, Week 9)



The essay component will be a critical review of a research proposal drafted by the instructor for the purpose of the course (40% of final mark). Students will be required to comment on the feasibility of the question, logic of the hypothesis/expectations, breadth of the literature review/background research, method selection for data collection and analysis, and presentation of preliminary findings/conclusions.


The final for the course will be a research proposal project submitted by the student (40% of final mark). The proposal will be comprised of: an introduction; literature review; proposed research method including why it was selected, its strengths and limitation, and potential areas for concern; data collection method/sources; expected results; and a conclusion.

Main Assessment In: December

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below.

Course Aims

The aims of this course are:

• To offer students a deeper exposure to how research is conducted.

• To develop an understanding of the various research methods available for use by researchers including qualitative case study approaches, quantitative data analysis and survey design.

• To equip students with the skills to evaluate a research proposal at the early stages, to determine what research approach offers the strongest support for a given question, and to effectively engage with the literature to incorporate existing knowledge on a specific topic.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

The end of this course students will be able to:

• Critically appraise existing literature and research.

• Construct a research proposal that is well structure, testable, and applies appropriate and feasible research techniques.

 Critically review other research designs to locate areas of strength and offer comments and suggestions on areas which can be improved.

Note: additional information about the course content and timetable is available from the document attached - course overview and proposed timetable.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.

Students must regularly attend and participate in lectures and taught labs; undertake all aspects of the course work (including formative and summative assignments).