module specification

GI7004 - Researching Public Services (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Researching Public Services
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Social Professions
Total study hours 200
165 hours Guided independent study
35 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Critique of a piece of written public policy research
Coursework 50%   Research Proposal
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Monday Evening

Module summary

The module enables students to design and conduct research in a public service setting (including that required for projects and dissertations), to understand key debates in public policy research and to bid for and evaluate bids for funding.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

The principal aims of this module are to provide students with:
• the opportunity to develop understanding of research as a holistic process, and to gain familiarity with the different stages involved in the design and conduct of a research project
• an appreciation of the range of research methods and techniques available, and the capacity to make informed and appropriate choices when designing projects
• an awareness and understanding of the key methodological issues that arise in research, and the ability to address them in research plans
• the capacity to read critically and to evaluate published research studies
• a familiarity with the policy making process
• the ability to analyse the decision making process and to provide policy analysis for decision making
• the ability to analyse the implementation and impact of public policies including use of the comparative method.



(i) Research Design and Planning
Overview of the research process. Main design approaches: quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, field experiment, longitudinal, evaluation studies.
Project planning and practical issues: literature searching and other resources, gaining access, ethical issues, timelining and resources .
(ii) Defining Data
Problem definition, theoretical and conceptual development. Clarification of research aims and outcomes. Data definition: location of data sources, focusing and 'operationalisation', combining different forms of data. Issues of reliability and validity.
(iii) Choosing Methods
Overview of main methods and approaches, their advantages and disadvantages, and the factors to consider when selecting appropriate methods: .
Quantitative methods: social surveys, questionnaires, experimental designs.
Qualitative methods: interviewing, group discussions and focus groups, use of diaries, field studies and ethnographies.
Desk research: secondary analysis, content analysis, documents, texts, life histories.
Comparative methods
(iv) Selecting Informants
Issues of representativeness and typicality. Sample designs and practical sampling methods. Issues of research scale, feasibility, generalisability, non-response, maintenance of response levels. Approaching respondents and gaining co-operation.
(v) Analysis and Reporting
Data organisation and management; development of analysis strategies; methods of analysis. Reflexivity and problems of interpretation. Organisation and presentation of reports. Report writing.


(i) The Policy Process
Models of the policy making process; power: pluralism elitism and corporatism, rationality and incrementalism. Comparative methodologies. Analysis of and analysis for policy. Values and public policy.
(ii) Decision Making
Approaches to decision making, models of decision making, public service reform and the decision making process.
(iii) Decision Analysis
Rationality, public choice, institutional and psychological approaches to decision making
(iv) Policy Implementation
Implementation and delivery systems, markets, networks and NGOs, street level bureaucracy, enforcement and control.
(v) Evaluation and impact
Analysing public policies, internal and external evaluation. Impact analysis, results based management, regulatory systems.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered using a combination of formal lectures, seminars, class-based workshop exercises in practical research issues and public policy case studies. Blended learning will be employed via extensive use of Weblearn.

Learning outcomes

On completion students will be able to:
• carry out a successful research-based project in an organisation of their choice, from initial conceptualisation to final report
• read critically and to evaluate published research studies.
• analyse the decision making process and to provide policy analysis for decision making
• analyse the implementation, evaluation and impact of public policies including use of the comparative method.
• bid for and evaluate bids for funding

Assessment strategy

This module will assess both the methodological and public policy elements using an integrative case study.  Students will be expected to:
1. Prepare a critique of a piece of published policy research (50%).  This should be no more than 2,500 words and is due for submission in week 6.
2. Students will have the opportunity to submit a draft of the research proposal to receive formative feedback prior to submission – week 10.
3. Develop a research proposal to form the basis for either a) a bid for funding or b) your dissertation (50%). This should be no more than 2,500 words and is due for final submission in week 14.
Students will have the opportunity to submit a draft of the research proposal to receive formative feedback prior to submission


Research Methodology

Judith Bell (2010) Doing Your Research Project (5th ed), Open University Press.
Loraine Blaxter et al (2010) How to Research (4thd ed), Open University Press.
Nigel Gilbert (2008) Researching Social Life (3rd ed), Sage.
Tim May (2011) Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process (4th ed), Open University Press.
Colin Robson (2011) Real World Research  (3rd ed), Wiley & Son.
Bob Matthews and Liz Ross Matthews, (2010) Research Methods: a practical guide for the social sciences Longman.
Pertti Alasuutari, Leonard Bickman, Julia B (2009) The SAGE handbook of Social Research methods, Sage.
Monique Hennink, Inge Hutter and Ajay Bailey (2010) Qualitative research methods, Sage

Public Policy

Barber, M (2007), Instruction to Deliver: Tony Blair, Public Services and the Challenge of Achieving Targets, Politico’s.
Burnham, P, Gilland Lutz, K, et al, (2008) “Research and the Policy Process”, in Research Methods in Politics, 2nd ed, chapter 12, pp 305 – 324, Palgrave.
Cairney, P (2012) Understanding Public Policy, Palgrave.
Davies HTO, Nutley SM and Smith PM (2000) What Works? Evidence-based policy and practice in public services Policy Press
Hill, M, (1997), The Policy Process: A Reader, (2nd ed), Harvester Wheatsheaf
Hill M (2009) The Public Policy Process 5th ed, Harvester Wheatsheaf
Hogwood B and Gunn L (1985) Policy Analysis for the Real World  Oxford University Press
Institute for Government, (2012), Evidence and Evaluation for Policy Making 2012
McConnell, A (2011) Understanding Policy Success, Palgrave.
Parsons W (1995) Public Policy: an introduction to the theory and practice of policy analysis, Edward Elgar

Online sources

Institute for Government: