module specification

SM6070 - Research in Visual Culture (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Research in Visual Culture
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
25 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
80 hours Guided independent study
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   Critical Review of Case Study (1500 words)
Coursework 80%   Research Proposal (2,000 -2,500 words)
Running in 2024/25

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Monday Morning

Module summary

This one-semester module aims to develop students’ appreciation for and understanding of research in relation to visual aspects of culture. The module provides students with methods and conceptual tools for approaching independent research into visual culture, including art, photography, film and television, and using for visual material as a research tool.

The module builds upon students prior knowledge of theories and debates relevant to visual works and materials, and it will encourage and facilitate the development of deeper engagement with, and understanding of  this area of research. The module provides   preparation for dissertation research involving visual culture using visual material within research.

The module  has two distinct halves:  first considering theories and methods relevant to the undertaking of research on visual culture, and second examining the use of  visual material as research method in itself. As such, the module will both draw on traditional academic qualitative research methods insofar as they are applicable, and draw on the insights and methodologies offered by visual anthropology/sociology.

The module will facilitate the development of  skills and knowledge pertinent to the design of independent research, including:
● understanding the essential relationship between research methods and the problems they are intended to address
● appreciation of the value of visual material in research
● understanding the gains and limitations of visual material

The practical and intellectual skills gained are all transferrable and highly relevant to future employment in a wide range of areas, and particularly within parts of the cultural industries specifically concerned with visual materials.


The module will be divided into two blocks, each focussing on one of the two major areas of research to be covered:

Block One will introduce students to some of the key ideas relevant to the use of research as a way of acquiring knowledge and will introduce students to specific methods pertinent to research into visual culture and documentary practice. Areas covered will include epistemology, semiotics, discourse analysis, content analysis and reception study.

Block Two will consider the uses of documentary photography and film as a research tool in itself and will introduce students to key ideas and methods in the practice of visual anthropology/sociology.

Learning Outcomes LO 1 - 4

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

In class teaching and activities:
45 hours, 3 hours a week for 15 weeks

Guided Independent Study
80 hours

Preparation of material for assessment (including photography and final preparation for presentation)
25 hours

Students will be encouraged to make full use of online resources, to engage with the tutor via electronic communication methods such as skype. Students are expected to maintain a reflective, critical approach

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module, students who actively engage with the reading, practical and theoretical exercises will be able to:
1. Understand and use a range of research methods applicable to research into a range of aspects of visual culture including art, photography, film and television
2. Understand and explain key issues in the practice of visual anthropology/sociology
3. Design and develop a viable small research project examining an aspect of visual culture including art, photography, film and television
4. Design and develop a viable small research project using visual material as a research method



Core Text:
Margolis, E. and Pauwels, L. (2011). The Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods. London: Sage.

Other Texts: Banks, M. (2015) Visual Methods in Social Research 2nd Edn. London: Sage.

Pauwels, L. (2017) Reframing Visual Social Science: Towards a More Visual Sociology and Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Journal of Visual Culture. London: Sage
Visual Studies. London: Routledge
Photography and Culture. London: Routledge.
Philosophy of Photography. Bristol: Intellect Books
British Journal of Photography
European Photography