module specification

SS4004 - Researching Social Life (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Researching Social Life
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 300
192 hours Guided independent study
108 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 5%   Academic Literacy portfolio of tasks (400 words) Compulsory
Coursework 40%   Research Report (1500) compulsory
Coursework 5%   Portfolio tasks Interpreting social statistics
Unseen Examination 50%   Unseen 2hrs Summative
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Tuesday Morning
Year (Spring and Summer) North Friday Afternoon

Module summary

This module provides the foundation for an explicit, clear focus on social research throughout Sociology and related degrees in addition to supporting students to acquire understanding of and skills in academic literacy. The methodological principles and perspectives for effective social research are explained and also illustrated through exploration of research case studies.  It will additionally provide experience in using the vast array of text, visual and statistical primary documentary sources and their interpretation for research.  Research as process will be examined including main research approaches, the formulation and development of research questions and social, ethical and political contexts of research practice.

Module aims

To explain key methodological principles, ideas and language involved in researching social and cultural life
To support acquisition of skills and understanding of academic literature and writing and its use for research and study purposes 
To introduce the diversity, potential and experience of text, visual and statistical primary documentary sources  for  investigating  culture and society
To outline and illustrate processes in research including  main methods, ethical and political considerations
To  describe and inspire confidence in applying basic concepts for  interpretation of social statistics as accounts of social life


Introduction to the sociological research enterprise – language, concepts and social research as process involving both imagination and rigour.  The articulation of investigative goals, developing research concerns into focussed questions; research design; interrelation of theory, method and data.
The notion of academic literacy, characteristics and distinction from other forms of literacy. Academic literature sources for different purposes; basic principles of literature searching to access online and printed sources.
Introduction to diversity of existing text and visual data sources for researching cultural and social life, their potential strengths, limitations and use as research data.
Overviews of main research approaches, methods, underpinning theory and issues arising, supplemented through illustrative research case studies 
The relevance of varying social, cultural and political contexts for research practice and centrality of ethical considerations
The idea and use of evidence, the contribution of research and interpretation of data
‘Get Stats’ incubator – basic concepts in ‘measurement’ of cultural and social life; principles and practice of interpreting various social statistics outputs with a focus on categorical data.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through a combination of formal lectures/presentations, group workshops and planned individual study tasks. Interactive workshops will take the form of structured activities and tasks related to lecture topics and in support of assessment tasks. Emphasis will be placed on ensuring opportunities throughout the module for an adequate balance of face to face and online individual tutorial support, supplemented by independent non-contributory formative assessment undertaken by students. The latter will make use of vle tools such as quizzes in addition to written outputs.  VLE tools will also be explored to actively encourage recommended reading of textbook and other sources as part of module delivery.

Learning outcomes

Identify, appraise, locate and use different types of academic literature and writing  

  • Demonstrate critical appreciation by explaining and applying  principles for effective social research 
  • Develop research questions and appraise text and visual documentary data sources
  • Explain principles and practice of main research methods and their appropriate use
  • Interpret basic social statistical research findings and explain their use in specific contexts

Assessment strategy

There are two main assignments –a Research Report (1500 words 40% weighting) of a documentary methods research exercise (Learning outcomes 1,2, 3); the second a unseen Exam (2hrs, 50%) enabling students to explain, appraise and apply social research principles and practice (Learning outcomes 4, 5) This includes specialist vocabulary, key concepts,  methodological definitions and practice applications testable via examination mode.  The exam component will give an explicit and directive yet practical framework for students' 'performance' of what has been learned, also balancing the more flexible creative assessment opportunity offered by the complementary documentary methods assignment. The examination strategy will consist of a series of closed multiple choice plus open ended but short response type questions to test for specialist vocabulary, key concepts, methodological definitions. There will be a second section consisting of an extended methodological 'written briefing' that tests for application and appreciation of principles and methods.

Preparation for the Research Report is provided through a portfolio of tasks relating to identifying, appraising, locating and using types and sources of academic literature (400 words) early in the module.

Preparation for the exam will be through explaining basic principles, use of and interpreting social statistical sources in a 400 word assignment towards the latter part of the module. A variety of informal formative assessment tasks will also be introduced via WebLearn to support learning e.g. quizzes during the second half of the module


Blaikie N (2007) Approaches to social enquiry
Blaxter L et al (2010) How to Research
Bryman A (2012) Social Research Methods Sage
Gilbert N ed. (2009) Researching Social Life (+ companion website)
Gray D (2009) Doing research in the real world Sage (+ companion website)
Neuman W (2012) Social Research Methods Pearson
Plummer K (2001) Documents of life
Robinson D  The A-Z of social research jargon
Salkind, Neil J. (2000) Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics, Sage Publications
Yin R (2011) Case Study Research