module specification

SS7055 - Researching Communities (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18, but may be subject to modification
Module title Researching Communities
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 200
Running in 2017/18 No instances running in the year

Module summary

Within communities and environments where 'user involvement' and public participation in a range of social and political processes has received increased attention in recent years, so too has the need for effective participation in social research and evaluation activities. Moving beyond ideas of people as research participants, this module examines ways of involving different communities and reasons for using participatory methods, its contexts and how these approaches increase understanding of people's lived experiences. It will further focus on how to decide the appropriateness of different approaches in varied contexts.


2013-14 timeslots:

SS7055 will run on 6 single days (9.30-4.30pm) in Autumn Semester - ie not throughout the semester.

Autumn Semester slots:

October 7 and 8 (Mon-Tue) 9:30-4:30
November 8 and 9 (Fri-Sat) 9:30-4:30
December 5 and 6 (Thur-Fri) 9:30-4:30

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

1. To explore strategies for researching different communities including the development of research capacity
2. To explore participatory research approaches with a range of different groups of people some of whom are considered vulnerable
3. To examine participatory approaches in research and evaluation in the context of social/political dimensions of knowledge production; who creates knowledge, where and how is it used?
4. To explore a range of collaborative opportunities in social research which recognise people's experience and rights



Concepts and Communities: Theory and skills for planning and conducting participatory approaches; definitions of vulnerable groups and participation; the 'science' of participatory methods
Collaboration and contribution – from participant to change agent; concepts of democracy in research Power, ethics and micro-politics; codes of practice; dealing with disclosure
A range of participatory approaches, where and when and with whom to use them e.g. participatory appraisal, action research and learning, needs assessment and community mapping, empowerment/emancipatory, impact assessment – in a variety of  policy areas and communities.
Writing up and dissemination, reaching back to people
Participatory research in context, strengths and limitations; rigour, reliability and validity     


Learning and teaching

Students will be encouraged to develop an independent approach to their own learning reflected in the particpatory research report. Module delivery will be through an intensive block of lectures, presentations and small group workshops.  Lectures/presentations will usually be given at beginning of session, followed by interactive and often student-led workshop.  Workshops will be focused on setting of tasks related to lecture content that will facilitate student learning about the theory and practice of participatory research. Piloting and reviewing methods within and outside the classroom will be carried out. 

Learning outcomes

1. Systematic understanding of a range of participatory research methods to research with different
2. Critical assessment of participatory methods and their applications in different contexts
3. Make use of a participatory approach within research design

Assessment strategy

The single assessment for this module offers a practical means of demonstrating students’ understanding of community involvement and participatory research in practice. Students will be required to submit a 4000 word report based upon a selected participatory research design and piloting. Detailed guidance will be given to students including ethical practice.


Armstrong,A. & Moore,M. (2004) Action Research for Inclusive Education, Routledge Falmer
Beresford, P. (2003) It's Our Lives: A short theory of knowledge, distance and experience, Citizen Press in association with Shaping Our Lives
Greene,S. & Hogan, D. (2005) Researching Children's Experience: methods and approaches, Sage
Reason,P. & Bradbury, A. (2006) Handbook of Action Research, Sage
Reason,P. (1994) Participation in Human Inquiry, Sage
Whitehead, J.A .& McNiff, J. (2006) Action Research Living Theory, Sa