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2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: POLM011 Module Title: RESEARCH IN PRACTICE
Module Provider: Politics Short Name: POL511
Level: M Module Co-ordinator: CAPELOS T Dr (Politics)
Number of credits: 15 Number of ECTS credits: 7.5
Module Availability

Spring Semester only

Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment
Weighting Towards Module Mark (%)
Individual research project (4000 words)
Group presentation (approximately 10 minutes)
15% (the same mark will be awarded to all group members)
Qualifying Condition(s) 
A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module.

Module Overview

The module has a strong practical focus and students will, as part of the course, gain experience of using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, and applying their knowledge of research methods.

Over the course of the module, students will conduct a small individual research project. To support this process, they will be allocated to a group of 3-4 students (ideally conducting research on a similar theme). Group members will be expected to meet regularly, act as ‘critical friends’ to one another, and discuss the similarities and differences in their individual approaches to the research project. In the final session, the small groups will be required to give a group presentation, exploring some of the methodological issues which emerged through their regular group discussions.

In each session, approximately 15 minutes will be devoted to checking on progress with individual research projects and group discussions, and dealing with any problems that have arisen.


Introduction to Research (POLM009)

Module Aims

This module aims to build on the introductory research methods module (POL 510) and develop students’ practical skills at conducting research. It will provide an opportunity for students to design instruments for collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, and then to gain experience of analysing both types of data through relevant software packages. Students are also expected to apply at least some of these methods of data collection and analysis to their own research project, which they will conduct over the course of the module.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

Knowledge and understanding 

  • identify some of the basic principles underpinning the design of various research instruments 
  • understand the theoretical and practical implications of using particular methods of data collection and analysis

Cognitive skills 

  • analyse and synthesise a wide range of material in verbal and numerical formats 
  • deal with complex issues systematically and creatively 
  • make sound judgements on basis of incomplete evidence 
  • demonstrate self-direction and originality in solving problems and analysing evidence 
  • construct reasoned argument 
  • apply theoretical frameworks to empirical analysis

Practical skills 

  • use appropriate software for analysing qualitative and quantitative data 
  • carry out an advanced literature search 
  • formulate research questions 
  • design and conduct a research project, selecting appropriate methods of data collection and analysis 
  • design and pilot questionnaires 
  • design and conduct interviews 
  • use software packages to analyse qualitative and quantitative data 
  • present research findings orally and in writing

Transferable skills 

  • work in a team, developing skills at negotiation, collaboration and decision-making 
  • retrieve information from a wide variety of sources 
  • communicate and present ideas effectively in oral and written format 
  • adopt a proactive approach to problem-solving 
  • deploy a range of relevant research skills 
  • make decisions in complex situations 
  • take responsibility for own learning
Module Content
The sessions will run as follows:
  1. Introduction to the module; allocation of students to small groups and the setting up of the research project.
  2. Using the internet and official statistics in political research (a hands-on session run in the library)

    Qualitative Research in Practice
  3. Interviewing – designing interview schedules and conducting interviews
  4. Analysing documents
  5. Using computer packages for the analysis of qualitative data (two hands-on sessions, run by the Centre for Qualitative Data Analysis Software in the Sociology department)

    Quantitative research in practice
  6. Questionnaires – designing and piloting
  7. Using computer packages for the analysis of quantitative data (two hands-on sessions using the SPSS programme)

    Presentation of research projects
  8. The final session will be devoted to group presentations of ‘methodological reflections’
Methods of Teaching/Learning

Each week individuals will be asked to complete an activity log, detailing their progress on their research project as well as their group discussions over the previous seven days. This will be reviewed by the lecturer during the session, to ensure that all students are making a similar contribution to their group discussion.

The activities covered in the sessions will have a strong practical focus and include: 

  • discussions (whole class and small group)
  • design and piloting of research instruments (questionnaires and interview schedules) 
  • use of appropriate data analysis software (SPSS and packages for qualitative data analysis) 
  • independent reading 
  • group presentations 
  •  mini-lectures
Selected Texts/Journals


Bamburger, M., Rugh, J. and Mabry, L. (2006) Real World Evaluation. Working under Budget, Time, Data and Political Constraints London, Sage.


Bryman, A. & Cramer, D. (2001) Quantitative Data Analysis with SPSS (Version 10) Routledge 

de Vaus, D. (2002) Surveys in Social Research, 5th ed London, Routledge.
Hewson, C., Yule, P., Laurent, D. and Vogel, C. (2006) Internet Research Methods London, Sage. 

Holstein, J. and Gubrium, J. (1995) The Active Interview London, Sage. 

May, T. (ed) (2002) Qualitative Research in Action London, Sage. 

Plummer, K. (2001) Documents of Life 2: an introduction to a critical humanism London, Sage. 

Scott, J. (1990) A Matter of Record: Documentary Sources in Social Research Cambridge, Polity Press. 

Silverman, D. (2001) Interpreting Qualitative Data: Methods for Analysing Talk, Text and Interaction, 2nd edn London, Sage.

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