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CSC8602 : Research Methods for Digital Civics (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jan Smeddinck
  • Owning School: Computing
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module will provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge to begin to undertake design-led research in Digital Civics. The module will provide a methodological foundation across disciplinary backgrounds to support the collection, analysis and reporting of empirical data and the development of analytic insight on human-computer interaction for civic life.

1.       To introduce students to relevant research methods for understanding users of digital technology, including quantitative, and qualitative research methods.
2.       To explore the theoretical underpinnings of the scientific process, research methods and epistemologies.
3.       To introduce students to research study design.
4.       To provide students with hands-on experience of collecting, analysing and evaluating research data pertaining to system design and evaluation.
5.       To support students in critically evaluating and selecting appropriate research methods.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will give students an introduction to the core practical and theoretical foundations for research methods in Digital Civics. We will address key skills such as study design, statistical analysis, preparing qualitative research, doing qualitative analysis, and writing research reports. Additional material will develop the knowledge and skills required to produce and evaluate ethical research and to effectively communicate scientific knowledge. The following topics are indicative of the content of these components:

1.       Study Design
2.       Experiments
3.       Statistical Analysis
4.       Philosophy of Science
5.       Ethics
6.       Qualitative data collection
7.       Qualitative data analysis
8.       Scientific Communication

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion126:0072:00Assessment completion.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading124:0048:00Preparatory reading and practice for taught sessions.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching242:0048:00Philosophy of Science & Theoretical Foundation of Research Methods.Applied Research Methods training
Guided Independent StudySkills practice122:0024:00Independent methods practice
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery42:008:00Feedback and support for independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module will be delivered with an emphasis on a pragmatic approach to research design and will provide students with the ability to 1) find the best ‘fit’ between research methods and research problems and 2) begin to apply the necessary data collection and analysis methods in the relation to Digital Civics. Teaching methods will therefore focus on developing 1) critical insight on methodological principles and 2) practical skills in the application of research methods through three modes of learning: agonistic debate; peer learning; and experiential learning. These choices are motivated by underlying characteristics and qualities of scientific knowledge and the scientific method, namely falsification, social constructivism, and empiricism, and compliment the learning content. Agonistic debate will support the development of critical thinking in relation to the value and validity of various research methods. Agonistic debate will be driven by the delivery of learning material be two members of staff and providing alternating and diverging perspectives on study topics. Through self-directed inquiry, required reading, and diverse disciplinary backgrounds, students will be expected to engage in and with the active debate. Peer learning will support further critical reflection on the appropriateness of research methods to specific research problems and group working will reveal the myriad of perspectives that can be found in and through research methods. The application of research methods through practical assignments will develop hands-on skills in Digital Civics research. This practical working will be grounded in open sharing of methods, data and analysis and will further compliment peer learning. This learning will be assessed through the ability of students to effectively communicate research, where they will be expected to justify methodological decisions, analyse empirical data, and synthesise data analyse.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1A30Eight lab reports, 250 words per report.
Report1A70Qualitative study report (2500 words max)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Practical/lab report1ADrop-in sessions to evaluate data collection and analysis
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment will provide an opportunity to produce and communicate scientific knowledge through the application of research methods. The portfolio will collect and demonstrate the student’s ability to concisely describe, plan, and conduct experimental studies, and to statistically analyse produced through the study. The portfolio will also provide opportunity for formative feedback to assess technical skill and to advance skills in scientific communication. The report will allow the student to demonstrate their ability to plan and conduct a qualitative study, including collecting interview data, subjecting it to rigour analysis, and reporting on the data. Both pieces of coursework will assess the student’s ability to describe, justify, and apply research methods, and their ability to collect, analyse and synthesise empirical data. Two broad categories of empirical data (quantitative and qualitative) provide the backbone of the evaluation, and will support the assessment of the student’s ability to design and carry out research in post-positivist and social constructivist modes.

Reading Lists