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SOC2070 : This is How We Do It: Sociology Research Design and Proposal

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Cathrine Degnen
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module is about how to plan and write a research proposal, a skill often called ‘research design’.
Successful completion of this module will prepare students for designing their undergraduate dissertation research. The module builds students’ understanding of how sociologists and anthropologists take a topic and develop it into a research question in a form that can be answered using empirical evidence, and how they make choices about the appropriate methods to in turn answer those research questions. The module thus also explores a range of techniques for collecting and analysing social data. This learning enhances and consolidates the students’ various social research skills previously gained in SOC2069, extending them by exploring them in more detail, and beginning to apply them to the students’ own developing sociological imaginations via identifying their own dissertation research topics.

The aims of the module are to:

•       Develop understanding of the key methodological debates in sociological research;
•       Engage students in the critical and analytical study of research strategies;
•       Develop understanding of the ethical, political, and practical challenges that may be encountered in social research, and how these are mediated by the contexts in which research takes place;
•       Enable the critical evaluation of research findings;
•       Develop critical reflection skills in relation to practical social research methods experience;
•       Develop transferable skills, including skills and knowledge of research methods that will be relevant to many spheres beyond academia.

Outline Of Syllabus

SOC2070 helps students make the transition from reading about sociological research to designing and carrying out their own research, thus providing students with the tools necessary to plan their own successful third year dissertations. The sessions introduce students to issues in research design such as identifying research questions, preparing a research proposal, preparing a literature review, choosing appropriate methods, identifying ethical dilemmas, and successful project management.

The module is not lecture based. Instead, it is grounded in a collective studio-workshop model promoting two forms of learning: 1) listening/imagining and 2) trying/doing. After a short introductory element to the module introducing the building blocks of a research proposal, there will be a weekly series of two-hour workshops with a range of members of staff who first explore with the students the design (and dilemmas) of their own research (this is the listening/imagining) and then a hands-on workshop in the IT learning lab to research, explore, and engage with the method of the research design from that week’s speaker (this is the trying/doing). Different weeks' topics will lend themselves to different weekly ‘doing’ tasks, and different ways of asking the students to use the IT resources available to them in the learning suite to explore that week's topic.

In the studio-workshops, students will learn to navigate methodological quandaries, assess what constitutes “good” research in different contexts, and explore the ethical, political, and practical challenges that may be encountered in doing social research. They will develop a critical appreciation of research and a better ability to assess the knowledge claims being made in the literature. They will also develop critical reflections on their own research practice through a combination of the studio-workshops and independent study. This learning will be supported by a weekly hour-long seminar - linked to the module themes - and offering the opportunity for small group discussion.

Students will work on identifying early in the module (the first three weeks) their research topics, and then reflecting on how the methods explored in each workshop session could be useful (or not) for their potential research project. By the end of the module each student should have a well-worked up idea of what kinds of methods are available to them in light of their research topic interest; what decisions they need to take with regards to recruitment, ethics, process, and analysis; and have drafted both an interim literature review and a series of research proposal briefs.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion187:0087:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00PiP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00Assessment preparation workshop
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops112:0022:00PiP
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The studio-workshops will provide the key underpinnings of the module. These will be supported by small group teaching in seminars. Studio-workshops will be skills focused and provide students exposure to current research being conducted in the subject area, with a focus on learning from hearing about these experiences directly from members of staff as well as undertaking some of their own experiments in the studio-workshop and via independent study. Small group teaching will allow students to interact with each other and be supported by teaching staff to explore the core aspects of research design and current methodological debates through key texts. There will be one one-hour assessment workshop to support the essay preparation.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M402000 words Critical Reflection Portfolio (1000 words Methodological Appraisal + 1000 words Literature Review)
Reflective log2M402000 words
Prof skill assessmnt2M20Seminar quizzes on Canvas prior to start of scheduled seminar time.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Case study2MCritical Reflection Portfolio: Studio-workshop participation with comments and feedback
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The reflective log assesses the competence of students to successfully analyse research designs from a range of methodological standpoints and identify and discuss the ethical, practical and political dimensions of sociological research by completing 4 research proposal briefs of 500 words each out of a possible 7 topics.

The essay enables students to demonstrate their individual knowledge and skills in formulating and presenting reasoned methodological arguments and literature reviewing a specific substantive topic. Both elements feed directly into supporting students' independent dissertation research that begins in the Autumn of Stage Three, and means they will be able to 'hit the ground running' with their dissertation supervisors at the beginning of the next term of study.

The professional skill assessment motivates students to attend seminars as well as to prepare in advance for them, and is designed to create a stable learning community for all. In addition to in-person attendance and active participation, students will be expected to respond to seminar quizzes on Canvas prior to the start of scheduled seminar time. There are 10 seminars, with each quiz worth 2% if submitted. Provision will be made to accommodate the unexpected: if unable to attend seminar due to illness or another excused absence, students can still upload quiz responses to Canvas by the start of the following week’s seminar. This will be closely monitored by the ML and marks adjusted accordingly.

Reading Lists