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SOC2069 : Researching Social Life I

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Alison Phipps
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Sociology is based on systematic knowledge about the social world that we inhabit. ‘Researching Social Life I’ introduces the range of ways that sociologists do research by generating information so that they can develop their sociological ideas. Its core theme is the importance of evidence: the way we collect information has a huge effect on our research findings. Data collection is a practical activity, and therefore the module is distinctive in involving a series of hands-on seminars and practical assignments, as well as lectures. It is in these small group sessions that you will convert the principles explained in the lectures into skills, so that you too can carry out research. Although concerned to convey the systematic application of appropriate professional standards, the module also tries to communicate some of the excitement and fun of doing research.

The module makes four main contributions to the degree program:

1.       It lays a foundation of knowledge and critical awareness about how research gets done, which helps to appreciate and make sense of the other sociological sources used in the rest of the degree’s modules.

2.       It enables the best choice of research methods to be made for doing your research for the Final Year Dissertation in sociology.

3.       More generally, the informed and critical thinking learned in the module can also be applied to analyse what really lies behind media news-stories, politicians’ speeches, lobby groups’ reports on social problems – and even gossip – that we all encounter as citizens.

4.       Finally, because Research Social Life I delivers a substantial part of “what every sociology graduate can be expected to know”, having studied the subject, it offers the opportunity to acquire transferable skills for later employment in a range of professions. These include interviewing, analysing social behaviour, using computers to process quantitative information, where to locate data on public issues and how to apply them, and how to make sense of social surveys.

Outline Of Syllabus

The lectures will introduce the core research methods of ethnography, sampling, questionnaire design, interviewing, thematic analysis, basic statistical analysis using SPSS, and secondary analysis of large data-sets. These skills will be presented in the context of the research process, as exemplified by selected sociological studies. The Seminars will be organised around exercises giving students hands-on experience of analyzing large data sets, sampling, designing questionnaires, interviewing, coding data, observation, and textual analysis.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials101:0010:00Pre-recorded non-timetabled lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00PIP timetabled Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops101:0010:00Synchronous/online, timetabled structured workshops
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1130:00130:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures provide the main framework and content with respect to the foundations and building blocks of sociological research and how these relate to social knowledge. The seminars will allow students to enhance their comprehension and practise the discipline’s main empirical and methodological approaches, in order to achieve the learning outcomes through discussion, practical exercises and both formative and summative assessment.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report1M50Qualitative data analysis 1800 words
Report1M50Quantitative data analysis 1200 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Prob solv exercises1MOral commentary on practice exercises
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The importance of sociological skills and practice is recognised by assessing students’ capacities to put their newly acquired skills into action by performing set tasks. The topics for all the assessments are introduced and demonstrated in lectures, then practiced in seminars, before students do an individual piece of assessment inter alia to discover how far they have achieved the learning outcomes and the relevant items in the graduate skills framework. Although the assessment focuses on skills outcomes, these skills cannot be deployed on the tasks without students also having achieved the knowledge outcomes.

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