Modules 1-4

Modules 1-4 cover research training.

This section of the Doctorate aims to introduce course members to the fundamentals of social research. The issues relating to social research can be thought of as lying along a continuum. At one end of the continuum are highly philosophical concerns: debates about epistemology and ontology, questions concerning the character of the social scientific endeavour itself, and so forth. Towards the other pole of the continuum are more practical concerns, concerns relating to conducting literature searches, dealing with ethical issues, the process of writing a research thesis, and so on.

Module 1: ‘Introduction to Social Research’

This unit deals predominantly with concerns at the more practical and operational end of the continuum. Subjects covered include: our expectations at doctoral level, and in particular how to develop an appropriate style of writing, writing clearly, avoiding the academic 'pose', etc.; searching, evaluating, and managing the literature; addressing ethical considerations — confidentiality, data storage, building trust with respondents; and key considerations in developing a meaningful approach to a research problem.

Module 2: ‘Foundations of Social Research’

This unit deals more with the ‘philosophical’ end of the debates: questions such as what constitutes valid knowledge and how can we obtain it? What exists in social reality? What different approaches are there to these questions? Core conceptual dilemmas, such as the structure–agency dilemma, and the approaches that have been developed to resolving these are looked at. There is a comparison of the philosophy of social science with the sociology of knowledge as starting points for research. The aim of this unit is to encourage course members to adopt a critical and conceptually-informed approach to their intended fields of study, and to address some important fundamental questions which, ultimately, have a profound bearing on how their research should, could, and will proceed.

Module 3 ‘Quantitative Methods’ and Module 4 ‘Qualitative Methods’

These units address questions of methods and methodology. They examine qualitative and quantitative research strategies and techniques. A whole range of techniques is explored: everything from questionnaires and interviews to focus groups and documentary research. Different strategies of analysing qualitative and quantitative data are considered, and, in relation to this, different means of moving between and linking theory and research.

What will, no doubt, soon become apparent when studying these modules is the fact that all the areas considered are inextricably linked. For example, your position on fundamental questions relating to what constitutes valid knowledge might have profound implications even for how you structure your dissertation. In a similar manner, you will see, even in the stylistics of writing — the very mechanics of how sentences are constructed — will relate to fundamental assumptions about how you understand and conceptualise your subject matter, indeed, how you view the social scientific ‘project’ itself.

Please note that module content and option module availability may be subject to change.

Modules 5-7

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