Public Policy Research Methods

School: School of Government and Society
Institute of Local Government Studies

Modular value: 20 credits
Duration: One 2 day and 3 day seminars (Five day module)

Module convenors: Karin Bottom and Stephen Jeffares

This module provides participants with an overview of research methodology focusing particularly on the role and process of research in the contemporary public policy context. The role and processes of gathering of evidence both for policy-making and for evaluating the impacts of policy are explored.

The module commences with consideration of the philosophical basis of public policy research, including issues of epistemology and ontology and questions about ethics and freedom of information and confidentiality. It considers both quantitative and qualitative research traditions and their respective value and limits in relation to different policy analysis and evaluation problems. As such, the module also offers an important foundation for MSc candidates as they prepare for work on their dissertations.

The aim is not to turn you into a professional researcher or academic – that would require much more than just thirty hours of contact time. Instead, our task is to lead you on a broad "tour d’horizon" that should provide you with the necessary foundations in knowledge and skills to make the most of research in whatever field you will be operating.

Main aims of module

  • To enable you to understand and critically assess research within in a policy context.
  • To provide you with tools to design, implement and evaluate research projects – including the dissertation component of your programme.

Teaching and learning approach

Each session will combine lecture-style teaching with practical exercises drawing on a wide range of public policy issues.

Unit 1

  • Module Introduction: Public Policy Research Drivers Evidence Based Policy and Practice
  • Research Case Study 1: "Health Yourself" Rounds Green Children's Involvement Project
  • Research Case Study 2: Audit Commission Local Government National Report Research
  • Research and Public Service Practice: Group Analysis and Discussion
  • Research Case Study 3: The Business Case for LinkAge Plus
  • Research Case Study 4: Total Place and Q-Sort Analysis
  • Exploring Public Service Research in Practice: Planning and Preparation for Assignment 1
  • Dissertation Topic / Question

Unit 2

  • Exploring Public Service Research in Practice: Purpose, Implementation and Impact
  • Research Philosophy and Enquiry
  • Research Design 1
  • Research Design 2
  • Qualitative Methodologies 1
  • Qualitative Methodologies 2
  • Qualitative Methodologies and Interpretation
  • Quantitative Methodologies 1
  • Quantitative Methodologies 2
  • Quantitative Methodologies and Interpretation
  • Dissertation Planning and Guidance
  • Assignment 2 Preparation

Learning outcomes

  • Understand the role and process of research in contemporary public policy development, implementation and evaluation
  • Understand key concepts in research
  • Apply critical analytical skills to published research
  • Understand the application, value and limits of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and techniques / tools
  • Develop skills in devising and designing research methods suitable for different policy contexts and for rigorous analysis and evaluation


  • Essay Assignment (3000 words)
  • Dissertation / Research Project Proposal (3000 words)

Related courses:

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.