Research Design

20 Credits

Module aims

This module introduces students to the concepts and varieties of social science research designs. It aims to link research questions with design, methodology and warranting practices. It considers the kinds of research claims and conclusions that can be reliably drawn from different kinds of evidence produced by different designs, linking claims back in a logical way to design. The module introduces key design features, such as groups, timing and measurement and illustrates these through detailed analysis of a range of research designs including experimental and quasi-experimental design, case study design and longitudinal design. Design elements are all linked into an over-arching theme of the full cycle (or spiral) of research activity from knowledge synthesis through development and testing to engineering results into policy or practice.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module, students are expected to: 

  • Formulate research questions and develop testable hypotheses where appropriate 
  • Understand the key elements of research design and how to assemble them
    appropriately to answer questions 
  • Understand the link between theory construction and empirical research 
  • Apply appropriate designs to a research question or a series of research questions 
  • Understand and apply different forms of sampling strategies appropriate to
    different study designs 
  • Understand the concepts of validity (and reliability) and procedures to ensure
    they are guaranteed in the design process 
  • Be aware of a range of social science research designs, including experimental,
    longitudinal, case study designs 
  • Be able to compare and contrast these designs in relation to specific research
  • Make critical judgements about the research designs used in existing research

Example key texts

D. de Vaus (2001) Research Design in Social Research, London: Sage
Hakim, C. (2000) Research Design: Successful designs for social and economic research. London: Routledge.