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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA40C30: Social Science: Questions, Concepts, Theories, and Methods

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2021/22
Tied to G5P423 Data Science (Social Analytics)


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To illustrate differences in research questions, concepts and theories between social science and other disciplines
  • To facilitate understanding of different types of data and their relevance to social science research
  • To teach research design and measurement methods with practical examples from the social sciences.
  • To introduce state of the art applications of computational methods in substantive areas of social science


  • Indicative content is listed below and will be taught with reference to problems/scenarios within the social sciences:
  • Questions, concepts and theories in social science
  • Data types, sources and their relevance
  • Computational measurement designs
  • Exploratory Research Designs
  • Confirmatory Research Designs
  • Application of computational methods in the social sciences

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students will have a working knowledge and understanding of the following areas:
  • Understand the use of theories and concepts in the social sciences
  • Understand data types and sources
  • Computational measurement issues
  • Types of research designs
  • Strengths and limitations of different computational methods in social science
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Have a general understanding of social science concepts and methods
  • Have a basic understanding of types and sources of data in social science
  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of how to use exploratory and confirmatory designs in social science
  • Illustrate state of the arts research in social science
Key Skills:
  • Students will also develop some important key skills, suitable for underpinning study at this and subsequent levels, such as:
  • Critical appraisal of concepts, theories, and evidence in social science.
  • Application of computational measurement approaches
  • Application of exploratory and confirmatory research designs
  • Interpret and communicate findings from social science research to wider audiences
  • Differentiate between different applications of computational methods in social science

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will usually be delivered either synchronously or asynchronously and will demonstrate the conceptual foundations of applications of computational methods in social science.
  • Seminars: enable students to explore and evaluate some of the key concepts discussed in the module. Seminars will be delivered synchronously wherever possible.
  • Independent Reading: provides students with the opportunities to read widely, particularly in preparation for formative and summative assessments. Independent reading enables students to engage in debates within scholarly journals and research monographs, in ways that enhance a critical understanding and engagement with key issues in computational social science.
  • Summative assignments are designed to test the acquisition and articulation of knowledge and critical understanding, and skills of implementation and interpretation of calculation and computational methods as applied to both synthetic and real social science data-related problems.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 12 Weekly (Term 1 & Term 2) 2 hours 24
Seminars 8 Fortnightly (Term 1 & Term 2) 2 hours 16
Preparation and reading 260
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay (Term 1): Reflective Essay 3000 words 50%
Essay (Term 2): On research design in the area of their interest 3000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

1,500 words outline of reflective essay (Term 1) and 1,500 words research design outline (Term 2)

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University