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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2022/2023

Archive Module Description

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

Department: Sociology

SOCI43915: Researching Society, Policy and Practice

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2021/22
Tied to L3KC09 Criminology and Criminal Justice
Tied to L3KF09 Sociology


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop students' critical understanding of and skills in the main approaches and methods of social research, with particular reference to the use of research in social welfare practice settings within an ethical framework.


  • the nature of practitioner research - complexities and challenges;
  • the uses of research in social welfare policy and practice;
  • approaches to social research - ontological and epistemological issues;
  • ethical issues in research;
  • developing research questions;
  • literature reviewing;
  • sampling;
  • methods of data collection;
  • methods of data analysis;
  • interpretation and validation;
  • writing up research.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A critical understanding of how research may be used to inform social welfare policy and practice;
  • A critical understanding of the key debates about the nature of 'practitioner research' and the complexities and challenges facing practitioners undertaking research;
  • An ability to identify an appropriate field of inquiry suitable for a small-scale research or evaluation project;
  • An ability to design an independent piece of research;
  • Knowledge of a range of research methodologies and methods and an ability to review, evaluate and apply these appropriately and justify the choices made;
  • An appreciation of the ethical issues that may arise during the research process and the commitment and skills to apply appropriate principles of ethical conduct in practice including; the principles of information governance and awareness of the safe and effective use of health and social care information.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to relate research findings to policy and practice in a specialist field of study;
  • An ability to report findings effectively, draw conclusions based on research and locate these in the context of other research and literature.
Key Skills:
  • Skills in collection, analysis and presentation of data;
  • An ability to work autonomously, taking a high level of responsibility for their work.

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

  • Teaching and learning in lectures and associated reading will utilise input from the tutor, student debate and discussion to contribute to all the learning outcomes, in particular, subject-specific knowledge.
  • A group workshop will allow discussion of how to develop and structure their research proposals looking at sample proposals and guidance.
  • Knowledge, understanding and skills will be assessed through:
  • An outline research proposal (formative assessment) - feedback will be given by the dissertation tutor to enable students to make improvements.
  • A full research design - this tests out students' abilities to formulate questions and plan a piece of research, specifying methodology, methods, analysis, ethical issues.
  • Students are offered individual written feedback on their formative and summative assignments and can seek additional one-to-one feedback in staff office hours if they require this.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly, Term 1 2 hours 20
Group Workshop 1 2 2
Preparation and Reading 128
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Research Proposal Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Proposal 1,500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

An outline Research Proposal.

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