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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: Sociology

SOCI57515: Policy Related and Evaluation Research

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2021/22

Prerequisites

  • None.

Corequisites

  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.

Aims

  • Practical research that can be used to inform policy formation and practice development has become increasingly desirable because it provides evidence for ‘what works’ and ‘what does not work’ in the ‘real’ world. The emphasis on practical research however has led to some research which claims the ability to produce evidence that is theory-free. This module aims to introduce students to research undertaken to inform policy and practice, that is explicitly founded in the theory and methods of the social sciences. Much research undertaken for public bodies such as government departments, local authorities, health trusts and charitable foundations is intended to inform policy and professional practice. Such research rarely determines policy but adds a dimension based on evidence that complements other criteria such as political priorities, professional values, consultation with the public and service users, and the availability of resources. In recent years there has been an effort by policy and research communities to make better use of research and make it more accessible to users of research and funders. As more research is commissioned by government and business interests, research councils have sought to increase the policy relevance of the research they fund. Research charities have also sought to influence policy by funding research. Have a look at the following web sites for some examples:
  • The Department of Health at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/PolicyAndGuidance/ResearchAndDevelopment/fs/en
  • The UK Economic and Social Research Council at: http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/about/
  • The Joseph Rowntree Foundation at: http://www.jrf.org.uk/about/
  • Accompanying changes in the demand for applied research, has been a growth of interest among academics in evidence-based policy and practice, and of resources to support this. The following web site is particularly worth looking at for this purpose:
  • http://www.evidencenetwork.org/
  • The overall aims of this module are to equip you with the knowledge and skills to understand and critique research proposals based on empirical research that has clear policy relevance, and to evaluate policy-related research studies.

Content

  • Introduction: issues with evidence-based policy and practice, and introduction to the assignment;
  • The relationship between theory and empirical research in evaluation;
  • Designing, planning and implementing evaluation studies;
  • Case study 1: The Troubled Families Programme;
  • Defining and Measuring Outcomes;
  • Case study 2: Health inequalities and wicked issues;
  • Formative Evaluation Presentation;
  • Developing the relationship between theory and evaluation;
  • Participatory Evaluation;
  • Module Overview- emergent themes.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students will be able to undertake a sustained examination and critique of a research study which:
  • Shows an informed understanding of how and why evaluation research is commissioned;
  • Shows awareness of the multiple interests of users and potential users of valuation research, and the politics of evaluation;
  • Shows an informed understanding of how research is used in policy-making and professional decision-making;
  • Enables them to assess the quality of evaluation research;
  • Identifies appropriate methods for addressing questions of relevance to an area of policy, the delivery of a service or programme, or an area of professional practice;
  • Is ethically informed and aware of issues of power and equality.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to critically assess empirical evidence in relation to a policy design or implementation process;
  • The ability to employ the literature specifically related to policy and evaluation methods to critically evaluate a published study;
  • The ability to understand and relate appropriate threoretical literature to a policy content.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to evaluate and synthesise information obtained from a variety of sources (written, electronic, oral, visual);
  • The ability to communicate relevant information in a variety of ways and to select the most appropriate means of communication relative to the specific task. Students will also be able to communicate their own formulations in a clear and accessible way; they will be able to respond effectively to others and to reflect on and monitor the use of their communication skills;
  • The ability to read and interpret complex statistical tables, graphs and charts; to organize, classify and interpret numerical data; to make inferences from sets of data; to design a piece of research using advanced techniques of data analysis; and an appreciation of the scope and applicability of numerical data;
  • Competence in using information technology including the ability to word-process, to use at least one quantitative and one qualitative computer software package effectively; to use effective information storage and retrieval; and to use web-based resources;
  • The ability to plan work with others, to take a lead role in group work when required, to establish good working relationships with peers, to monitor and reflect on group work (including the student’s own group-work skills) and to take account of external feedback on contributions to group work, and on the group work process as a whole.
  • Effective time-management, working to prescribed deadlines;
  • The ability to engage in different forms of learning, to seek and to use feedback from both peers and academic staff, and to monitor and critically reflect on the learning process.

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

  • The module will be assessed through a formative assignment and a summative one. The:
  • Formative assessment will consist of students preparing a presentation summarising a published research study and analysing its strengths and weaknesses. This must be presented in a way that communicates the key messages to a policy or professional audience on date;
  • Summative assessment is by a critique of an evaluative study or policy research report.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 weekly 1 hour 10
Tutorials 10 weekly 1 hour 10
Seminars
Practicals
Fieldwork
Preparation & Reading 130
Total: 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Policy Related Essay 100%

Formative Assessment:

Presentation - a critique of a published policy/evaluation research report.


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