University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Social Research Methods

LEVEL I - Introductory Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION The Unit provides a general introduction to social science methodology and the main research methods used in social science research. It will seek to sensitize students to the importance and utility of doing social research in areas such as sociology, social policy, social work, human geography, criminology, psychology, cultural studies, political science, marketing and anthropology. It will provide an overview of how research is done in the social sciences by guiding students through the various stages of the research process.

The Unit introduces students to the theoretical concepts which are central to the debate about methodology. It will discuss the main arguments in the theoretical debate surrounding the adoption of scientific/positivist or interpretivist methodology. This will also be discussed within the context of the foundations of Sociology in the 19th century. Practical issues involved in research such as research ethics, reliability, validity, triangulation, hypothesis, variables, sampling techniques, objectivity and bias are also discussed.

One of the objectives of the Unit is to make a distinction between (i) research methodology and research methods; (ii) primary and secondary sources of data and (iii) quantitative and qualitative methods.

Another objective of the Unit is to explain the process of applying the right research methods to the particular research project being carried out. Different research methods such as questionnaires, interviews, participant observation and experiments will be discussed together with different research designs such as surveys, case studies, longitudinal studies, comparative studies and experiments.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
• Distinguish between research methodology and research methods; primary and secondary sources of data; quantitative and qualitative methods and data;
• Distinguish between scientific and interpretive methodology;
• Explain how research in the social sciences is carried out;
• Understand the various steps involved in the research process;
• Recognise the range of research designs and methods that can be employed to the study of society;
• Distinguish between different sampling techniques and their application;
• List the advantages and limitations of different research approaches and methods;
• Compare and contrast different research approaches and methods;
• Understand the implications involved in the choices that researchers make throughout the research process.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
• Write an essay discussing the various processes, concepts and techniques discussed during the topic;
• Apply the knowledge gained during the Unit to a specific research project on a conceptual level, i.e. explain the steps and issues involved in carrying out a specific research projects;
• Construct a simple research instrument such as a questionnaire or interview schedule;
• Design and carry out a simple research project.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

• Bryman, A (2008). Social Research Methods 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press.
• Garrod, J, Clynch, A and Lawson T (1999). A-Z Sociology Coursework Handbook 2nd edition. Hodder & Stoughton.

Supplementary Readings:

• Matthews, B and Ross, L (2010). Research Methods: A Practical Guide for the Social Sciences. Longman.
• Somekh, B and Lewin, C. (eds.) (2011). Theory and Methods in Social Research. Sage Publications.
• Seale, C; Gobo, G.; Gubrium, JF, Silverman, D (eds) (2007). Qualitative Research Practice. Concise paperback edition. Sage Publications
• Fowler, FJ (2013). Survey Research Methods 5th edition. Sage Publications.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Project Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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