Module code: SOCM060

Module Overview

The rapid expansion of the internet has presented researchers with a range of new ways to collect data about the social world, generating important new insights into social behaviour and interaction.

This module is designed to give students an introduction to online social research, covering a range of qualitative and quantitative methods for collecting and analysing online data and for exploring digital social phenomena. Using a combination of lectures and hands-on practical sessions, we will explore various aspects of online social research including ways to collect data, the ethics of online research, and methods to analyse online data.

Module provider


Module Leader

HINE Christine (Sociology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 22

Independent Learning Hours: 128

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • the emergence of digital sociology

  • online interviews and focus groups

  • administering surveys online

  • ethnography in online settings

  • multi-sited and online/offline fieldwork

  • ethics of online research

  • methods of analysing online data including a selection from: social media data and NVivo; semiotic and content analysis; sentiment analysis; issue crawler; social network analysis

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Coursework (3,500 word research proposal) 100

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate a critical understanding of the application of online research methods within social research

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A practical exercise in research design using online methods. Students will be asked to develop a research proposal making use of online methods to investigate a substantive area of their choosing. This demonstrates their ability to choose an appropriate technique from the array of possibilities available, to demonstrate their systematic critical and practical understanding of that technique and critically to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses as compared to other techniques.

Formative assessment

Students will receive verbal feedback on their performance in classroom exercises, which are designed to give opportunities to try out the techniques discussed in class, to practice their critical skills and to evaluate the different contribution which the various methods make to contemporary sociology. They will present an initial version of their research design on the final day of the taught week and receive immediate verbal feedback from the lecturer and their peers. A further opportunity to submit a short draft of the online methods assessment for written formative feedback will be provided. Formative feedback will focus on developing students’ ability to make and justify appropriate methodological choices. Feedback Feedback will be offered verbally in class and subsequently in written format via SurreyLearn on one formative summary of the assignment and on the final summative assignment.

Module aims

  • • Offer students an overview of online research methods as deployed within contemporary social research
  • • Develop students' critical understanding of the Develop students' critical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of online approaches to social research
  • • Offer an opportunity to develop some initial practical skills in applying online research methods
  • • To give students the confidence to select methods appropriately and to provide a foundation for students to develop their skills further independently in future

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Understand the range of online social research methods currently available
002 Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these methods and their place in contemporary sociology
003 Appreciate the ethical issues that online social research methods raise
004 Demonstrate a practical understanding of the application of these methods
005 Develop research proposals that make effective and appropriate use of these methods

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • offer students an overview of the area and outline the key issues within the field

  • introduce examples of research projects using online research methods

  • develop students’ critical skills in evaluating methods and identifying potential pitfalls

  • give students some hands-on experience of online research methods at an introductory level

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • lectures

  • class discussions

  • practical sessions both working with data on paper and working on computer

This module is taught intensively during one week. Days 1-3 will consist of a combination of lectures and hands-on practical sessions exploring various aspects of online social research. Day 4 is devoted to independent study, allowing students to undertake preparatory work on their assignment. Finally, on day 5 students will get the opportunity to receive formative feedback on their initial assignment plans and receive peer feedback during group discussion. Students will then complete an assignment that evidences the skills that they have acquired in designing online social research.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: SOCM060

Other information


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Social Research Methods MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.