Module code: SOCM084

Module Overview

Social researchers need to understand the assumptions that underpin the methods that they use. From this module students will develop an in-depth understanding of the role and importance of conceptual and methodological issues in research design. Students will be exploring some of the philosophical concepts and assumptions that underpin the practice of research, and some aspects of the relationship between theoretical frameworks and different methodological approaches to empirical research. The module will help students to understand the theoretical underpinnings of different approaches to research methods including, positivism, empiricism, realism and interpretivism and debates over the relations between structure and agency, knowledge and research technique.

The primary purpose of Methodological Issues in Research Design is to equip students to make informed choices with respect to their research. We will explore the research process from different points of view and students will come out of the course with both a better understanding of some of the choices open to them as researchers and with an informed perspective from which to make those choices.

Module provider


Module Leader

EVERGETI Venetia (Sociology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 106

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • the purpose and nature of social research

  • structure and agency

  • research practice based on positivist research

  • the value of empirical research

  • understanding and explanation (interpretivism)

  • individualism vs. holism

  • conceptualising and analysing conversation

  • mixed methods

  • reflexivity

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Oral exam or presentation Oral Presentation of Research Proposal 30
Coursework Final Essay 70

Alternative Assessment

Alternative assessment: a recording of the presentation and accompanying slides to be uploaded on Surrey Learn by a specified deadline.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

precise knowledge of some of the fundamental issues and debates in the philosophy of social science and a capacity to grasp the relative merits and uses of some of the key methodological and theoretical perspectives of social science that are covered in the module.


  Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • An oral presentation of students’ chosen research project (addresses learning outcomes 2 and 5)

  • An end of term essay on selected topics covered in the module (addresses learning outcomes 1,3 and 4)


 Formative Assessment & Feedback

Individual written feedback will be provided for both units of assessment using the student feedback form. Generic feedback will also be given in the form of general comments discussed in class and uploaded on SurreyLearn. In addition, individual verbal feedback will be given in one-to-one sessions. The feedback will indicate what was done well and what students need to do to improve in the future. It will relate both to understanding of module topics, and more general writing and communication skills. Where possible, feedback on the oral presentation will be in relation to the dissertation students are planning to submit at the end of their degree and will offer feedback on the suitability of their chosen theory/methods.

Module aims

  • To introduce students to a number of key methodological issues and positions and some of the key pilosophies within socialscience
  • To develop students¿ capacity to recognise and engage with methodological issues
  • To develop students¿ confidence and competence at evaluating methodological arguments and arriving at an independent, reasoned position in relation to them
  • To provide students with a critical understanding of the role and importance of conceptual and theoretical issues in social research
  • To enhance students¿ capacities as reflexive social researchers

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Reflect critically and creatively on social research and its place in society CK
002 Design and practice social research with the knowledge of fundamental issues underpinning different theories and methodologies CK
003 Develop an understanding of some of the fundamental issues in the philosophy of social science CK
004 Have some insight into the relationship between theoretical frameworks and forms of analysis CK
005 Be able to carry out their own research choosing the appropriate tools from a variety of methodological techniques CKPT

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:

Enable students to explore important research questions using a variety of methodological tools, be able to design and undertake research and data analysis, and critically evaluate the appropriateness of different methods for different research areas and socialcontexts. This will be achieved through a combination of lectures and seminar discussions.


 The learning and teaching methods include:

Ten weekly sessions of two hours. Most weeks will comprise a mixture of lectures and discussions. The sessions will involve students taking part in interactive in-class activities and group discussions. The format of these activities change from week to week, depending on the topics covered and the skills that students are focusing on developing at that point.

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: SOCM084

Other information

The Department of Sociology is committed to developing graduates with strengths in digital capabilities, employability, global and cultural capabilities, resourcefulness and resilience and sustainability. The MSc programme in Social Research specifically develops these strengths with a view to preparing graduates for careers in social research. This module aims to develop students’ grasp of a set of key set of concepts that underpin their future research and will enable them to make informed choices about research design issues. In particular, it supports students to develop in the following key areas.


Employability. The module aims to develop skills that are highly significant in the workplace for a social researcher, with a view to supporting research choices that are well-informed and robust.


Global and cultural capabilities. The module addresses issues around the assumptions that underpin social research in terms of our own positioning and assumptions. Students are prepared to understand the importance of reflexivity and to think about the consequences of their own positioning for the research that they conduct.


Resourcefulness and resilience. Students are encouraged to see themselves as engaged in a process of continual development of their theoretical understanding and, through class discussions, to help one another to develop in their ability to explore ideas in a respectful, open and supportive environment.


Sustainability. Students will be equipped with the knowledge, tools and motivation needed to support and enact positive change in relation to issues of equality, diversity and social wellbeing in a range of contexts, especially pertaining in sustainable practices of doing social research. In addition, some topics covered in the module explicitly relate to people and environment relations.

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 2024/5 academic year.