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Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Research Methods

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The focus of this module is to provide you with the skills needed to conduct research of sufficient quality and rigour that enables it to be useful for decision making. You will also be able to assess the quality of information that comes your way and view other people’s research with a critical eye.

Applied research in the fields of rural development, agriculture and the environment frequently crosses disciplinary boundaries. Decision makers in these areas need to have an understanding of research in both social and natural science; this module therefore considers research methods for both natural and social science research.

The collection and analysis of data cannot be independent of theoretical issues, and we therefore give some attention to considering different approaches to research. We aim to provide an introduction to these issues and highlight why they are important. Similarly our treatment of data collection and analysis can be viewed as providing a starting point from which you can explore the complex and often contentious topic of research methods.

In Part I we concentrate on the nature and role of research and on principles and methods of sampling and data collection. In Part II we consider the analysis of quantitative data and introduce the software package SPSS. This is followed by an examination of the processes and procedure involved in qualitative data analysis before finishing with a consideration of ethics and research dissemination.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

You will be able to:

  • Recognise the epistemological and ontological positions underlying dominant research traditions
    Formulate and write research questions, hypotheses and research objectives and select a research design
  • Discuss the importance of a sampling strategy in both quantitative and qualitative research and be familiar with key sampling methods
  • Undertake a critical literature review and recognise the strengths and weaknesses in secondary data
    Explain basic statistical concepts and principles, choose appropriate statistical tests to look for differences in data and apply these tests using SPSS.
  • Describe the basic procedures for the thematic analysis of qualitative data and be able to prepare, code and analyse qualitative data
  • Write a research proposal that demonstrates an understanding of the research process and the key principles of research ethics
  • Identify appropriate routes for the dissemination of research findings.

Scope and syllabus

Unit 1: Introduction to research
Unit 2: Considering methods: conceptual issues in research
Unit 3: Quantitative research: variables and measurement
Unit 4: Sampling principles, error and sampling methods
Unit 5: Primary data: collection and management
Unit 6: Using secondary sources in research
Unit 7: Quantitative data analysis I: introduction to statistics
Unit 8: Quantitative data analysis II: basic statistical tests 
Unit 9: Qualitative data analysis
Unit 10: Research writing: preparing research proposals and presenting results

Module sample

P506 module uses a core text which is specially written and will take you through your self-directed study. Exercises, assignments and other activities, such as self-assessment questions, film clips and animations are included to help you with learning. Most module study guides are now provided in electronic format on a USB flash memory stick, but can also be downloaded from the online learning environment. Click the linked image below to view a sample of our e-study guide: