SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Research Methods

Module Code:
P130 (P506)

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 firm starting point from which you can explore the complex and often contentious topic of research methods.

There is no substitute for first-hand experience in collecting and using data, but careful study of the rationale and techniques of research design, field work, and analysis is an indispensable step in learning how to do it yourself.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

  • recognise and appraise critically the epistemological and ontological positions underlying dominant research traditions
  • formulate and write research questions, hypotheses and research objectives and select a research design
  • examine critically 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 and critique 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 and appraise appropriate routes for the dissemination of research findings.

Scope and syllabus

Unit 1: Introduction to research
Unit 2: Conceptual issues in research methods
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

The 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:

Click to start a demo of (Research Methods )

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