Welcome to the WISDOM Social Research Methods course.

This course is aimed at everyone who needs to gain the foundational skills and knowledge required to undertake social research.  It is based on materials that have been delivered to postgraduate students and professional researchers over the past 20 years, both in the classroom, and also in distance learning formats.  These course contents have now been fully revised for this WISDOM course, incorporating the latest innovations in social inquiry methods.

We hope you will use this course as a ‘cook-book’, both to provide the knowledge you need and to act as a reference source that you can dip into when you need information in your future research career.  It will introduce the key concepts used by social researchers, and consider the key processes needed to undertake a high quality research project, and how these can be put into practice.  We illustrate the materials throughout with examples from social research, to bring the concepts to life.

The focus of this course is very much upon the practicalities of social inquiry, and we have designed a running order that is logical: from setting a research question to writing up research.

Before that, we look briefly in unit 1 at some of the foundational issues in social inquiry concerning social science and the different views social scientists hold about how we gain knowledge of the social world.  If you feel this is too heavy going right at the start, feel free to skip on to unit 2, but try to return to read unit 1 later in your studies.

Course structure

There are 12 units to this course, and each should take you around one to two hours to work through, including the exercises that form the course assessment (see below).  Pace yourself. Different people work in different ways: you could finish the whole course over a long weekend, or spread it out over 12 weeks or longer.  Do what suits you best.

The structure of each unit is as follows:

  • Learning objectives
  • Introduction
  • Main text
  • Self assessment questions (SAQs) and answers

These have been included in the text at intervals to help you to test your understanding of what you have just read. Answers are provided at the end of each unit.  You do not need to include these in your log book.

  • Summary
  • Reflective exercise: to be written up in your log book

These are an opportunity for you to think about what you have learnt in each unit and apply it to your own research interests. Try to complete these as you work through the course units.

  • References and further reading

At the end of the course, you will also find a glossary of terms that defines all the key concepts introduced in the course, in alphabetical order.

Assessment and Certificate

You will find all the reflective exercises replicated in the log book. If you require a certificate of completion and would like feedback on your work, you will need to complete the log book of exercises, and submit this when you finish the course.

We hope you enjoy working through this WISDOM course, and look forward to receiving your log book.

Nick Fox, WISDOM Director of Studies

Elisabeth Galena, Course Tutor