Research methodology is a discipline that shows how to connect theories, hypothesis or research questions on one side, and data and techniques of analysis on the other one. Indeed, social research methodology deals more with how we learn what we know about the social world, than with what we learn. The course will address topics such as how to design and conduct a research project, from hypothesizing to choosing the most adequate method for testing hypotheses, to data analysis and reporting of the results. Attention will also be devoted to ethical issues in empirical social research. The course will have a practical character, having students work on online data bases and other kinds of resources (literature repositories, research reports from international organizations like OECD, UN, EU, World Bank, etc.), as well on microdata with the Stata software. Particular attention will be given to between-country comparisons, in order to illustrate the advantage of comparative research for developing a thorough understanding of the topic being studied
Expected learning outcomes
Knowledge and understanding: The course aims at introducing students to the basics of empirical research, providing them with the main conceptual and knowledge tools for understanding how an empirical research in the social sciences is routinely designed and carried out. Applying knowledge and understanding: Students will be able to develop their own strategy for finding evidence for supporting/disconfirming the typical claims or hypotheses that social scientists deal with (eg. concerning societal change, social movements and processes, consequences of economic and political processes, and so on). Making judgements: By the end of the course, students will be able to design a simple research project and to devise the best way to carry it out in practice. They will also be able to evaluate on a methodological ground actual instances of empirical research, such as a research report or a research paper, in order to assess whether the methodological requirements as for the research question or hypothesis, the sampling frame and design, the sample size, the analysis and report of the results have been met, and - if not - what would be necessary to do for meeting them. Communication skills: students will be routinely asked to work in groups and to report on the result of their activity before the class and the instructor. Their ability to communicate research results will also be tested over the course, monitoring their improvement. Learning skills: Students will learn to autonomously conduct a (simple) research project, starting from a research question and ending with a research report. They will also be able to critically evaluate existing research projects and published papers from the point of view of issues relevant for social research methodology (choice of method, sampling, data collection, data analysis and reporting, ethical issues raised by the research).
The course will address the following topics: - approaches to research - research ethics - designing a research proposal - the choice of a research method - sampling - survey method, questionnaires and interviewing - the experimental method - levels of measurement - analysing qualitative data - analysing quantitative data - quantitative data: crosstabulations - quantitative data: linear regression and correlation - visual presentation of results
Prerequisites for admission
A working knowledge of spreadsheets and a basic knowledge of descriptive and inferential statistics will help students throughout the course.
The course will consist of a mix of lectures and laboratories, during which students will be guided in using online data bases and microdata.
- Guthrie G. (2010), Basic research methods. An entry into social science research, Sage (chapters 1-4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14-16) - Treiman D.J. (2008), Quantitative data analysis. Doing social research to test ideas, Jossey-Bass (chapters 1, 2, 4-6, 9) - Kirk A. 2016), Data visualisation. A handbook for data driven design, Sage (chapter 6)
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam will be written and will consist of three sections: 1) a multiple-choice section (7 questions) 2) an exercises section (3 exercises) 3) an opend-ended section (2 questions) Each section is worth 10 points. For passing the exam, students should correctly answer at least 4 multiple-choice questions, 2 exercises and 1 open ended question. There will be no difference between attending and non-attending students.