Social 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. We will see 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 kind of resources (literature repositories, research reports from international organizations like OECD, UN, EU, World Bank, etc.).
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).