Research methods

Course Details

Course code: REDU11078

Course leader: Dr Jeremy Knox

Course delivery: Jan 2019, Jan 2020


Research Methods is normally taken as the last taught course before the dissertation. It will give you the framework and contextual knowledge you need in order to plan, design and execute a programme of independent research for the dissertation element of the MSc in Digital Education. The course will enable you to formulate a research question and an outline project plan. It will give you key skills in research design and enable you to position your own programme of research within the broader context of social science enquiry. It will introduce you to data collection and analysis and to key methods for analysing both quantitative data and qualitative research texts.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course you will be able to:                     

  • Demonstrate critical awareness of key aspects of epistemology, validity and ethics as they relate to social science and digital education research
  • Locate and critically analyse published research
  • Engage with a range of data collection and analysis methods and approaches
  • Effectively plan a programme of research, identifying appropriate research questions and how they might be addressed by particular methodological approaches
  • Demonstrate an awareness of academic conventions in the presentation of research


Week 1-2: Thinking like a researcher
During the first two weeks of the course, the goal is to get you thinking like a researcher. We’re going to read and talk about what research actually is, and what it might mean to find or generate new knowledge. We’re going to consider some key features of a research project design. By the end of this fortnight, you should have a broader and richer understanding of what kinds of options are open to you, as a researcher, and what your own position might be in relation to generating knowledge.

Week 3: Reviewing literature
This week you will read two published accounts of research, and critique the methods that have been chosen and applied. This activity will form the basis of one of your course assignments.

Week 4, 5, 6: Exploring research approaches
Your task over these three weeks is to explore in some detail three approaches that interest you from a range of different research methods.

Week 7: Getting to grips with research ethics
This week will give you the chance to think more about research ethics – learning more about what the importance of ethics is, what’s expected in terms of the dissertation, and discussing some real life ethical dilemmas that other researchers have faced.

Week 8-9: Analysing data
During this fortnight, you’ll chose one of the three approaches you explored earlier, and follow it through to the analysis stage. Once you’ve conducted some analysis, you will write a 1000 word account of that process and your findings, and this will be submitted as your second course assignment.

Week 10: Designing a dissertation project
This week will help prepare you for the proposal-writing assignment, and for the dissertation itself.

Week 11-12: Preparing your proposal
During these weeks, you will build on what you’ve learned from the previous 10 weeks, and your emerging ideas, and write your research proposal assignment.


Critical Review (30%): You will choose one of two published research articles to review. In your assignment, you will explore various aspects of your chosen article, including its theoretical stance, how it describes and explains the research that underpins it, and how it uses the research data to inform the arguments it makes. The goal of your review is to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the paper in research terms, and to show your understanding of how research is reported. (1000 words, due end of week 5)

Data Analysis (20%): You will report back on the analysis exercise you undertook during the course – the process you followed, the decisions you made about the analysis, and what you found. You will formulate a research question which can be addressed (at least in part) by references to your chosen data. You will then carry out the analysis and write an account of your findings. (1000 words, due end of week 10)

Research Proposal (50%): This final assignment will also be the proposal for your dissertation project. It will describe the research topic or question you plan to address, the background to this topic including an indication of what your literature review will contain, your research methodology, timescale, and ethical considerations.  (2000 words, due end of week 12)

Teaching Methods

Methods will include supported independent study, project work on provided data sets, asynchronous group discussion, and video group tutorials.


Indicative reading is: 

*Arthur, J., Waring, M., Coe, R. and Hedges, L. (eds) (2012). Research Methods and Methodologies in Education. London, Sage.

Eisner, E. (1992). Objectivity in Educational Research. Curriculum Inquiry, 22/1. 9-15.

Phillips, D. (1990). Subjectivity and objectivity: An objective inquiry. In Eisner, E and Peshkin, A (eds) Qualitative Inquiry in Education: The Continuing Debate. New York: Teacher’s College.

Selwyn, N. (2012). Ten suggestions for improving academic research in education and technology, Learning, Media and Technology. iFirst, 2012.

*Core textbook – to be purchased before the start of the course.


As with all courses, you will be required to have regular access to a computer with a good broadband connection, and will be responsible for providing your own computing equipment and consumables. For video chats you will need headphones, microphone and camera.

You will need to purchase the core textbook before the start of the course. All additional readings will be provided online.