NIFK20003U Introduction to Social Science Methods
Msc Programme in Integrated Food Studies
This is an introductory course that centers on social science data collection methods. The course aims to give the students the methodological skills needed in later phases of their studies, and provide the students with relevant skills in professional work life after academia, either as practitioners of the introduced methods or as observers that can critically assess social science designs and analyses.
The course covers qualitative tools (personal interviewing, focus groups, and ethnographic observations) quantitative tools (questionnaires), and case study research (with emphasis on actor mapping and social network analysis). Focus is on how to construct qualitative and quantitative data collection tools, and evaluate their quality in connection with stated research goals. Techniques to analyse qualitative data and quantitative latent variables will also be covered. There will also be focus on sampling and recruitment of analytical units (typically respondents) to the above-mentioned methods.
The course consists of two concurrent parts: a theoretical / methodological part and a practical part.
The theoretical / methodological part of the course gives an overview of common qualitative and quantitative social science methods and outlines their strengths and weaknesses. The case study research design is introduced in the context of actor mapping and social network analysis.
Principles to assess when it is more or less appropriate and relevant to employ a specific research design and method are laid out as are the different types of generalization principles and evaluations of validity that exist across the methods.
The practical part of the course centers, firstly, on data tool construction (e.g. how to develop an interview guide for individual interviews and focus groups, how to make ethnographic observations, how to develop appropriate questions and response options for a questionnaire and). The course will also introduce to methods for actor mapping and social network analysis. There will be exercises where the students will obtain practical experience with developing such data tools, choices when sampling analytical units, and assessing the quality of them. Secondly, analytical strategies for examination of qualitative and quantitative data are covered along with principles as to how to assess the reliability and validity of a research reading. The covered analyses and validity techniques are presented through practical exercises focusing on the use of existing qualitative interview text extracts and output from questionnaire data.
The methodologies that are taught provide the students with general competences that is applicable to many study fields beyond food consumption and food systems.
and give them practical experience with development and evaluation of the quality of such tools. After completion of the course it is expected that the student:
- Has knowledge of and can identify different types of methods used in the social sciences (quantitative, qualitative, and case study research) and describe their features.
- Has knowledge about how to align research question with choice of method and construction of data collection tool.
- Has knowledge about tools that can identify actors (stakeholders) and describe networks in larger or smaller sections of the food system.
- Has a theoretical understanding of pertinent decision criteria when choosing methodological approach and specific tool(s).
- Can demonstrate an overview of a selection of techniques that can be used for qualitative data analysis and latent variable modeling.
- Has overview of and ability to reflect over ways to assess the validity of data collection tools.
- Has the ability to compare the suitability of specific research methods when confronted with research questions and argue for / explain choice of methods.
- Is able to develop research designs and data collection tools on basis of operationalization of research questions.
- Has practical experience with developing qualitative and quantitative data collection tools.
- Can point out relevant analytical techniques (within qualitative and quantitative methods) for specific research questions.
- Can assess the validity of a data collection tool and data.
- Can discuss and evaluate the limitations and relevance of specific data tools and methods.
- Can discuss and critically assess the quality of a research design.
- Will have generalizable tools to assess appropriate social scientific research designs.
- Can engage in discussion with other analysts (including social scientist candidates such as sociologists and anthropologists) about choice of method and validity criteria.
Teaching material and curriculum will be announced prior to course start-up.
Most exercises will be carried out in project groups.
- Practical exercises
- Project work
- 7,5 ECTS
- Type of assessment
- Written examination, 4 hours under invigilationWritten examination, 4 hours.
The course has been selected for ITX exam on Peter Bangs Vej.
Students will receive a number of questions (some of which have sub-questions). The questions aim to assess the students’ practical understanding and application of the main concepts and methods introduced during the course (e.g. choosing appropriate research design, including choice of method and sampling strategy; developing or choosing relevant questions for a questionnaire or interview guide; interpretation/analysis of qualitative data and output from statistical tables with latent variables; assessing the validity and reliability of a research output).
Typically, questions require open-ended answers but some may also be multiple choice.
- Exam registration requirements
During the course students will get three assignments that must be completed in order to take the final exam. The assignments must be carried out in groups.
- All aids allowed
The University will make computers and power available to students taking written exams with invigilation in the University’s building on Peter Bangs Vej 36 (ITX). Students are therefore not permitted to bring their own computers, tablets or mobile phones. If textbooks and/or notes are permitted, according to the course description, these must be in paper format or on a USB flash drive.
- Marking scale
- 7-point grading scale
- Censorship form
- External censorship
Same as above if more than 10 students sign up for the reexam.
If 10 or fewer sign up, the reexam is oral. It lasts 20 - 25 minutes, with 20 - 25 minutes preparation time with all aids allowed.
If the student has not gotten the assignments approved, then the assignments must handed in individually, and they must be handed in two weeks prior to the deadline of registration for the re-exam. They must be approved before the exam.
Criteria for exam assesment
The assessment is based on the criteria given by the Learning Outcomes