Research Design in Social Sciences Code:  63.500    Credits:  5
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This is the course plan for the first semester of the academic year 2023/2024. To check whether the course is being run this semester, go to the Virtual Campus section More UOC / The University / Programmes of study section on Campus. Once teaching starts, you'll be able to find it in the classroom. The course plan may be subject to change.

This course is designed for students who are beginning to build their dissertation projects in social science research. The aim of the course is to give students the basic tools to conceptualise their theses in terms of research questions, analytical frameworks, empirical methods, and overall design. This course aims primarily at being practical: at the end of it you should be better trained to design your own research - and, in particular, your master or PhD thesis' proposal.

In this course you will read and discuss different texts related to research design. You will also work on your own research proposal, from an early and short draft at the beginning to a more developed and extended one at the end of the course. You will be encouraged to apply the advice and recommendations provided by the course materials to your own project, in order to improve the basic aspects of research design.

Proposals will be collectively discussed along the course in the virtual classroom, in a sort of (non-blind) peer review process. Participation in these discussions is thus a key element of the course.


At the end of the course, you are expected to have learned the following skills:


Advanced Methodological Block Skills


  • Mastering of process and stages of empirical research.
  • Successful design of an empirical research study, especially regarding its descriptive and/or explanatory capacity, selection of cases and variables, combination of techniques and methods, and consideration of technical limitations and resources available to the researcher.
  • Mastering of empirical research logical processes: deduction and induction, consistency, observability, causality, data analysis, useful and communicable conclusions.
  • Awareness of decisions, challenges and problems of empirical research.
  • Awareness of the importance of theoretical development and knowledge of other research studies and literature when conducting empirical research.


Research Design in Social Sciences specific course skills

  • Understanding the basic principles of empirical social research.
  • Awareness of the most important particularities of research on the interaction of social change and technological innovation.
  • Building and formulating an appropriate research question.
  • Selection of the relevant literature and building an analytical model.
  • Selection of the most appropriate methodology.
  • Conceptualisation, operationalization, and assessment of variables.
  • Design of empirical study: determination of units of analysis and temporal dimension.
  • Realisation of a thesis' project (research proposal).




  1. Empirical research in social sciences:An introduction.

What type of research are we doing? What are methodological approaches?

Analytical models? Theoretical frameworks?

Submission of a pre-proposal.


  1. Literature review and formulating a research question.

Research questions will be justified with relevant literature in your field of study.

Peer-reviewing of proposals.


  1. Methods and units of analysis.

Review (and rewrite) your pre-proposal checking on how you argued

the case for the methods you will be using, and your units of analysis.


  1. The structure of a research proposal.

Study an example of a research proposal according to the elements

discussed so far. Review your proposal according to the elements explored

in this example.


  1. Presentation of a research proposal. Final draft.

Rewrite and deliver your research proposal: PLEASE TRY TO INCORPORATE



Oral presentation of your proposal (10 minutes max).

Submission of your research diary.



Material Support
How to teach research integrity? Audiovisual


Learning Units' Assignments: The course is divided in learning units, each unit concentrating upon a particular skill that we shall work upon together. At the end of each learning unit, you will submit your learning unit's assignment. This is designed to monitor your learning progress and so that feedback is given after each unit.


The UOC's Academic Regulations indicate that the assessment process is founded on individual work by the student, presuming authentic authorship and originality in the exercises carried out.

An absence of originality in authorship or abuse of the conditions in which assessment of the subject takes place represent offences that can have serious academic consequences.

The student will be awarded a fail mark (D/0) if an absence of originality is detected in answering an assessment activity (practicum, continuous assessment test (CAT), final assessment test (FAT) or that established in the course plan). This may relate to use of unauthorized materials or devices, the copying of text from the internet, the copying of notes, materials, manuals or articles (without the corresponding citation), copying from another student, or for any other improper behaviour.

A fail mark (D/0) in final continuous assessment may entail an obligation to sit an exam in person in order to pass the course (if there is an exam and passing it is enough to pass the course, as indicated in the course plan).

If improper behaviour occurs when taking a final test in person, the student may be sent out of the room, and the examiner will keep a record of all information and other elements relevant to the case.

In addition, this behaviour may lead to the start of a disciplinary process and, where appropriate, the application of the corresponding sanction.

The UOC will employ whatever mechanisms it considers appropriate to safeguard the quality of its study programmes and ensure excellence and quality in its educational model.


This subject can only be passed through a continuous assessment. The final mark on the continuous assessment will be the final mark for the subject.The subject's accreditation formula is as follows: CA

Weighting of marks

Option to pass the course: Continuous assessment

Final course mark: Continuous assessment


Assignments: During the course students are expected to submit assignments as scheduled (after each unit, 30% of the final grade).

Active class participation: During the course several discussion sessions will be run in our virtual classroom in order to tackle together the most important and crucial moments (and difficulties) of designing your research. Furthermore, you will be required to review your colleagues' proposals twice in the course (at the beginning and at the very end). Your engagement and participation in these discussions and peer-reviews is essential for the fulfilment of the course's learning objectives (20% of the final grade).

Final research proposal: This is the last assignment you will have to submit in this course, and also the most important one. All other assignments will actually be a preparation for this one. The main objective of this course is to help you develop a solid research proposal (50% of the final grade).

As students, you are expected to be responsible for your own learning process. Reading is fundamental in order to assimilate the most important and necessary contents and skills of this course. Please make the greatest effort to keep up with the readings, and share all your doubts and questions so that we can all engage in this fascinating learning process. Do not forget that meeting this course's goals depends on your active work and participation!


(1) Unit Assignments (30%). For every unit students will be given different assignments to be posted to the virtual classroom. Most of the assignments will involve applying the readings to your own research projects.

(2) Final Proposal (50%). This is the main requirement for the course: a final (draft) proposal for your dissertation project to be sent before 26 June.

(3) Class Participation (20%). Students will be expected to participate in all public spaces of the class-room and actively contribute to class discussions.




It is acceptable and legitimate it is to read, assimilate and use other people's ideas in your work, but you must always cite the source that has inspired you, and never present as you own the ideas of peers, writers or the Internet. Your work will be checked for plagiarism and if detected, the student will immediatly fail and be at risk of dismissal from UOC. Please protect yourself and give credit to the original authors by always citing your sources!

Our virtual classroom has different spaces, and each of them will fulfill an important role in our interaction and learning process:

Notice board: The notice board will be our 'blackboard.' I will post the important pieces of information there; from deadlines to general feedback messages to important texts including important contents I want to work upon with you. Please do not forget to check the notice board regularly!

Forum: This space is, in a way, our virtual cafe. You can ask questions regarding the course here, but also ask for help, share your worries, interests. You can use this space to communicate with each other, but please do not forget to treat everyone with respect, even if you strongly disagree with the other's views.

Discussion: Here we shall engage in debates that will be strictly related to the contents of the course. It is a space of discussion, of sharing ideas, questions, and possible answers. Politeness and respect are a 'must' in all academic discussions.

File area: Beside the notice board, this will be an essential platform of communication (from me to you). I will regularly upload audio files in our file area, commenting and discussing crucial contents of our course, and will also upload a lecturer's text for each learning unit. Please read, and listen to, these materials with attention, and comment upon them (if you wish) in our forum or discuss on spaces. If any of you has any hearing difficulties, please inform me, and I will send you to your personal email box written summaries of the posted audio files.

Personal email: Your questions should be posted to the forum or discussion space, so that we can all benefit from the discussion that they will generate. However, feel free to contact me via email regarding personal issues. Feedback will also be sent via email during the course regarding your assignments.