KE7022 - Postgraduate Research Methods

What will I learn on this module?

You will learn about the foundations (research theories), benefits / advantages and limits /drawbacks of a range of advanced standard social science research methodologies. You will thus be in a better position to design a research strategy and operationalise this, particularly for your Masters Dissertation or Project, but also for future graduate employment in knowledge societies and research-rich or informed careers and professions. You will also be better prepared to scrutinise other people’s / organisations’ research, and to what extent it is appropriate, robust and meaningful – particularly the connection between research objectives / questions and methods and interpretation of findings.
Research methods covered will include both qualitative and quantitative methods and techniques to explore issues in disaster and development studies, and global development from a human / societal / social processes / organisations / communities perspective. Particular attention will be devoted to evidence-based policy making and “wicked issues”. “Natural” environmental processes will be within the scope of the module as far as a social science-based exploration of “produced nature” is fruitful and necessary.

Key topics/themes/issues covered can include, but are not limited to: Approaching Research Methods, Designing Your Research Process, Ethics and Risk Assessment, Fieldwork Research Issues, Consultancy / Stakeholder issues, Case study research, Qualitative / Institutional Research Methods and Analysis, Quantitative Research Methods and (spatial and thematic) Data Analysis, Development Fieldwork through Interviewing, Participatory methods, Survey research, qualitative versus quantitative research and its applications, mixed methods research, research analysis and communication (writing-up and for of presentation).

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through a mix of lectures, seminars and workshops, directed learning tasks and independent learning, which will be supported also by facilitation of peer-learning processes.

Lectures introduce and develop key concepts providing a framework for your learning about what core advanced types of research methods are commonly used, why, and in which ways for what purposes.

Seminars are designed to allow you to explore these issues around types of research methods and cluster of techniques in greater depth, including with a peer-learning element. They involve interactive discussion with both tutors and peers, enabling further development of topics introduced in lectures.

Workshops are designed to explore the operational use of some of the key advanced research methods, some of which are IT-based.

Directed learning tasks will be set to allow you to explore the range of research methods in their appropriate selection, applicability and operational use, with key readings provided which will be both theoretical / conceptual but also on research process and operational / applied aspects and examples. We will set up support groups via an eLP discussion board.

Independent learning is necessary and facilitated by you exploring in more depth specific (combinations of) research methods for the kinds of research questions that are most relevant to your field of advanced investigation, including the assessed Proposal for your Masters Dissertation / Research Project. We will encourage the development of peer reading groups. You are encouraged and should make use of the relevant Departmental (or other such appropriate ones across the University (esp. in Social Sciences and Public Health)) Research Seminars to hear from researchers and research-active or commissioning or reflective practitioners.

We will provide you with some tailored material, to expand on core textbooks and key readings captured on the interactive reading list, via the University’s eLP, direct you to on-line resources and for independent learning you will become a regular user of NORA, the University’ academic search engine.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will get support both from the Module Tutor and the Session Tutors. Within the more interactive teaching sessions such as seminars or workshops students can obtain formative support/feedback, both from tutors and peers. There is an electronic repository of previous (anonymised) sample assignments by students with an indicative grade range indicated, compiled and made accessible (either by the NSU Disaster and Development Society or the eLP if that Society is not in operation).

Generally speaking we have an open door (both in-person and virtual) policy, though staff are not always available on the spot for a number of reasons (including off-campus work commitments), but we have a clear culture and Departmental policy ensuring good and timely responsiveness to e-mail communication received from students.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• MLO 1: Critically evaluate research methodologies in terms of their foundations
• MLO 2: Critically review and assess the selection and application of research methods in a chosen focus field

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MLO 3: Identify and justify a feasible and appropriate research topic
• MLO 4: Critically evaluate and plan for the appropriate selection and application of research methods and techniques for a chose area

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

• MLO 5: Identify ethical issues within your focussed research area, and assess your own positionality vis-à-vis the proposed research project.

How will I be assessed?

Summative Assessment:

1,500 word Essay
Weighted 40 % of module mark
Critical evaluation Essay on research method selection and fundamental pillars of understanding.
This is so that you can demonstrate that you have developed and acquired a critical understanding of the foundations (epistemology) and process of research.
MLOs 1, 2 and 5

2,000 word Dissertation or Project Proposal
Weighted 60 % of module mark.
This assessment will ask and help you to identify an appropriate focussed and scaled and subject-relevant small-scale (Masters Dissertation level or Masters Project) investigation of your own. It will ask you to specify and justify – based on a Literature Review – which research topic would be fruitful and appropriately challenging at Masters level to research into yourself, with what key research questions and how so, i.e. which research methodologies and techniques will enable you to answer your research questions and overall aims to the best effect. It will also ask you to explore and assess which ethical issues are bound up with this research focus and approach and methods, as well as your own personal value, biographical and experience nexus with both the subject and the methods chosen.
MLOs 3, 4, 5

Formative assessment/support processes

There will be an opportunity for you to submit a plan for the proposal to help you to frame this appropriately prior to the final submission.

You will be able to access electronically past (anonymised) student assignments for this with an indicated mark category.

There will be interactive discussion with staff in seminars and workshops where you can float ideas or obtain formative feedback on thinking processes and assignment tackling strategies you and your peers are developing.





Module abstract

You will learn and gain experience in designing, carrying out, evaluating and commissioning research, which includes learning about different approaches to research, qualitative and quantitative social science research methods and their benefits and limitations. This equips you to design and operationalise a research strategy as well as to scrutinise approaches employed in other research. Through lectures, seminars, workshops, directed and independent learning you understand research methodologies and the research process, engage with subject content based on research methodologies and their applications, actively discussing research strategies, methods and critically reviewing outputs in an interactive manner. You conduct individual research to identify a suitable research project with a suitable methodology, as well as consider the ethical implications. A critical essay on research methods and a Dissertation/Project Proposal where you propose an appropriate Masters Dissertation / Project investigation are the equally weighted assessment. Electronic resources/leaning environments, peer communication and access to past assignments help you.

Course info

Credits 20

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 1 year full-time
3 other options available

Department Geography and Environmental Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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