Social Science Research Methods (MEE115)

This course gives students insights in a broad range and variety of approaches, designs, techniques, and methods used in both qualitative and quantitative social science research. The course provides a platform for participants' lifelong learning. It contributes to the research skills of students through hands-on training in planning and conducting research projects. Methods are drawn from major social science disciplines, such as sociology, political science, psychology, and organisation studies, to analyse, interpret, and make sense of the social world. The goal of this course is for students to be able to independently plan, assess, facilitate, and conduct empirical studies in the social sciences.

Course description for study year 2023-2024. Please note that changes may occur.


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Research methodology and research methods are at the heart of the course and attached to major societal challenges. In this course, we focus on how to study the political, economic, environmental, cultural, and social processes involved with the transition towards a sustainable future.

Students will learn about methodological requirements from various research traditions and learn some of the most significant tools of analysis within qualitative and quantitative social sciences. This includes scientific frameworks that shape research designs and research methods that let us gather and analyse data on phenomena such as the discussion around and/or implementation of specific sustainability measures. Being able to independently plan and conduct scientific methods is a crucial condition for writing the master’s thesis, which is why students will start exploring their master thesis-project in this course. These skills are also crucial to contribute to and critically consider knowledge production and evidence-based claims in daily life and working life alike.

The course consists of three main themes:

  • Research designs: students learn more about scientific approaches, including the development, formulation, and clarification of the problem and question to be addressed, what aspects to investigate, uses of theories and concepts, selecting the relevant data and methodology, etc. We will also discuss research and publishing ethics, and different approaches to case-study designs ("most-similar", "small-N", "medium-N" etc.) in preparation for the master’s thesis.
  • Applied qualitative methods in data collection and analysis. Here, students will learn about the methodological choices, practical tools, and theoretical concerns associated with qualitative approaches to data collection and analysis. Examples of methods that may be discussed are interviews, text analysis, content analysis, discourse analysis, participatory action research, as well as comparative, interpretative, and deliberative policy analysis. Note that the precise content of the course may be adjusted from year to year.
  • Applied quantitative research methods. This includes various ways of collecting primary and secondary data, applying standard data handling and analysis systems; analysing and reporting the findings; interpreting the results, and critically evaluating the quality of such work. Examples of methods that may be covered in the course are survey design and questionnaires, descriptive analysis, factor analysis, correlation analysis, and regression analysis. Note that the precise content of the course may be adjusted from year to year.

Learning outcome

It is expected that the students after completing the course will have the following knowledge, skills, and general competencies:


Students who successfully complete the course will:

  • Know and understand the principles of doing research in social sciences.
  • Understand the theoretical and philosophical foundations of research in social sciences.
  • Understand the assessments behind selectins of research design and methods of data gathering and analysis.
  • Know about and be able to discern various research traditions and schools.
  • Have advanced knowledge about the strengths and weakness of various methods.


Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • Participate in the methodology discourse in empirical social sciences.
  • Evaluate social science research.
  • Design and conduct research, i.e., be able to choose and implement an appropriate research design, including:
    • develop a problem statement and research questions
    • plan and justify an empirical research strategy to explore a problem
    • develop an analytical/theoretical framework
    • gather, process, and analyse empirical data using both qualitative and quantitative methods
    • critically assess and evaluate the uses empirical data in their own and other’s studies

General competence

Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • Independently assess their own and others' empirical research using the methods covered in the course.
  • Critically assess the uses of social science research and data in private and public sectors, outside of academia.
  • Balance scientific principles and professional ideals with practical limitations and conditions in practical situations.
  • Research and write a readable and scientifically sound master thesis.

Required prerequisite knowledge

MEE140 Philosophy of Science and Research Methods


Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Portfolio assessment 1/1 Letter grades

Students on Master in Energy, Environment and Society shall submit all work in English. Students on Norwegian programs may choose to submit in English or a Scandinavian language.The folder consists of submissions covering the subject's three main themes. Two of the submissions are carried out in groups. One is carried out individually. Formal format-requirements are published on Canvas at the start of the course.The final folder counts for 100% of the grade. The two group submissions are weighted with 20% each. The individual submission is weighted 60%. If the folder is not passed, the folder must be handed in again the next time the course is taught. In the event of a documented valid absence, it is possible to postpone the submission deadline corresponding to the length of the absence, cf. regulations on studies and examinations at UiS.

Course teacher(s)

Course coordinator:

Liv Åsa-Maria Sunnercrantz

Course teacher:

Thomas Michael Sattich

Course teacher:

Torvald Øgaard

Head of Department:

Oluf Langhelle

Course teacher:

Oluf Langhelle

Method of work

Lectures, assignments, discussions, and group-work.

Overlapping courses

Course Reduction (SP)
Applied Social Science Research Methods (MEN185_1) 10

Open for

Energy, Environment and Society - Master's Degree Programme Societal Safety - Master's Degree Programme

Course assessment

There must be an early dialogue between the course coordinator, the student representative and the students. The purpose is feedback from the students for changes and adjustments in the course for the current semester.In addition, a digital course evaluation must be carried out at least every three years. Its purpose is to gather the students experiences with the course.


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