Applied Social Science Research Methods (MEN185)

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


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The ability to apply research methods in an independent and structured way is a crucial prerequisite for writing a master thesis. It is also a necessary competency for a knowledge-based work life outside of academia. In this course, students will gain first-hand experience with the use of some of the most significant methods for data collection and data analysis in the social sciences. They will also learn to develop and plan their own research projects by developing problem statements, research question, and research designs. Common lectures for all study programmes are combined with tailored workshops and assignments for each individual programme.

The course consists of three main themes:

1. Qualitative methods: 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 and applied are interviews, text analysis, content analysis, discourse analysis, participatory action research, as well as comparative, interpretative, and deliberative policy analysis. The precise content of the course may be adjusted from year to year.

2. Quantitative methods: Students will be introduced to 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. The precise content of the course may be adjusted from year to year.

3. Research design: Finally, students will learn how to approach a pertinent knowledge scientifically. This includes 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.

The course is organised in a number of modules, each of which consists of a two-hour lecture and a full-day workshop (e.g. six modules with two modules per theme). Lectures are taught in common for all students while separate workshops are held for each study programme. During the workshops students work in groups with applied research methods. The written assignments for the portfolio are based on this work and participation in workshops is therefore required in order to complete the course. Workshops will be facilitated by supervisors from the relevant study programme, providing a structured process and advice for the groups.

Learning outcome


Upon successful completion of the course, students should:

  1. Know and understand the principles of doing research in social sciences
  2. Understand the assessments behind selection of research design and methods of data collection and analysis
  3. Know about and be able to discern various research traditions and schools
  4. Have advanced knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of various methods


Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

  1. Participate in the methodology discourse in empirical social sciences
  2. Evaluate social science research
  3. Design and conduct research, i.e., be able to choose and implement an appropriate research design, including:
  4. Develop a problem statement and research questions
  5. Plan and justify an empirical research strategy to explore a problem
  6. Elaborate an analytical/theoretical framework
  7. Collect, process, and analyse empirical data using both qualitative and quantitative methods
  8. Critically assess and evaluate the uses of empirical data in their own and other’s studies

General competence

Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

  1. Independently assess their own and others' empirical research using the methods covered in the course
  2. Critically assess the uses of social science research and data in private and public sectors, outside of academia
  3. Balance scientific principles and professional ideals with practical limitations and conditions in practical situations

Required prerequisite knowledge

MEE125 Philosophy of Science and Research Methods
MEE125 Philosophy of Science and Research Methods


Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Folder 1/1 Letter grades All

The course is common for most master programmes in the Department of Media and Social Sciences. Students in English-language programmes will submit all work in English. Students in Norwegian-language programmes may choose to submit their work in either English or a Scandinavian language. The portfolio consists of three assignments, each covering one of the main themes described under course content. Each of the three assignments may consist of several parts, each of which will correspond to a specific module in the course. The first two assignments (on qualitative and quantitative methods) are carried out in groups of 3-5 students. The last assignment (on research design) is carried out individually. One week after each workshop students will hand in assignment drafts and get written feedback before finalising the assignments. The entire, finalised portfolio is handed in at the end of the course. The portfolio as a whole counts for 100 % of the grade. During grading, evaluators will apply the following weights: Assignment 1: 20 %; Assignment 2: 20 %; Assignment 3: 60 %. Assignment drafts are not part of the grading. If the portfolio is failed, the student has to take the course again the next time it is taught. Submission deadlines may be postponed in the event of valid, documented absences (corresponding to the length of absence), cf. regulations on studies and examinations at the University of Stavanger.

Course teacher(s)

Course coordinator:

Jens Kaae Fisker

Course teacher:

Elin Merethe Oftedal

Course teacher:

Torvald Øgaard

Study Adviser:

Magda Hognestad

Method of work

Lectures, workshops, assignments, group work.

Overlapping courses

Course Reduction (SP)
Social Science Research Methods (MEE115_1) 10
Applied Research Methods (MEN225_1) 10

Open for

Energy, Environment and Society


Digital Society and Societal Transformation

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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