Research Methods in Risk, Safety, and Security Studies (RIS660)

This course provides some fundamentals about science, knowledge and research, of importance for understanding the scope and aims of risk and safety science. The course focuses on research methods for studies of risk, safety, and security. Risk and safety research and science make use of both qualitative and quantitative research methods that are founded on different disciplines and scientific specializations. With an emphasis on both conceptual and empirical research, the course will address specific methods, aimed at developing the practical skills of students for planning and conducting research projects, as well as provide principles for addressing research ethics and the quality of research. Given the cross disciplinary nature of applied risk and safety studies, bringing together different scientific approaches is a significant issue, and the course will focus on concepts and frameworks for understanding the role of, and ways of bringing together, different types of research methods.

Course description for study year 2024-2025. Please note that changes may occur.


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The focus of the course is the fundamental principles and practical application of research methods necessary for studying risk, safety and security.

The course gives a historical account and introduces some fundamentals of science and knowledge. Topics covered include the subject matter of science, the nature of scientific knowledge, norms and values in science, and different types and sources of knowledge (including empiricism, rationalism, the hypothetico-deductive method known as ‘the scientific method’ and social constructionist approaches).

The course gives an overview of different types of risk, safety and security research and research methods: descriptive versus analytical, applied versus fundamental (generic), quantitative versus qualitative, and conceptual versus empirical.

The course has a broad approach to the question of methodological rigour, with focus on conceptual and empirical research methods, as well as the relationship between them. Conceptual research focuses on developing new knowledge on concepts, principles, approaches, and methods for how to understand, assess, characterize, communicate, and handle risk. Empirical research methods are those that enable the study and analysis of risk, safety, and security in relation to different organizational and societal contexts. This includes developing knowledge about perceptions, human behavior, and the operation of technological systems and social institutions. Different methodologies and their contributions to the field will be presented and discussed, covering both qualitative (e.g., interviews, focus groups, case studies, etc.), and quantitative methods (statistical methods, modeling, simulation).

The course also covers ethics in research as well as general norms, standards and criteria for evaluating research.

The course will include learning activities for developing research skills and practical scientific work, including how to develop/clarify the problem to be researched, development and choice of research design, application of theory, the use of scientific methods for data collection, data analysis, and normative implications of research and academic writing.

Learning outcome

Upon completion of the course, students should have acquired the following knowledge, skills and general competence:


  • Know and understand the principles for doing research in risk, safety and security
  • Have knowledge about the fundamentals about science, knowledge and research
  • Recognize and explain different types of risk, safety and security research and research methods
  • Have knowledge about conceptual research
  • Have knowledge about different types of empirical research, including both qualitative and quantitative methods
  • Have knowledge about research ethics and academic writing


  • Participate in the methodological discourse in the fields of risk, safety and security
  • Design and conduct research, including:

    • The ability to plan and manage a smaller research project
    • The ability to formulate original ideas in the areas of risk, safety and security
    • The ability to collaborate/conduct research in groups
    • The ability to draw meaning from the data
    • The ability to solve problems using evidence
  • Evaluate research

General competence

Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • Critically evaluate their own and others' research
  • Update their knowledge of research methodology and methods for studying risk, safety and security
  • Be better equipped for completing their master thesis
  • Be able to perform academic writing according to recognized norms, such as precision and proper referencing

Required prerequisite knowledge



Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Written exam 1/1 4 Hours Letter grades

The written exam is digital on campus.

Coursework requirements

Mandatory assignment
1 mandatory assignments must be approved in order to get access to the exam

Course teacher(s)

Course coordinator:

Kjartan Bjørnsen

Course coordinator:

Kenneth Arne Pettersen Gould

Method of work

2 hours teaching per week. The course combines the use of lectures, videos, discussion and group work.

Open for

Admission to Single Courses at the Faculty of Science and Technology
Risk Analysis - Master of Science Degree Programme Societal Safety - Master's Degree Programme

Course assessment

There must be an early dialogue between the course supervisor, the student union 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 subject 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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