Research methods

Course Details

Course code: REDU11078

Course leader: Dr Michael Gallagher

Course delivery: Jan 2022, Sept 2022, Sept 2023, Sept 2024


Research Methods is normally taken as the last, or penultimate, taught course before MSc pathway students progress to dissertation. This course will support you in developing the framework and contextual knowledge you need in order to plan, design and execute an independent research project for the dissertation element of the MSc in Digital Education. The course will enable you to formulate a research question and develop an outline project plan. It will give you key skills in research design and enable you to position your own programme of research within the broader context of social science enquiry. It will introduce you to data collection and analysis, and to key methods for working with both quantitative and qualitative research data.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course you will be able to:                     

  • Demonstrate critical awareness of key aspects of epistemology, validity and ethics as they relate to social science and digital education research
  • Locate and critically analyse published research
  • Engage with a range of data collection and analysis methods and approaches
  • Effectively plan a programme of research, identifying appropriate research questions and how they might be addressed by particular methodological approaches
  • Demonstrate an awareness of academic conventions in the presentation of research


Block 1: Getting started with research
Block 2: Philosophical foundations
Block 3: Methods, Gathering, and Generating data
Block 4: Analysing data
Block 5: Ethics
Block 6: Preparing for the dissertation


Data Analysis (30%): You will report back an the analysis exercise you undertake during the course, including the process you followed, the decisions you made about the analysis, and what you found. You will formulate a research question which can be addressed (at least in part) by references to your chosen data. (1000 words)

Research Proposal (70%): This final assignment will also be the proposal for your dissertation project. It will describe the research topic or question you plan to address, the background to this topic including an indication of what your literature review will contain, your research methodology, timescale, and ethical considerations.  (3000 words)

Teaching Methods

Methods will include supported independent study, participation in course activities (including project work on data sets provided), asynchronous group discussions, and optional synchronous tutorials.


  • Arthur, J., Waring, M., Coe, R. and Hedges, L. (eds) (2012). Research Methods and Methodologies in Education. London, Sage.
  • Eisner, E. (1992). Objectivity in Educational Research. Curriculum Inquiry, 22/1. 9-15.
  • Phillips, D. (1990). Subjectivity and objectivity: An objective inquiry. In Eisner, E and Peshkin, A (eds) Qualitative Inquiry in Education: The Continuing Debate. New York: Teacher’s College.
  • Selwyn, N. (2012). Ten suggestions for improving academic research in education and technology, Learning, Media and Technology. iFirst, 2012.


As with all courses, you will be required to have regular access to a computer with a good broadband connection, and will be responsible for providing your own computing equipment and consumables. For synchronous tutorials you will need headphones and microphone. All additional readings will be provided online.