Social Science Methods

The focus of this programme is on the methodology of the social sciences. It is designed to build research capacity among social researchers and to help meet a growing demand – in government, the private sector and civil society – for integrated training in quantitative and qualitative research methods. The programme will benefit, inter alia, social researchers, methodology lecturers, as well as planners and policy analysts in government and civil society.

The general purpose of the programme is to develop students’ expertise in social research methodology and social research techniques to enhance their capacity as social researchers.

The programme aims to:

  • Provide students with the necessary skills and conceptual knowledge to become good social research practitioners and teachers, including a thorough understanding of the logic and process of social research;
  • Provide students with an overview of the main approaches and paradigms, both quantitative and qualitative, in empirical social research;
  • Sensitise students to the challenges and requirements of ethical research design and practice;
  • Provide students with the necessary skills and conceptual knowledge to become good social researchers and teachers of social research;
  • Provide a bridge into the MA programmes in Sociology and Social Anthropology of the Department for students from cognate disciplines, with the interest and aptitude for advanced sociological or anthropological studies; and
  • Bring together researchers from various disciplines and institutions, to build up a national network of researchers interested in methodological issues.

Programme design

Students undergo intensive course work in a variety of fields in social science methods, as well as receive hands-on practice in doing research. Students have to complete eight modules.

The period of registration is one year. The programme is non-residential – students are therefore not eligible for accommodation in a university residence.

Each module combines student self-study, electronic communication with lecturers around reading materials and assignments, and intensive week-long blocks of classes at the University at times specified in the annual schedule throughout the year. Attendance at the scheduled classes is compulsory for students to pass a module.

There are two compulsory modules:

  • Module 1: Understanding social research;
  • Module 2: Principles of research design.

Additional modules are chosen from a suite of modules, including:

  • Survey methodology;
  • Quantitative data analysis with SPSS;
  • Introduction to ethnographic research methods;
  • Introduction to programme evaluation;
  • Programme evaluation design;
  • Interviewing methods;
  • Theory of qualitative data analysis;
  • Politics and ethics of social research;
  • Qualitative data analysis with Atlas t/i;
  • Case study methodology;
  • Data analysis and data management with SPSS; and
  • Capita selecta.

Admission requirements

A B-degree in the broad field of the social sciences and an average of at least 65% in the major subjects, with demonstrated academic ability, are required.

Programme co-ordinator

Jan Vorster
Tel: +27 21 808 2132
E-mail: jhv3@sun.ac.za