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Unit information: Critical Skills for Social Scientists: Childhood Studies in 2018/19

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Unit name Critical Skills for Social Scientists: Childhood Studies
Unit code SPOL10025
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Sweeting
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will introduce students to key study and research skills relevant to their discipline and will provide a foundation to the 2nd year Social Research Methods unit. The first part of the unit will provide students with essential study skills in critical thinking, reading, and writing. It will introduce them to the Harvard referencing system and strategies for plagiarism avoidance. The second part of the unit will introduce students to commonly used research methods in childhood studies. Set in the context of relevant political and theoretical debates, the unit will explore the uses of data and research in childhood studies and examine how data shapes understandings of childhood problems. It will also introduce students to different approaches (e.g. quantitative, qualitative), research design and sampling, methods of data collection (e.g. interviews, surveys), methods of analysis (e.g. statistical analyses, thematic analysis), and the particular ethical issues relevant to their discipline. Specifically, the unit will:

  • Support students in their transition from school/college to university through the development of key study skills
  • Provide students with introductory knowledge and skills relating to research with children and young people

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:

  • demonstrate the critical thinking, reading and writing skills required for higher education
  • understand political and theoretical debates informing childhood studies research
  • reflect on the uses of research in childhood studies and how it can shape understandings of childhood problems
  • identify the range of approaches, methods, forms of analysis used in childhood research
  • reflect on the ethical issues raised in the undertaking research with and on children.

Teaching details

Lectures (15 hours) and Seminars (15 hours) plus 1 reading week and 1 revision week.

Assessment Details

1. Teaching Block 1 Study Planning document (10%)
2. Commentary on academic article/chapter (500 words) (10%)
3. On-line referencing quiz/academic integrity quiz (10%)
4. Commentary on non-academic article (500 words) (10%)
5. Reflection on essay preparation (250 words) (10%)
6. Essay (2000 words) (50%).

Reading and References

  • Cottrell, S. (2013) The Study Skills Handbook, London: Palgrave
  • Kellett, M. (2010) Rethinking Children and Research: Attitudes in contemporary society, London: Continuum.
  • Matthew, D. and Sutton, C. (2011, 2nd ed.) Social research: an introduction, London: Sage
  • Matt. H., Weinstein, M. and Nick Foard (2009, 2nd ed.) A critical introduction to social research, London: Sage
  • Punch, K. (2014, 3rd ed.) Introduction to social research: quantitative and qualitative approaches, London: Sage