There are two distinct pathways structured around a shared core that enable students to focus on the evaluation of micro level social interventions on the Evidence-Based Intervention pathway or macro level social policies on the Policy Evaluation pathway.
This pathway will examine major theories underlying evidence based interventions and introduce students to a comparative perspective. It will use exemplary intervention research studies to illustrate important theoretical, ethical, methodological and practice issues. Topics will include critical examination of:
- the ethics of intervening and of researching with vulnerable clients;
- the cultural factors in intervention research;
- theoretical approaches to intervention including: ecological, cognitive-behavioural, developmental;
- the application of evidence-based approaches in practice using exemplary research studies (for example, combining quantitative and qualitative methods in large cohort studies to inform mental health practice; community based randomised controlled trials; practitioner evaluation studies);
- the dissemination and transportability of research into policy and practice and across cultures;
- the limitations of evidence-based practice.
The paper is taught in the first two terms through lectures, seminars and tutorials. In each of these terms there will be eight lectures/classes on Social Intervention. These will examine approaches to evidence-based interventions using community, family and individual intervention research studies to illustrate important theoretical, methodological and practice issues. Major themes will include examining the ecological and cultural factors contributing to social problems, transfer of research across cultures and into practice, critical appraisal of intervention research studies. The seminars in term two focus on critical appraisal skills for intervention questions, the transportation of evidence across contexts, and to policy and practice, and related areas.
As part of the first term’s learning and informal assessment, students write two essays for discussion with their supervisor in supervision tutorials as well as prepare class presentations.
In the third term there is a series of sessions on systematic reviewing, designed for students intending to carry out a systematic review for their thesis. This can attended by students on the Policy Evaluation pathway.
This course introduces students to social policy analysis and to advanced methods of policy evaluation. Policy analysis examines the process of policy making, the setting of objectives, the choice and design of policy and the mechanisms of implementation, while the advanced methods component provides students with the methodological tools to determine how effective policies are in practice or prospect. Topics will include examination of:
- links between policy questions and evaluation methods and designs;
- main approaches to the design of policy evaluations and their accompanying logics;
- methodological issues arising in the use of surveys and administrative data for the quantitative (impact) policy evaluation;
- process and diagnostic evaluation;
- management of policy evaluation;
- systematic and critical review methods for published work on policy evaluation.
Students on this pathway join those studying Comparative Social Policy to study Social Policy Analysis in the first term. This course seeks to equip students with the theoretical and analytic tools necessary to engage in formal policy analysis and to provide an experience of applying them to real-world-like problems while receiving constructive feedback. It is taught through a series of eight lectures accompanied by four sessions devoted to illustrative case-studies in the first half of the term, followed by four practical sessions in the second half of the term in which students working in groups present and defend policy analyses of their own.
In the second term, students take a course on Advanced Policy Evaluation. This course will develop understanding of the rationale for, and approaches to, evidenced-based policy evaluation using examples from a wide range of policy areas. It aims to equip students with knowledge necessary to make links between policy questions and evaluation methods and designs, and to introduce students to the main approaches to the design of policy evaluations and their accompanying logics. It willprovide students with a background for systematically and critically reviewing published work on policy evaluation. The eight week course consists of lectures and seminars, including case studies.
The Research Methods course is intended to prepare students both to become critical consumers of research, and to be able design and implement their own research projects. It will introduce students to major quantitative and qualitative techniques, and research designs for understanding social problems and evaluating interventions. There will be a particular emphasis on the appraisal and design of randomised controlled trials for evaluating social interventions.
Topics covered on the course include:
- Formulating a research question: Ethical issues; Exploring and piloting; Literature searching; Critical appraisal of intervention studies.
- Designing a study: Non-experimental or observational designs: Descriptive studies, Surveys, Cohort, Case-control, Longitudinal designs; Randomised controlled trials and, Single case designs.
- Data collection: Questionnaires and interviews; Direct observational methods; Administrative data.
- Methods for systematic reviews.
- Issues in cross-cultural research.
- Qualitative research methods.
- Statistical techniques for social sciences.
The Research Methods course is examined through the submission of coursework:
- the methods workbook; and
- an essay of up to 2,500 words.
The Option papers enable students to link evidence-based solutions to key areas of intervention. In associated work students will be encouraged to consider evidence-based solutions to a range of social problems in their country of origin. The options are built around the specialist interests of academic staff, and as such, different options may be offered each year, depending on availability of staff and the interests of students.
The Option papers are normally taught during the second term of the course, and assessed through a three-hour written examination at the end of the third term. Study is through small seminar groups (usually 6-12 students).
For each option there will be 4-6 sessions with associated work. The areas from which options may be offered include:
- Community analysis
- Interventions in relation to HIV and AIDS
- Promoting the welfare of children and families
- Population Challenges in a Global World
Within the Department there is some capacity for certain other options (e.g. Poverty, Labour Market and Developing Countries) to be made available from the MSc in Comparative Social Policy. The number of candidates offered options from CSP will be dependent on the outcome of internal negotiation at the time offers of places are made are made.
In their thesis students are asked to analyse a topic within the subject of the course. Thesis preparation is supported through the research methods course, which includes a session on thesis preparation, and through individual tutorial support, with the supervisor. Students are encouraged to seek guidance on their work from other experts in the university, and to attend relevant specialist research seminars.
Written guidance is provided in the course handbook, and is further developed in material that accompanies the relevant teaching.
MScs write a 10,000 word thesis and will normally work on it during the third term of the course and the first part of the summer vacation for submission by the middle of August. Students have an individual supervisor for the thesis (normally their course supervisor, but on occasions substituted or complemented by more specialist coverage e.g. someone with an area based specialism where this is relevant to the topic).
MPhil students write a 30,000 word thesis, and are required to develop their topic area during the first two terms of the course. During Term 3 they work up with their supervisor an outline of their proposal, including background reading and other preparation, in addition to input from their supervisor. By the middle of Term 3 they must be in a position to present an outline of their proposal for final approval and over the summer they undertake the fieldwork, data analysis etc. depending on the topic.