Analysing the Social and Political World

The details
Essex Pathways
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Foundation/Year Zero: Level 3
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 28 June 2024
05 June 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BSC LL14 Economics and Politics (Including Foundation Year),
BA L921 International Development (Including Foundation Year),
BA L250 International Relations (Including Foundation Year),
BA L202 Politics (Including Foundation Year),
BA L2M8 Politics with Human Rights (Including Foundation Year),
BA L2CH Social Sciences,
BA LFCH Social Sciences,
BSC L313 Sociology with Data Science (Including foundation Year),
BA Q121 Linguistics with Data Science (Including Foundation Year)

Module description

This module is designed to equip students with practical and analytical skills to understand, generate, analyse, interpret and present data, draw valid conclusions from data and critically assess examples of data use.

Although these skills are applicable across disciplines, they will be taught in the context of social sciences using examples of political and social data from a range of sources including academic articles, newspaper reports, data archives, and Government statistics.

The module will also give students practical research and employability skills and prepare them for studying further data and research-based modules later in their academic careers, in particular, GV110: Scientific Reasoning for the Social Sciences, GV112: Comparative Political Analysis and SC101: Researching Social Life I.

Learning in the module will be driven by practical applications and direct experience of working with data and will be underpinned by a basic introduction to theoretical ideas from statistics, comparative political analysis and social research. The emphasis of the module will be on gaining competence and confidence in working with data and gaining an informal understanding of the scientific method and the logic behind working with data; mathematical content will be kept to a minimum and the module will be accessible to students with limited mathematical backgrounds as well as to those with more advanced maths skills.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To equip students with skills for collecting, understanding and using data to gain knowledge and insights into social scientific issues.

  • To give students the competence and confidence to read, understand and critically assess examples of how data is used and reported.

  • To introduce students to key theoretical ideas and concepts in undertaking data-based research in social sciences.

  • To provide students with a strong set of transferrable skills for using statistical software to investigate, analyse, summarise and present data.

  • To prepare students for undertaking further data and research-based modules later in their degree programmes.

  • To support students to develop key communication, analytical, research and employability skills.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Understand the importance of data in social sciences.

  2. Recognise different types of data and understand their role in gaining knowledge and understanding about key social science topics.

  3. Formulate workable hypotheses to answer research questions.

  4. Collect or gather data and identify the importance of and methods for obtaining reliable, efficient and unbiased data.

  5. Undertake a range of basic data analyses to gain insight into relevant research questions and to provide evidence for testing hypotheses.

  6. Understand how to interpret and apply the output from basic statistical analyses.

  7. Understand the principles of good data presentation and have the ability to select and use appropriate data presentation techniques.

  8. Critically assess data reports, identify examples of biased sampling and misleading presentations of data and evaluate the validity of conclusions from data analyses.

  9. Extensively use Microsoft Excel to summarise, analyse and present data.

Skills for your professional life (Transferable Skills)

By the end of this module, you will have been offered opportunities:

  1. To improve your data analysis and numeracy skills.

  2. To develop your IT skills by learning to work with data in Excel to analyse political and social datasets.

  3. To improve your knowledge of data collection and analysis.

  4. To enhance your communication skills in class discussions.

  5. To develop your personal plan of setting targets and time management to undertake coursework and tests.

Module information


  • Introduction to Data
    What is data and where does it come from? How is data used, and how is it misused? What can we do with data? Why is data important in social sciences? What can we discover from data?

  • Asking Questions
    What do we want to know or learn about the political or social world? What can data tell us about these things? What can data not tell us? What questions do we want to answer with data, and how can we formulate those questions into statements that can be tested by data?

  • Collecting Data
    What data is already available to help us answer our questions? Have our questions already been answered? If not, how can we collect data? Different types of data collection methods. Sampling methods and sampling errors. Hard data (statistics, numbers, facts) and soft data (opinions, observations).

  • Working with Data
    Data input and manipulation. Cleaning data. The importance of unbiased and efficient data (rubbish in – rubbish out).

  • Looking at Data
    Using graphs and tables to summarise our data. What does our data tell us about our research topic? Selecting the most appropriate presentation, and how different graphs can give different insights into our data.

  • Measuring Data
    Using summary statistics to understand, compare and communicate key features of our data. Using averages to measure the size, and measures of dispersion to measure the consistency of the things we are measuring.

  • Gathering Evidence
    Does the data support our ideas and theories about the political and social world? Using statistical tests and assessing the strength of the evidence for or against our hypotheses.

  • Interpretation
    What can we conclude from our investigation? What have we learned about our research questions and how confident are we in our findings? Identifying relationships and patterns and considering cause and effect.

  • Presenting Data
    How to communicate our results to different audiences. How to tell the truth with data and recognise how data can be (and sometimes is!) used to not tell the truth. Principles of good data presentation – communicating complex ideas simply and effectively.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 1-hour lecture per week.
  • Two 1-hour laboratory sessions per week.
  • One 1-hour tutorial per week.

Teaching and learning on Essex Pathways modules offers students the ability to develop the foundation knowledge, skills, and competencies to study at the undergraduate level, through a curriculum that is purposely designed to provide an exceptional learning experience. All teaching, learning and assessment materials will be available via Moodle in a consistent and user-friendly manner.

Lectures will introduce basic social research techniques, concepts and theories that will underpin the practical work done in lab classes and prepare students for studying future data and research-based modules.

Laboratory sessions: Students will undertake practical exercises working with and gaining an understanding of, data. These will include researching data sources, sourcing and critically assessing examples of data reports, data collection, designing questionnaires and using Excel to input, manipulate, analyse and present data.

Tutorials: Students will use these classes to apply the ideas from the lectures to the practical work they have undertaken and to use this to reflect upon, refine and improve the output of their practical work.

Academic Support Hour: An opportunity for students to seek clarification and ask questions regarding the content covered in each week's lecture or support with assignments.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   IA129 - Assignment 1 10/11/23 - Moodle    20% 
Coursework   IA129 - Assignment 2 15/12/23 - Moodle    25% 
Coursework   IA129 - Assignment 3 16/02/24 - Moodle    25% 
Coursework   IA129 - Assignment 4 10/5/24 - Moodle    30% 

Additional coursework information

Formative assessment

  • Formative assessment will take place throughout the module in lab classes and tutorial classes.
  • During lab classes, students will undertake activities which cover the same learning outcomes as those in the summative assessments and receive feedback applicable to the assignments and tests.
  • During tutorial classes, students will complete worksheets which will form the basis for their assignments. Feedback will be given during each tutorial class to be incorporated into the submitted assignments.

Summative assessment

  • Assignment 1 - Complete guided activities exploring how social scientists use data to learn about the social and political world.
  • Assignment 2 - Undertake a simple analysis of a dataset, drawing and interpreting graphs to answer questions about the social and political world.
  • Assignment 3 - Complete guided activities exploring how we obtain reliable data and draw scientifically valid conclusions.
  • Assignment 4 - Undertake an analysis of a dataset, applying statistical techniques commonly used by social scientists to explore relationships between social and political phenomena.

Reassessment strategy

  • Failed coursework - resubmit a piece of coursework which will be marked as 100% of the new module mark. The reassessment task will enable the relevant learning outcomes to be met.

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr James O'Geran, email: jogeran@essex.ac.uk.
Dr James O’Geran
Becky Humphreys (becky.humphreys@essex.ac.uk or 01206 872217)



External examiner

Miss Jan O'Driscoll
University of Chester
Dean of Lifelong Learning and Director of Foundation Years
Available via Moodle
Of 64 hours, 22 (34.4%) hours available to students:
2 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
40 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Essex Pathways

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