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Experiments in Social Science


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutorBarry Maydom
  • Assessment: a 2000-word critical review essay (40%) and a 3000-word experimental research design (60%)

Module description

This module introduces you to the use of experiments to research the social world. It will equip you with the skills to critically engage with existing experimental research and to design your own experimental studies. You will learn how to undertake lab, lab-in-the-field, survey and natural experiments. You will also learn about the history of experimental methods, how to evaluate experimental studies and the ethical implications of experimental research.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Observational vs experimental research designs
  • Lab experiments
  • Lab-in-the-field experiments
  • Survey experiments
  • Natural experiments 1: standard natural experiments
  • Natural experiments 2: regression-discontinuity and instrumental variables designs
  • Experiments in development: promises and pitfalls
  • Workshop: designing experiments
  • Mixed methods and experimental research
  • Evaluating experiments

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • be aware of a range of experimental research designs used by social scientists
  • be able to critically evaluate existing studies using experimental research designs
  • understand when (and when not) to use experimental methods and the promises and pitfalls of doing so
  • be able to design experimental studies to research social phenomena
  • have considered the ethical implications of experiments.