Introduction to Social Science Methods

Course content


This is an introductory course that centers on social science data collection methods. The course aims to give the students the methodological skills needed in later phases of their studies, and provide the students with relevant skills in professional work life after academia, either as practitioners of the introduced methods or as observers that can critically assess social science designs and analyses.

The course covers qualitative tools (personal interviewing, focus groups, and ethnographic observations) and quantitative tools (questionnaires). Focus is on how to construct qualitative and quantitative data collection tools, and evaluate their quality in connection with stated research goals. Techniques to analyse qualitative data and quantitative latent variables will also be covered. There will also be focus on sampling and recruitment of respondents and informants to the above-mentioned methods.

The course consists of two concurrent parts: a theoretical / methodological part and a practical part.

The theoretical / methodological part of the course gives an overview of common qualitative and quantitative social science methods and outlines their strengths and weaknesses. 

Principles to assess when it is more or less appropriate and relevant to employ a specific research design and method are laid out as are the different types of generalization principles and evaluations of validity that exist across the methods.

The practical part of the course centers, firstly, on data tool construction (e.g. how to develop an interview guide for individual interviews and focus groups, how to make ethnographic observations, how to develop appropriate questions and response options for a questionnaire). There will be exercises where the students will obtain practical experience with developing such data tools, choices when sampling analytical units, and assessing the quality of them. Secondly, analytical strategies for examination of qualitative and quantitative data are covered along with principles as to how to assess the reliability and validity of a research reading. The covered analyses and validity techniques are presented through practical exercises focusing on the use of existing qualitative interview text extracts and output from questionnaire data.

The methodologies that are taught provide the students with general competences that is applicable to many study fields beyond food consumption and food systems.


Msc Programme in Integrated Food Studies

Learning outcome

After completion of the course it is expected that the student:



- Has knowledge of and can identify different types of methods used in the social sciences (quantitative, qualitative, and case study research) and describe their features.

- Has knowledge about how to align research question with choice of method and construction of data collection tool.

- Has knowledge about tools that can identify actors (stakeholders) and describe networks in larger or smaller sections of the food system.

- Has a theoretical understanding of pertinent decision criteria when choosing methodological approach and specific tool(s).

- Can demonstrate an overview of a selection of techniques that can be used for qualitative data analysis and latent variable modeling.

- Has overview of and ability to reflect over ways to assess the validity of data collection tools.



- Has the ability to compare the suitability of specific research methods when confronted with research questions and argue for / explain choice of methods.

- Is able to develop research designs and data collection tools on basis of operationalization of research questions.  

- Has practical experience with developing qualitative and quantitative data collection tools.

- Can point out relevant analytical techniques (within qualitative and quantitative methods) for specific research questions.   

- Can assess the validity of a data collection tool and data.




- Can discuss and evaluate the limitations and relevance of specific data tools and methods.

- Can discuss and critically assess the quality of a research design.

- Will have generalizable tools to assess appropriate social scientific research designs.

 - Can engage in discussion with other analysts (including social scientist candidates such as sociologists and anthropologists) about choice of method and validity criteria.

The course will consist of lectures and practical exercises. The exercises consist of evaluation/analysis of existing data collection tools and data (during lectures or as preparation before lectures) and online exercises. In other exercises, the students are to create their own data collection tools (data tool construction), collect data, and analyse the collected data.
Most exercises will be carried out in project groups.

Teaching material and curriculum will be announced prior to course start-up.

The students are recommended to be knowledgeable about basic descriptive statistics (e.g. means, standard deviation, frequencies).

Continuous feedback during the course
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 4 hours under invigilation
Type of assessment details
Written examination, 4 hours.

Students will receive a number of questions (some of which have sub-questions). The questions aim to assess the students’ practical understanding and application of the main concepts and methods introduced during the course (e.g. choosing appropriate research design, including choice of method and sampling strategy; developing or choosing relevant questions for a questionnaire or interview guide; interpretation/analysis of qualitative data and output from statistical tables with latent variables; assessing the validity and reliability of a research output).

Typically, questions require open-ended answers but some may also be multiple choice.

The course has been selected for ITX exam
See important information about ITX-exams at Study Information, menu point: Exams -> Exam types and rules -> Written on-site exams (ITX)
All aids allowed

As the exam is an ITX-exam, the University will make computers available to students at the exam. Students are therefore not permitted to bring their own computers, tablets, or mobile phones.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

The assessment is based on the criteria given by the Learning Outcomes

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 34
  • Preparation
  • 96
  • Practical exercises
  • 10
  • Project work
  • 57
  • Guidance
  • 5
  • Exam
  • 4
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 1
no limit
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board of Food, Human Nutrition and Sports
Contracting department
  • Department of Food and Resource Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinators
  • Kia Ditlevsen   (3-7b7d74507976827f3e7b853e747b)
  • Sidse Schoubye Andersen   (5-857b857380527b788481407d8740767d)

Sidse Schoubye Andersen

Saved on the 31-08-2022

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