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Social research: crime, justice and society

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In this module, you’ll take a journey across the social research process, exploring what social research is, how it’s conducted, and why it’s important. Social research forms a crucial part of efforts to shape and improve societies, and you’ll consider the many different ways that social researchers use their research to make a difference. You’ll also learn about gender, race and social class, which are core themes throughout. The module has been designed to leave you feeling curious, inspired, and empowered to think critically about the process of producing knowledge about the social world.

What you will study

This module is divided into the following four blocks of study:

In Block 1, you’ll begin with an overview of the social research process, exploring what social research is, how it is conducted, and why it is important. You’ll consider important issues, including the factors that drive decisions about what social research receives funding and what doesn’t, how personal and political values might influence social research projects, and who benefits from social research and who doesn’t.

In Block 2, you’ll examine the early stages of the social research process, which involves a researcher’s choice of topic, research questions, aims and objectives. You’ll think carefully about how these choices connect with other important decisions during the planning phase of social research, including decisions around research design. You’ll move on to study a number of different research methods and approaches for generating or collecting data, including ethnography, focus groups, interviews, visual and online methods, questionnaires, and participatory action research.

In Block 3, your attention will shift from data collection to data analysis. You’ll consider various techniques that social researchers use to analyse their data, whether that’s data in quantitative (numeric) form or qualitative (non-numeric) form, such as text, images and sounds. You’ll also think critically about what different types of data can and can’t reveal about the social world.

In Block 4, you’ll explore what social researchers do in the latter stages of social research. You’ll learn about the different ways in which researchers write up and present their research, such as through the production of books, journal articles, blogs, podcasts, radio interviews and much more. You’ll be introduced to the topic of research ethics, considering what makes a research project ethical or unethical. Finally, you’ll explore the many different ways that social researchers attempt to use their research to make a difference in the world around them.

Along the way, you’ll also learn about gender, race and social class, as these are core themes that help to structure content throughout the module.

Entry requirements

As this is an OU level 2 module, it would be an advantage if you have completed an OU level 1 module in social science as a solid foundation.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

You’ll be provided with two core textbooks that take you through the social research process from beginning to end. You'll also have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio interviews and video recordings
  • interactive activities
  • an assessment guide
  • access to online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be assigned a dedicated tutor who will provide you with advice and guidance throughout the module. There will be a range of learning events, both face-to-face and online. Each face-to-face event will offer an online alternative. Although not compulsory, attendance at learning events will help consolidate your learning.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD215 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Social research: crime, justice and society starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2032.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment