Principles of social and psychological inquiry

If you work in a context which makes considerable use of social or psychological research or are fascinated by social research, then this module, taught entirely online, equips you with the knowledge, skills and confidence to appraise research and communicate your assessment to academic and non-academic audiences. Combining topics from criminology and psychology, it adds value to your career by providing professional development in research literacy, managing research and conceiving of new studies. By completing this module, you'll have the professional research appraisal skills needed to support your continuing postgraduate studies in psychology, forensic psychology or crime and justice.

Vocational relevance

The module provides skills highly desirable in professional contexts where social and psychological research is continually influencing the terms of reference. From how to commission new research, critically appraise the existing evidence base and communicate to diverse audiences. You’ll learn valuable investigative, evaluative and analytic skills that will benefit your career progression and add value to your employer. 


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

To what extent should a social and psychological researcher care about the issues that arouse public concern? Is a researcher who is affected by policy developments an engaged researcher or a compromised one? This module begins your journey in postgraduate study by bringing into critical focus the practices of conducting and communicating social and psychological research today. The module equips you to ask questions about how research gets constructed and who is doing the construction. Designed for students fascinated by the dynamics of research who wish to actively intervene in professional or everyday environments influenced by social and psychological research.

Upon completion of this module you will have the training in how to appraise qualitative and quantitative analysis and assess the veracity of different methods. You will be equipped to confidently assess social and psychological studies and communicate your assessments to academic and non-academic audiences, offline and online. You will also gain a new skill for your own professional contexts on how to observe a social problem or phenomenon, frame it, and ask new questions about it. 

This interdisciplinary module draws from criminology, cognitive studies, counselling, forensic and social psychology. Topics across these fields have been selected for their contemporary relevance, including questions on criminalisation of vulnerable people, such as homeless people and people seeking refuge. They have also been chosen to problematise common-sense understandings, e.g. humanitarianism and charitable giving or restorative justice. The topics are understood in their historical and scientific context, e.g. how ‘obedience’ became constructed as the concept we must understand to ensure the horrors of World War Two could not occur again, or how ‘homosexuality’ moved from ‘mental illness’ to socio-cultural identity.   

The dynamics of research are rarely linear. However, the module is framed by three stages: how research is conceived, how it is interrogated, and how it is received. These stages are organised into the following three blocks: 

Block 1: Concepts, constructing and commissioning research – How scientific concepts relate to everyday categories, where the lines get drawn and who is drawing them.

Block 2: Interrogating methods – From science as uncovering an unknown world to science as constructing a new one, and when to be pragmatic and find a workable solution.

Block 3: Publics and communications – Reception, Relevance and Reactivity. How does the public receive knowledge, and can moral panic set research agendas? How to communicate and influence. 

The module is taught entirely online with structured sections involving readings, podcasts and a variety of interactive media resources. There is also plenty of opportunity for postgraduate independent study to pursue your own interests. For example, in the second half of the module, you will have a chance to select and develop your own case study in line with your everyday and professional contexts, developing key professional skills in time management and project development.  Your tutor will support you via the module forum, and you will have the opportunity to debate with other students, conduct peer-to-peer reviews, learn from collaborations, and also experience innovative feedback and feedforward processes. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work. Your tutor will provide advice and guidance by email and via the module forum.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


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

Assessment on this module has been carefully designed to allow you to develop, practice and deepen skills in interrogation and evaluation. The first TMA introduces the case study and allows you to articulate your module and qualification objectives in dialogue with your tutor. Both the second and third assessments develop skills in methods, evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of different methods and defending the logic of your chosen method. In the final assessment, you will test your communication skills by developing a public campaign on a given topic.

The end-of-module assessment requires you to assess and write a report on a complex ‘case’ relevant to a policy context, building on your understanding of the principles of social and psychological inquiry.

Course work includes

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Principles of social and psychological inquiry 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 2026.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

This module is not available for standalone study. To study this module, you should have declared one of the following postgraduate qualifications as your study intention:

  • MSc in Psychology (F74)
  • MSc in Forensic Psychological Studies (F73)
  • MA in Crime and Justice (F75)
  • MA/MSc Open (F81)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Social and Psychological Inquiry (K26).

The minimum entry requirement is a recognised UK honours degree (2:2) or its equivalent.

Although the honours degree can be in any subject, you are unlikely to be prepared for this module if you have not had some experience of psychological or social scientific study. The module will sometimes assume a familiarity with psychological or social scientific language and concepts, and the characteristic ways in which psychologists and social scientists construct arguments and handle evidence. 

Before you start your postgraduate studies, it is expected that you will have the ability to:

  • write accurately, clearly and concisely
  • read large quantities of text quickly, accurately and critically
  • marshal evidence to support a logical argument.

All our postgraduate modules are taught in English, so your spoken and written English must be of an appropriate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum overall score of 6 and a minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see the IELTS website for details. If you are unsure whether your skill level in English is adequate, you may find it helpful to look at our Skills for OU Study site.

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

Preparatory work

You will be able to familiarise yourself with the module website up to two weeks in advance of the start of the module. A bank of materials (such as key readings and study skill activities) will also be available on your qualification website to support you throughout your learning journey.


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £2480.00

Registration closes 12/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2026.

Future availability

Principles of social and psychological inquiry 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 2026.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

The module is delivered entirely online. Comprehensive guidance and support is available via a module website which includes:

  • a week-by-week online study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • a series of Principles in Focus expert videos as well as additional audio and video content
  • detailed student notes for all tutor-marked assignments and the end-of-module assessment
  • one-to-one coaching sessions with your tutor to establish your objectives and then explore progress on them
  • online tutorial access to tutor group forums and tutor-led learning events
  • access to OU library services.

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.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (and where applicable: musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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