In the UK research methods courses are a staple diet of postgraduate social sciences programmes. However undergraduate social science research methods courses have been taught in other countries for many years most notably in the USA (see for example Ransford and Butler 1982). Since the publication by Jenkins and Healey (2005) exploring the teaching–research nexus and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) guidelines into developing research skills many UK social sciences undergraduate degree programmes have incorporated a research methods and research project course.
Even with the large number of courses teaching research methods there is limited published research into research methods pedagogy and assessment (see Wagner et al. 2011). To help research methods tutors use assessments effectively it is important to be familiar with the form and pattern of assessment in the Social Sciences at both the postgraduate and undergraduate level. It is possible that these might be the traditional assessments of examinations and the preparation of research proposals; however it is difficult to ascertain which methods tutors are using. For example assessments linked to specific learning theories might be in use such as the experiential learning activity in research methods presented by Hosein and Rao (2012) at the HEA Social Sciences conference
However innovative assessment techniques in research methods such as these may not be known to many research method lecturers because of a lack of shared literature or community of practice. Without understanding the current assessment practices in research methods there is little scope for improving and extending these assessments to encourage and enhance students’ engagement including supporting the development of their identities as researchers.
The aim of the research was to conduct a literature search and review academic sources such as course outlines conference and course blogs and conference presentations/publications that included information on the assessment of research methods at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The project sought to gather information on academic practice from around the world. Further the project aimed to use a framework to evaluate the assessments in terms of their likely effectiveness and provide parameters for developing new approaches.