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Real life data analysis project to make quantitative research methods more appealing

A post by Dr Daiga Kamerāde @dkamerade 

GMVCO partnership event

Teaching quantitative data analysis methods to social sciences students is a challenge. Students usually do not enjoy studying quantitative methods– they often see them as scary, irrelevant and boring.  Many fail because of the lack of an engagement with the module. However, as our experiences from teaching a quantitative research methods module to second year undergraduate students in sociology and criminology at University of Salford suggests, this challenge can be successfully addressed by introducing a real-life data analysis as an assessment for this module.


In 2016/2017 we drew on an existing long-term collaboration with the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO) to bring a new and innovative real data analysis project to the quantitative methods classroom. As part of their QRM module at Salford, students had to complete a data analysis assessment using real data collected by GM TalentMatch team as part of their Big-Lottery funded project on young unemployed people.  The research carried out by the students looked to identify whether volunteering had an impact for young people with a number of barriers to employment in their journey to work. The teaching team, Daiga Kamerāde and Sara Grace, helped to identity the specific questions that the GM TM team wanted to answer using the data and then translated them into assessment tasks for students. The students had to answer these questions using the data made available to them and had to produce a professionally prepared research report. After all reports were marked by the teaching team, the best of them, with permission from the students, were shared with the GM TM team. To celebrate this collaboration students received certificates of achievement from the GM TM team in a special awards ceremony.

Students clearly enjoyed participating in this project.  One of the students, Steph Hevingham, in the awards ceremony said:

“It felt really good to work on real data from a real charity. There’s a real sense of achievement for us as students because we have analysed data and our findings are going to be used by the charity to see where this approach works. We have all got a sense of satisfaction knowing that the results of the research will help to change people’s lives by influencing policy and practice in the future’’

Other students also noted that this assessment helped them to understand the real uses of quantitative data, to become more informed users of research evidence and most importantly, to change their prejudices against ‘numbers and quants’.

The real life data analysis assessment was also very positively perceived by our industry partners. Katherine Bird, senior project officer at Greater Manchester Talent Match, said:

“The relationship we have built with the university during the research has been brilliant. We were so impressed by all of the students’ dedication to the research and we are pleased that we are able to reward them for their hard work. We look forward to further collaboration which will in turn benefit young people across Greater Manchester.”

The teaching team will be continuing to work with the programme and other partners to identify where we can carry out further research.

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