SSMART 2013: Research Design

Social Science Methods, Analysis and Research Training

Professor Margaret Levi and Dr David Smith, Instructors

15-26 July 2013

This course explores research design, with the aim of helping students translate their ideas into projects that are realistic, relevant and publishable. We begin with the most basic, but sometimes most difficult, component of research design—how to go from a general interest in a topic to formulating a specific research question. Good questions in the social sciences involve puzzles arising from situations in the world that existing scholarship cannot explain. We will consider the components of a good puzzle and how to identify a problem worth researching. In the process, we will discuss the role of literature reviews in identifying research questions and how giant, well-known questions in our fields can be broken down into more manageable pieces that make for good dissertation projects.

Having thought about how to identify a puzzle and formulate a question, we will move to issues of appropriate methods. We emphasise that many different methods—qualitative, quantitative, interpretive, ethnographic, narrative, game-theoretic and archival, just to name a few—are valid and useful. We need to choose our methods based on what is most appropriate to answer our questions. We will look over the toolbox of social science methods and discuss which methods are best suited to which tasks. What skills should you invest in?

Throughout the course we will be reading books and articles that specifically discuss how to do research design as well as substantive pieces of scholarship that exemplify good research design. In addition, guest academics from several disciplines will discuss the designs for their own important research.

We will also meet with students individually to offer constructive assessment of their proposed projects.

Apply now

Places in the SSMART workshop are limited. Participants will be selected on a competitive basis. Postgraduate students from any university are invited to apply. Scholarship funds are available for up to 15 students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. Complete applications with all supporting documentation and payment details must be submitted by Monday 1 July 2013. Successful applicants, including scholarship recipients, will be notified by email by Monday 8 July 2013.


For further information, please contact Amelia Trial at

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