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MA Political Science - European Politics & Policy Pathway (Research Route) / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Understanding Big Data For Social Research

Unit code SOST60511
Credit rating 5
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Social Statistics
Available as a free choice unit? No


What is big data and what can such data tell us about society and human behaviour? How can such data, including Twitter and Facebook data, be used in social research? What is the role of research hypotheses and sampling?

Teaching and learning methods

two x three hour workshops

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Recommended reading

  • Boyd, D. and Crawford, K. (2012) Critical Questions for Big Data. Information, Communication and Society, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp. 662-679.
  • Burnap, P., Avis, N. J. and Rana, O. F. (2013) Making sense of self-reported socially significant data using computational methods. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, Volume 16, Issue 3, 215-230.
  • Elliot, M., Purdam, K. and Mackey, E. (2013) New Forms of Data for Social Research. Data Horizons
  • Graham, M. (2012). Big Data and the End of theory?
  • Japec, L., Kreuter, F., Berg, M., Biemer, P., Decker, P., Lampe, C., Lane, J., O’Neil, C. and Usher, A. (2015) Big Data in Survey Research. AAPOR Task Force Report, Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 79 (4), 839-880.
  • Kitchin, R. (2014) Big Data, new epistemologies and paradigm shifts. Big Data and Society
  • Lane, J.I., Stodden, V., Bender, S. and Nissenbaum, H. (eds.) (2013) Privacy, Big Data and the Public Good: Frameworks for Engagement. Cambridge University Press
  • Margetts, H. John. P. Hale, S. and Yasseri, T. (2016) Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action. Princeton University Press.
  • Mayor-Schonberger, V. and Cukier, K. (2013) Big Data: A Revolution that Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think. London: Murray.
  • Murthy, D. (2012) Towards a Sociological Understanding of Social Media: Theorizing Twitter. Sociology, Volume. 46 no. 6 pp 1059-1073
  • Neuhaus, F. and Webmoor, T. (2012) Agile Ethics for Massified Research and Visualisation, Information, Communication and Society, 15: 1.
  • Procter, R., Vis, F. and Voss, A. (2013). Reading the riots on Twitter: methodological innovation for the analysis of big data. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 16 Volume 3, pp 197-214.
  • Shlomo, N. and Goldstein, H. (2015) Editorial: Big data in social research. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society A, September 26th.
  • Sloan, L., Morgan, J., Housley, W., Williams, M., Edwards, A., Burnap, P. and Rana, O. (2013) Knowing the Tweeters: Deriving Sociologically Relevant Demographics from Twitter. Sociological Research Online, 18 (3) 7
  • Tiropanis, T., Hall, W., Shadbolt, N., De Roure, D., Contractor, N. and Hendler, J. (2013) The Web Science Observatory, IEEE Intelligent Systems, Volume 28, Issue 2, 100-104.
  • The Economist (2010) ‘The Data Deluge’, The Economist, February 25th 2010
  • Thelwall, M. and Viz, F. (2014) Researching Social Media. Sage
  • United Nations Global Pulse Research Briefs.
  • United Nations (2012) Big Data for Development: Opportunities and Challenges: A Global Pul

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 44

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Natalie Shlomo Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Friday 27 November


Friday 18 December


Friday 18 December








Simon 6.004 cluster


Simon 6.004 cluster


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