Sociology students put ESDS data at the heart of their studies

Article dated: 18 January 2011

The University of Essex is funding a new range of undergraduate teaching resources using qualitative data collections from the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), the flagship service of the UK Data Archive.

The project, funded through the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund (TALIF), is jointly led by the Archive and the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex.

students learning

The idea was born out of the Department of Sociology's continuing need to develop new and innovative digital student assessment schemes and assignments. At the same time, the Archive saw an opportunity to increase the usage of its ESDS data collections by creating dedicated teaching resources aimed especially at undergraduate students.

Jackie Turton, a criminology lecturer at the University of Essex, teamed up with Bethany Morgan Brett from the Archive to develop a pilot study. Over the summer they produced a model assignment task for one sociology module in criminology which combines the use of research methods with the practice of accessing and analysing qualitative research data archived with ESDS.

In October 2010, sixty students at the University of Essex were guided through the ESDS registration process before completing an assignment which involved exploring the ESDS's qualitative collections relating specifically to issues of crime and social control. The students were required to examine the research methods used in the collections and to consider alternative methods and alternative research questions. Finally they were asked to formulate a research question for their own third-year project. Students were explicitly asked to use ESDS teaching packs and thematic guides as additional resources throughout the assignment.

The TALIF-funded project will take place in three stages, starting with a full evaluation of the pilot project. The second stage will extend the pilot by developing online assignments for other sociology modules. The final stage will then develop an online template for additional assignments in new subject areas that can be adapted and used in other sociology courses and across departments.

This project will offer a valuable opportunity for the Archive to collaborate with the University of Essex on teaching and forms part of the wider strategy of ESDS to encourage the use of data in teaching and to develop more exemplar strategies and resources.