Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information

Module SXP-4018:
Researching Community

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Robin Mann

Overall aims and purpose

This module examines developments in the field of community research and related theoretical and policy debates surrounding the application of ideas of ‘community’ to current economic and social changes. Since the aim is to relate academic debates to various forms of social intervention at the level of ‘community’, it is of interest to all postgraduate students in the school. The module will be organized around four main themes:

a) Conceptual Issues: the meaning of ‘community’ and its use as a concept in social scientific, political and popular discourse. This will be considered in relation to different theoretical approaches such as social constructionism, realism, and post-structuralism. We will also examine some alternatives to community, such as ‘civil society’, networks and social capital.

b) Empirical applications: an examination of some classic and contemporary examples of community research and relevant case studies dealing with different forms of ‘community’ (including spatial communities and communities of interest).

c) Policy issues to do with contemporary forms of intervention in relation to community development, regeneration, mobilization, participation, leadership and power. This will be considered in the context of frameworks such as communitarianism, social capital, the ‘third way’ and the ‘big society’.

d) Community Methodologies: examines how ‘community’ has been researched and the tools and methods available for empirical investigation. These include ethnographic studies, large-scale surveys, ‘community profiling’ and auditing, and action research.

Teaching for the module will draw upon examples and areas of research carried out within the School of Social Sciences, such as the ‘localities’ programme which forms part of the work of WISERD (Wales Institute of Social Economic Research and Methods), research on the changing nature of Welsh rural communities, investigations of issues around minorities and social ‘cohesion’, and forms of ‘grassroots’ local community participation and empowerment.

Course content

  1. Conceptualising community
  2. Community studies as a method of social research
  3. Space and locality studies
  4. Social network approaches
  5. Virtual communities and globalisation
  6. Imagined communities
  7. Governmental approaches to community
  8. Community action, mobilisation and cities
  9. Community cohesion agendas
  10. Methodological developments in researching place and space
  11. Revision

Assessment Criteria


Satisfactory standard: 50-59 Student will be able to offer a basic overview of key sociological concepts and approaches to researching community. Will have some ability to reference the major criticisms of the different approaches to community. Will identify the public policies concerned with community development at a descriptive level and would be able to cite relevant examples of community development in practice.


Good standard: 60-69% Student would provide a comprehensive account of the key sociological concepts and approaches to researching community showing some awareness of the theoretical underpinnings. The student would be able to raise key criticisms relating to the different uses of community and be aware of the major difficulties with public policies concerning community development. The student would cite relevant examples.


Excellent standard: 70+ Student would provide a comprehensive and evaluative account of the key sociological concepts and approaches to researching community. They would demonstrate an awareness of the theoretical underpinnings of the key concepts and criticisms relating to community and the limitations and constraints on the development of public policies concerning community development. The student would be able to draw comparatively across empirical cases, and draw on key theorists, initiatives and international developments in the field. The student would provide relevant examples.

Learning outcomes

  1. Show a critical understanding of the meaning of the term 'community' as employed in sociological, popular, and policy discourse.

  2. Critically review key contributions to the analysis of 'community', applying their understanding of social science perspectives.

  3. Show an informed understanding of main methods of community research and analysis.

  4. Appreciate the importance of methodological rigour in investigating issues at local level.

  5. Show an ability to critically examine successive attempts to intervene at ‘community’ level through policy and social action.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

Students are required to design their own essay question. Students are encouraged to develop a question which builds on their mid-term course work and which can be located within a broad range of relevant literature.

CASE STUDY Case Study Experience of Community

To apply theories or concepts of community to a particular experience or case study of your choice.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 11
Private study 178
Seminar 11

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: