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QS906: Big Data Research: Hype or Revolution?


Timing and CATS

This module will run in the Autumn term and is worth 20 CATS.

Module Description

Big data is said to be transforming science and social science. In this module, you will critically engage with this claim and explore the ways in which the rapid rise of big data impacts on research processes and practices in a growing range of disciplinary areas and fields of study.

In particular, the module considers the following questions: What is big data? To what extent is 'big data' different to other kinds of data? What key

issues are raised by big data? To what extent is big data transforming research practices? How are the 'nuts and bolts' of research practice (e.g. ethics, sampling, method, analysis, etc.) transformed with big data? To what extent are core concepts relating to research practice - such as comparison, description, explanation and prediction - transformed? To what extent can we critically engage with big data? How is big data transforming the 'discipline'?

You will also examine how we might we use big data research both as a way to resist and/or shape global transformations, how big data might impact on the future of social science, and what challenges lie ahead for social science research given the impact of big data.

This module is core for students on Q-Step masters degrees in CIM and PAIS.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Appreciate the rising issues and challenges at the forefront of big data research;
  • Critically engage with the ways in which big data problematise core methodological issues in research;
  • Apply general issues involved in doing research with big data to more specific thematic areas of study (e.g. cities, sport, health, etc.);
  • Understand key methodological and epistemological challenges involved in conducting social research with big data.