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Advanced Interdisciplinary Research Design

Module description

Interdisciplinary research is increasing advocated as crucial to understanding many of today’s salient challenges. This module is designed as a crucial training component for students undertaking inter-disciplinary postgraduate research.  In this module you will explore what is meant by interdisciplinary research, the context in which it is useful and the challenges it poses.  You will explore strategies for constructing and operationalising interdisciplinary research designs. In the module you will explore interdisciplinary within and beyond the social sciences.

Full module specification

Module title:Advanced Interdisciplinary Research Design
Module code:SSIM903
Module level:M
Academic year:2023/4
Module lecturers:
  • Dr Katie Ledingham - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:



Students will combine this module with relevant research training in quantitative and qualitative methods.

Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Module aims

The module will fulfil the ESRC requirement for training in core research design, collection and analysis skills by addressing the on the ground characteristics and challenges of ‘doing’ interdisciplinary research. On completion of the module you will be able to critically assess concepts such as interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. You will have acquired relevant practical skills and knowledge of how a range of methods can be integrated in an ethically sound manner to examine interdisciplinary problems, and will have developed an appreciation of the importance of pertinent interdisciplinary thinking.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Define and communicate the complexities of defining and describing interdisciplinary research.
  • 2. Appreciate the inherent and necessary interdisciplinarity of studying contemporary social science issues
  • 3. Demonstrate analytical and conceptual skills in your research design and written work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate relevant critical skills for the evaluation of evidence.
  • 5. Address interdisciplinary problems from a range of social science perspectives.
  • 6. Elaborate the ethical aspects of interdisciplinary research.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Elaborate the ethical aspects of interdisciplinary research.
  • 8. Manage your time to complete an independent research project.
  • 9. Demonstrate lateral, critical and analytical reasoning.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities21This module will be delivered in three face-to-face one day (seven hour) sessions (Bristol x1, Bath x1, Exeter x1). Each institution will take responsibility for delivery one focused workshop at their own institutions.
Guided Independent Study64Reading a preparation for face-to face sessions
Guided Independent Study65Writing and researching for coursework

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group Presentation20 minutes1-9Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflective Commentary1003,000 words1-9Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Reflective Commentary Reflective Commentary (3,000 words) 1-9August/September reassessment period

Syllabus plan

The module consists of three, day long and intensive workshops held at Bristol, Bath and then Exeter. The workshops are organised in a way that is interactive, and there are moments for you to reflect on your own research experience and ambitions.  Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it will be taught using practical examples and it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Why disciplines and interdisciplinarity?
  • Methods for interdisciplinary research
  • Ethics in interdisciplinary research
  • Impact and the use of evidence in policy
  • The theory and practice of transdisciplinary research

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

A course reader will be made available via Blackboard (or equivalent VLE) as the literature in this area is expansive. Indicative resources include:  

Barry, A., Born, G. and Weszkalnys, G. (2008) Logics of interdisciplinarity. Economy and Society, 37(1): 20-49.

Brister, E. (2016). Disciplinary capture and epistemological obstacles to interdisciplinary research: Lessons from central African conservation disputes. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. 56:82-91

Collins, H. and R. Evans (2002) The Third Wave of Science Studies: Studies of Expertise and Experience. Sage, London.  

Delanty, G. (2001) Challenging knowledge. The university in the knowledge society. Society for Research into Higher Education and Oxford University Press, Buckingham.  

Etzkowitz, H. and L. Leydesdorff (2000) The dynamics of innovation: from national systems and “Mode 2” to a triple helix of university-industry-government relations. Research Policy 29, 109–23.  

Mäki, U. (2013). Scientific imperialism: Difficulties in definition, identification, and assessment. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 27, 325-339.

Nowotny, P. Scott and M. Gibbons (2001) Re-Thinking Science: Knowledge and the Public in an Age of Uncertainty. Polity Press, Cambridge.  

O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S., & Gonnerman, C. (2016). On the nature of crossdisciplinary integration: A philosophical framework. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 56, 62-70.

Repko, A. (2008) Interdisciplinary Research: Process and theory. Sage, London.  

Report of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences (1996) Open the Social Sciences. Stanford University Press, Stanford.  

Taylor, P. J. (1996) Embedded statism and the social sciences: opening up to new spaces. Environment and Planning A 28, 1917–28.  

Verouden, N. van der Sanden, M. and N.Aarts (2016). ‘Silence in Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration: Not Everything Said is Relevant, Not Everything Relevant is Said’. Science as Culture, 25 (2): 264-288

Weingert, P. and N. Stehr (2000) Practising Interdisciplinarity. University of Toronto Press, Toronto

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