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The School has always been at the forefront of methodological development in the social sciences.

The Department of Methodology is a national centre of excellence in methodology and the teaching of methodology. The Department coordinates and provides a focus for methodological activities at LSE, in particular in the area of methodological research. Through the degree programmes run by the Department (MSc Applied Social Data Science, MSc Social Research Methods, MPhil/PhD Social Research Methods, and MPhil/PhD Demography (Social/ Formal)), and through provision of courses for postgraduate students from across the School, the aim is to make LSE the pre-eminent centre for methodological training in the social sciences.

The Department of Methodology operates a Visiting Fellows scheme, to enable academics, researchers and practitioners from other institutions to spend a period of time conducting research or to be involved in other activities which will benefit the Department.

Methodology faculty pursue research in a number of different disciplines; their work can be found in journals covering a variety of different domains of enquiry. The Department is also home to a number of funded research projects.

The Department of Methodology also welcomes research students from other universities to spend from one term up to one academic year at LSE as a Visiting Research Student in Social Research Methods.

Current projects

The court reform programme and the response to the pandemic: Jon Jackson.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by Professor Naomi Creutzfeldt at the University of Westminster, this study examines the effect of rapid digitalization on the delivery of justice in the areas of housing and special educational needs and disability. Covid-19 has forced the justice system, where possible, to go digital at a rapid pace. By empirically understanding areas that work well and those that need improvement, there is a huge opportunity to draw positive (potentially radical) lessons from this crisis. What lessons about digitalization and pathways to justice can be learned? How can trust in justice – the belief that justice system is fair, effective and open to all – be maintained? We seek to (1) better understand the effect of rapid digitalization on the advice and redress systems as well as its users; (2) identify the effects on access for marginalized groups; and (3) explore how trust can be built and sustained in two specific parts of a justice system affected by the pandemic.                                                                                                                                                                                              

Co-producing knowledge during emergencies and pandemics: developing remote participatory visual methods using smartphonesSonja Marzi.

Dr Sonja Marzi received an ESRC grant to respond to the challenges of methodological co-production and participatory action research – which are almost always conducted in person face-to-face – that arise during emergencies by developing an innovative remote participatory visual method using smartphones. In collaboration with migrant women in Colombia, UK and Colombian based researchers and filmmakers, she will co-develop and test a novel and pioneering remote participatory visual method for co-production researchers by applying participatory filming remotely to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s gendered right to the city and new lived realities of urban life. The whole research process, from development to dissemination, will be conducted online.

The project is led by Sonja and hosted by LSE Latin American and Caribbean Centre in partnership with LSE Department of Methodology.

Developing Latent Hierarchical Network Models for Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Social and Economic Inequality:  Eleanor Power

This project will develop network models that fully exploit the various facets of the information typically contained in social network datasets. In doing this, the researchers depart from prevalent models in contemporary social network analysis that treat an observed network data set as representing the "true" network. Instead, they assume that the true network is "latent" and, therefore not empirically observed, and further frame the observed network data as an imperfect measurement of what they are modelling. In proposing this probabilistic framework, they will first account for the various individual-level biases that shape who people name (and who they do not). They will then extend their model to allow for nodes (here, people) to form into hierarchically nested groups (for example, households) and thus capture units at the different levels that are present in the system. Finally, they will expand this model to account for changes over time of both the individual units at different levels of the hierarchy and their relationships, thus capturing relevant time evolution.

The grant has been awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the project is grounded in the analytical needs of the "ENDOW project," a US National Science Foundation-funded project. The models that will be developed here will help them understand (and potentially then rectify) some of the drivers of social and economic inequality around the world.

COVID-19 and the benefits system: Kate Summers.

This research will seek to provide rapid large-scale evidence for policymakers on how the working-age social security system responds to and copes with COVID-19 in the next 18 months, including how support has been impacted by the need for social distancing. This will include an online survey of 8,000 new and existing benefit claimants, in-depth interviews with around 80 people who will share experiences over time, and case studies on support providers in Leeds, Newham, Salford and Thanet. This research has been awarded a grant of £618,000.

The grant has been awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the COVID-19 response from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Kate is a co-investigator alongside colleagues from the University of LeedsUniversity of Salford and University of Kent.

ENDOW:  Eleanor Power

This project is a cross-cultural, comparative and longitudinal study of social and economic inequality, co-directed by Eleanor Power. Called by the acronym “ENDOW” (Economic Networks and the Dynamics Of Wealth (Inequality)) and funded by the US National Science Foundation, this project has enlisted anthropologists working in over thirty countries around the world to gather comparable social network data in over forty communities.

The ENDOW project is aimed at investigating the economic consequences of social network structure, both for individuals and for the larger communities they comprise. This is a fundamentally comparative project, as we expect that the variation we observe in the structure of social networks will help to explain some of the cross-cultural variation in wealth inequality. The unique data gathered by the ENDOW team members will allow for fruitful investigations into the social and economic dynamics of these communities.

Migrant Women in Medellin and Their Right to the City: Sonja Marzi.

This research investigates urban challenges for marginalised women in relation to the use of urban space. By looking at how migrant women, especially mothers and heads of household, negotiate their ‘right to the city’ in urban areas in Colombia, the research aims at providing a greater understanding for their needs and aspirations within the city and for future urban development issues and processes. Find more information here.

Police in schools: A national police youth engagement project. Jon Jackson and Chris Pósch.

Police officers have been involved in delivering personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons in some of the schools and regions of England on topics such as drugs, or online safety education. But it is unknown what impact this has on the students’ knowledge and perception of the issues, the police, and the justice system in general.

This project is a clustered-block randomized controlled trial to estimate the causal effect of having a police officer giving a lesson on drugs and policing, compared to either a teacher delivering the same content, or there being no lesson at all. Jon and Chris also assess whether having an officer in the classroom talk about the harm of drugs and the realities of policing is an important moment of legal socialisation among young people, particularly because the officer is meeting them in their space to present sessions designed to engage and encourage discussion. To estimate the causal effect at both the individual and aggregate level, Jon and Chris use a clustered-block-randomized design and a three-wave panel with children from hundreds of schools across England. Their robust design permits multiple ways of analysing the data, to answer this question, including the assessment of matched school trios, multi-level modelling, spill over effects, and many others.

The Emergence of Inequality in Social Groups. Milena Tsvetkova

From small organisations to entire nations and society at large, socio economic inequality is one of the most significant problems facing the world today. Funded by the Volkswagen Foundationthis four-year project will approach the problem of inequality from a new perspective and with new computational social science methods. An interdisciplinary team of sociologists, computer scientists, and physicists will develop and conduct large-scale controlled experiments online. 

This method will allow the construction of “artificial societies” comprising dozens of individuals who interact over days or weeks. Manipulating the structure of these multiple parallel worlds will help identify the structural conditions that give rise to inequality and inform policy and managerial interventions that reduce it.

Community-led recovery after the Grenfell Tower fire. Flora Cornish.

How can a community produce positive change as part of its post-disaster recovery? And can university-community collaborations contribute to empowering locally-owned recovery stories? The Grenfell Tower fire, in June 2017, devastated a West London community. It is widely accepted that community groups and individuals took leadership of the response to help their neighbours in the first hours, days, and months of uncertainty as the state assessed matters, apologised, set up processes, progressively lost local legitimacy, preserved core functions and insulated itself from damage. The ramifications of that situation are still unfolding.

Using a model of community-engaged research, Flora is currently researching community authority relations in the aftermath of the disaster through a 2-year ethnography and interview study, and an experiment in ‘public social history’, working collaboratively to produce locally-authored stories of recovery. Grounded in respect for the community’s role in producing its own recovery, the project aims to contribute to understandings of community resilience for future disaster responders, and to academic understandings of mechanisms of social change and stasis. 

The project has begun as a knowledge-exchange project, marshalling materials with which to build accounts of the process of recovery from different points of view, collaborating with community members on their own stories of recovery, as a foundation for developing academic versions. The project also enables knowledge exchange with emergency management professionals and policy makers in the interest of improving the environment for community-led disaster response and recovery. It is funded by a grant from LSE Knowledge Exchange and Impact.

Writing Urban Places: New Narratives of the European City. Alasdair Jones.

Part of EU Cost Action, this project is concerned with the investigation and implementation of a process for developing human understanding of communities, their society, and their situatedness, through narrative methods. Funded by the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020.

Recent publications

Recently completed projects

  • From coercion to consent: Social identity, legitimacy and a process model of police procedural justice. Jon Jackson and Chris Pósch.

    The concept of legitimacy lies at the heart of democratic policing— police must seek and maintain public support by acting impartially, using coercion proportionately and persuading the citizenry that they are an institution that is entitled to be obeyed. But there are multiple highly marginalised communities for whom perceptions of police illegitimacy, non-compliance, conflict, criminality and experiences of police coercion are the norm.

    In this three-year project (which started in late 2018) Jon Jackson and Chris Posch focus on fairness, legitimacy, identification between police and public, and normative compliance. They run a series of laboratory experiments utilising virtual reality simulations of police-citizen encounters to, among other things, systemically examine the role of social identity in perceptions of police fairness and legitimacy, and test causal effects of manipulating the procedural fairness or unfairness of the officer.

  • EUENGAGE: Bridging the gap between public opinion and European leadership: Engaging a dialogue on the future path of EuropeFunded by the Horizon 2020 Grant.

  • This R package for managing and analysing textual data is developed by Kenneth Benoit and other contributors. Its initial development was supported by the European Research Council grant ERC-2011-StG 283794-QUANTESS. The quanteda package is a user-friendly software application framework that enables efficient, powerful natural language processing and quantitative text analysis.

  • Moving forward: Bringing about change in interrogation practice. Jonathan Jackson. This project looks at interrogation practices in both criminal justice and human intelligence gathering contexts, and how how it could be changed. Funded by the FBI.  

  • Communicating chronic pain: Interdisciplinary methods for non-textual data.The research adapts interdisciplinary methods from the arts, humanities and social sciences to examine how chronic pain, as a non-verbal experience, can be communicated through non-textual data, and how it circulates socially. Funded as an ESRC NCRM Methodological Innovation project. 

  • Fiducia: New European Crimes and Trust-based Policy. Funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme.  

  • Item Nonresponse and Measurement Error in Cross-National Surveys. The complexity of cross-national surveys raises methodological challenges which need to be met in order to make the best use of the data. Two of these are problems of data quality: measurement error where the answers by survey respondents are in some way erroneous; and nonresponse where some questions are not answered at all. The goal of this project is to develop and evaluate research methods for these problems Funded as an ESRC NCRM Methodological Innovation project.

  • LCAT: Latent Variable Modelling of Categorical Data: Tools of Analysis for Cross-national Surveys. Funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council.

  • Legal norms and crime control: A comparative cross-national analysis. This is a comparative, cross-national study into attitudes towards legal authorities, compliance with the law, cooperation with legal authorities, and the policing of minority and majority groups. Funded by ESRC.

  • QUANTESS: Quantitative Analysis of Textual Data for Social Sciences (ERC-2011-StG 283794-QUANTESS). This project has funded Quanteda: an R package for the quantitative analyis of textual data. Funded by the European Research Council.

  • STEPE : Sensitive Technologies and European Public Ethics. Funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme.

  • Trust in Justice: Rotating Module in Round 5 of the European Social Survey. Funded by the European Commission and other bodies.