9am - 5:45pm
Monday 27 April - Wednesday 29 April 2020

Complex Social Systems

from £395.00 to £595.00

University of Surrey

Complexity social science represents an important new suite of methods that moves researchers beyond the traditional reliance on quantitative or qualitative approaches. This course introduces participants to complex social systems and the challenges of complexity social science and policy research. The course will introduce you to a range of methods to tackle these challenges, in particular focussing on methods to understand complex causality. Two methods are covered in particular: Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Process Tracing/Bayesian Updating. Both methods will be introduced through real world case studies and situated within the research and policy process.

The course aims to:

  • Introduce the challenges of Complex Social Systems in social science and policy research
  • Provide an understanding of the problems of causality in complex systems
  • Introduce participants to QCA and Process Tracing/Bayesian Updating
  • Make participants confident in applying the methods to relevant case studies



Indicative content includes:

  • Introduction to Complex Social Systems
  • Causality in Complex Systems
  • Deep uncertainty and “wicked” problems
  • Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)
  • Process Tracing
  • Bayesian Updating
  • Narratives and Evidence
  • Social Science and Policy Research


On successful completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the challenge of complexity in the social sciences and policy research(C,P,T)
  • Be able to use QCA and Process Tracing/Bayesian Updating as methods in social science research (C,K,T,P)
  • Understand how QCA and Process Tracing/Bayesian Updating help elicit causality in complex social systems (C,K)

Key: C-Cognitive/Analytical; K-Subject Knowledge; T-Transferable Skills; P- Professional/ Practical


Dr Elsenbroich is computational social scientist. Her main research interests are in methods development, in particular methods for complexity social science and methodological and epistemological aspects of agent-based modelling and social simulation. She is interested in understanding decision mechanisms, in particular collective decision-making and context dependency of decisions. http://cress.soc.surrey.ac.uk/web/people/corinna


Entry (no or almost no prior knowledge)

Intermediate (some prior knowledge)


Byrne, D. and Callaghan, G., 2013. Complexity theory and the social sciences: The state of the art. Routledge.

Rihoux, B. and Ragin, C.C., 2009. Configurational comparative methods: Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and related techniques. Sage


Varies according to status:

  • £595- Government/commercial sector
  • £495 - Educational/charitable sector 
  • £395 - Students.


*Participants on the course will include some students completing the MSc in Social Research Methods*

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