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Spark Open House: September 24

This year’s Open House will focus on introducing the range of social research “toolkits”. Sometimes a researcher really focuses on one toolkit (like Qualitative Methods) and builds deep expertise with one or more tools inside (interviews, ethnography, and content analysis among them), Other times it’s useful to borrow from other toolkits, or use entirely different types of tools together to analyze an issue. Each session of the open house will introduce one of six social research toolkits and the range of methods inside them, then engage with your thoughts and questions. Feel free to come for one or many sessions. Have we sparked your interest?

Sep 15, 2021

Date: September 24th 2021

Time: 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Register here  

10:30 am - 11:00 am

Welcome & Introduction

11:00 am - 11:20 am

Room 1: Qualitative & Community-Based Research
Room 2: Introduction to Quantitative Methods

11:20 am - 11:40 am

Room 1: Knowledge Mobilization
Room 2: Advanced Computational Statistics

11:40 am - 12:00 pm

Room 1: Complex Systems
Room 2: Research Quality

12:00 pm - 12:30 pm

Trivia / Social



Introduction to Spark

Spark’s Academic and Executive Directors will discuss what the centre offers and how we hope to support you in the development of your research, as well as take questions and suggestions.     

Qualitative and Community-based

We will discuss some broad categories of methods and how researchers decide what method to use in a particular context, some of the ethical issues that commonly emerge, and the “self-work” needed to be an effective qualitative researcher.


We’ll discuss the range of foundational tools and methods of descriptive and inferential statistics, the kinds of questions they best answer, and thoughts on building these skills.

Knowledge Mobilization

Most of us doing social research want our work to have real impact.  But actually changing policy and practice aren’t easy, and require a range of tools and skills less commonly taught in social science.  We’ll set the foundation and discuss some of these methods. 

Advanced Computation

We hear a lot these days about big data, machine learning, algorithms, natural language processing and other ways of finding patterns in huge amounts of data.  We’ll discuss the foundations of how computational analysis works, and a learning approach for those interested in digging into these methods. 

Complex Systems

Human systems are fundamentally complex, meaning that they rarely work in simple, consistent and fully predictable ways.  Working with this complexity is one of the great joys of social research, but it also requires a range of tools to sort through all the relationships in the system.  We’ll discuss a range of approaches to tackling complexity.  

Research Quality

W. Scott Long, a famous sociologist, estimated that stats classes teach 10% of what you need to know to do quality data analysis.  This toolkit focuses on the wide array of practical skills we need in order to do great work, regardless of the methods we use – including negotiating ethical concerns, managing information, privacy and storage issues, and project and team management. We’ll briefly introduce some methods for addressing these and resources around campus to help.