Social Science Research Methods
- Mode of study
- Full time, Part time
- Start date
- September 2021
- Duration of Study
- One year full time, two years part time, modular degree (maximum period of 5 years), CPD
- Subject Area
- Social Science and Public Policy
- FEES (2021/22 academic year)
- UK - FT £8,000 / PT £4,400
- EU/International - £16,000
The MRes Social Science Research Methods is designed to provide a thorough grounding in a range of research skills and methodologies essential to the systematic research practice demanded in many professional environments, or to pave the way to doctoral study in social science disciplines.
About the course
Social research enables us to generate knowledge about the social world, including insights into public opinion and patterns of collective behaviour that might otherwise remain hidden. Social research is an essential tool in supporting policy makers to recognise and understand social issues and reach decisions about the design and implementation of appropriate responses. On this course you will learn how to plan, conduct and manage social research projects, and develop theoretical models to inform responses to real world social issues.
The taught modules on the programme offer advanced instruction in a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods and methodologies and introduce you to the tools used in the management and analysis of data. Your studies culminate in an original piece of applied research supported by a supervisor in your discipline (see Our Expertise for more information about what we do).
The programme is suitable for those considering doctoral (PhD) study or looking to work in the public, private or third sectors, for example, social or market research; social and health care; local and national government; or charitable and community organisations. It would be equally valuable to people already working in these sectors who wish to update or develop their social research skills.
The programme is recognised as fulfilling the requirements of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) postgraduate social science research training and development and as the first year of 1+3 awards made by the ESRC North West Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership.
Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the Programme Director, Dr Siobhan Holohan, in the first instance to discuss their application.
Core Taught Modules
The programme comprises of the following core modules:
EDU-40022: Principles of Social Science Research (30 credits)
This module offers an introduction to the theoretical underpinnings of social science research, and is a necessary component of the academic literacy expected of an effective social science researcher. The module is organised around two components: (1) approaches to research design and process and (2) the philosophy of the social sciences.
EDU-40015: Research Skills and Researcher Development (30 credits)
This module aims to deliver a comprehensive introduction to the qualities of effective research practice in the social sciences, through reflective engagement with the Vitae Researcher Development Framework. It focuses on the notion of research as a craft and aims to provide tools with which you can develop your researcher skills in a reflective way. The module also links with the social and institutional qualities in which social science research is embedded, including reflection on ethical practice in social research.
EDU-40026: Using Theory in Social Science Research (15 credits)
This module critically unpacks the relationship between methodology and theory and provides the tools for you to gain the confidence to apply theory to your research. In doing so, the module will consider the differences between grand theory and general theory and teach you how to identify what theory/ies to employ in your research in order to build a critical account of the field of study.
EDU-40021: Qualitative Research Methods (15 credits)
This module will deliver an overview of the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of different approaches to qualitative research eg. grounded theory, phenomenology, discourse analysis, and ethnography. It will also examine how qualitative methodologies inform research design and explore the development of associated methods of investigations, such as interviewing, observation, and visual research. Students will be introduced to NVivo software used by qualitative researchers in the management and analysis of qualitative data.
EDU-40020: Quantitative Research and Data Analysis (15 credits)
This introduction to quantitative research and data analysis builds on earlier work in the programme by developing and consolidating theoretical and practical knowledge of quantitative approaches to conducting social research. The module will discuss the opportunities offered by a quantitative approach to doing research, and develop familiarity with the theoretical underpinnings of quantitative social research.
You will also choose one 15 credit elective module from the following:
EDU-40018: Advanced Qualitative Research Methods (15 credits)
This module is delivered by stimulating group work on the development of qualitative research designs, in the identification of appropriate fieldwork tools, and in the work of comprehending the findings. The module also offers advanced IT training in NVivo, software used in the management and analyses of qualitative data.
EDU-40019: Ethnographic Research (15 credits)
Today ethnography is used in all social science fields, and this module will be invaluable for gaining a greater understanding of the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of ethnographic research, as well as gaining practical experience of conducting observational work.
The following module is only available to full-time students following an advanced quantitative methods route:
EDU-40016: Independent Subject-Specific Research (15 credits)
The Independent Subject-Specific Research module offers you a means of pursuing self-directed study in your subject-specific field. In contrast to most of the modules on the MRes Social Sciences, this module does not come with a predetermined substantive content, but creates an opportunity for you to do some research on a topic or area of your interest. There is a requirement that your programme of research is located within the field of study represented by the pathway you are following on the MRes, and that your focus will be either theoretical, methodological, or a combination.
The dissertation (60 credits) is the final assessment on the programme that brings together the student’s modular learning in the development and implementation of a significant piece of research, the focus of which is determined by the student, who will receive support and guidance from their supervisor.
How the course is taught
Each module is 15 or 30-hours of contact time taught in 5 or 10-week blocks in the first two semesters (October-December and January-May). The third semester (June-September) is dedicated to completing your independent research project.
Course content is delivered via a range of learning activities, from lectures to group work and one-to-one supervision. Each module is accompanied by independent study hours where students are required to undertake independent reading to consolidate their learning and to broaden individual knowledge and understanding of the subject.
Delivery of the programme has been revised for the 2020-21 academic year in accordance with the University’s Coronavirus (Covid-19) response. Guided learning materials will be accessible via Keele’s learning platform, supplemented by a mixture of live interactive online activities. Campus-based activities will remain available for small group work and specific skills training sessions. Students on the programme can take advantage of these flexible forms of delivery to develop a study pattern to suit their individual circumstances.
How you'll be assessed
The programme is assessed through a broad range of methods, including portfolio, essay, research proposal, report, and exam. These enable assessment of your analytical abilities, and of your ability to evaluate particular debates, material, and evidence.
Students must pass all the taught modules before they proceed to the dissertation. This is the final assessment on the programme and brings together your modular learning in the development and implementation of a significant piece of original research guided by your supervisor.
Applicants should be graduates normally with a good Honours degree (2.1 or above) in a relevant social science subject. However, students from different backgrounds who believe they have the capacity to undertake postgraduate work in the social sciences should contact us to discuss their situation.
Students for whom English is a second language will need English language proficiency of at least 6.5 in IELTS text scores (or equivalent).
Fees and scholarships
Fees (2021/22 academic year)
UK/EU students FT £8,000 / PT £4,400 per year
International students £16,000 per year
Keele University is located on a beautiful campus and has all the facilities of a small town. Student accommodation, shops, restaurants and cafes are all within walking distance of the teaching buildings. This is a very cost effective way to live and to reduce your living costs.
Scholarships and Funding
The University is committed to rewarding excellence and potential. Each year we offer a range of prestigious scholarships;
UK/EU students - more information on scholarships and funding
International students - more information on scholarships and funding
The MRes Social Science Research Methods is a recognised route on the 1+3 awards made by the ESRC North West Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NWSSDTP). Candidates may apply for funding towards master’s and doctoral (1+3/2+2) study, or doctoral study only (+3/+2). The NWSSDTP does not fund standalone master’s programmes.
Applications should be made via one of the following pathways:
- Criminology, Social Policy and Social Work
- Social Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine
- Socio-legal Studies
Those interested in applying for 1+3 funding via the NWSSDTP, should contact the ESRC DTP Institutional Lead, Professor Yossi Nehushtan, to discuss their subject pathway and supervision requirements.
The MRes in Social Science Research Methods is taught by an international faculty with a wide range of expertise in social science research theories and methodologies. We offer academic expertise in a variety of social science disciplines including in sociology, criminology, education, and human geography. Prospective students are invited to review supervisory specialisms on the subject web pages before contacting the Programme Director to discuss their application.