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Degree type


Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

Program code


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Course details

The MA Social Research Methods is part of a suite of advanced postgraduate methods-based courses delivered across the University faculties. The MA aims to provide core accessible and inclusive cross-disciplinary advanced research methods training across the social sciences with specific subject-specific training in research practices related to a chosen field of social policy, criminology, sociology or social work.

The course will equip you with the research and employability skills required to transition successfully to enhanced careers in academia, commercial companies, public sector, non-governmental organisations or other sectors. This degree will provide academic rigour and coherence, whilst allowing a degree of flexibility and choice within the chosen course in terms of disciplinary focus and advance research approaches.

The course covers conceptual and practical underpinnings and implications of research, looking at various research techniques and the rationale behind them. It will enable you to develop essential skills in both quantitative and qualitative work and to apply those skills to social research in a particular subject area (criminology, social policy, sociology, social work).

Some combinations of options within our Social Research Methods degree offer recognised training as part of the North East and Northern Ireland Doctoral Training Partnership. Particular modules are subject to availability, in particular academic years.

Course structure

You will take a range of taught modules that will enable you to develop advanced understanding and skills in social research.

Those taking this course will study modules totalling 180 credits. Indicative content is listed below: subject to potential minor changes from year to year.

A 30 credit thematic module chosen from:

  • Criminology: Theory and Critical Issues
  • Social Policy and Society
  • Public Sociology: Theory and Practice
  • Social Work Context and Practice.

In addition, core modules will be taken as follows:

Quantitative Methods and Analysis:

  • Developing knowledge and skills in statistical analysis.
  • Using statistical techniques for exploration and description of data sets.
  • Making appropriate statistical inferences and exploring associations between social phenomena.

Qualitative Methods and Analysis:

  • Overview of qualitative research, including different qualitative methodological approaches.
  • Practical issues in conducting qualitative research.
  • Qualitative data analysis.

Computational Research Methods in Social Science:

  • Exploring complexity and case-based analysis approaches to data.
  • Review of related methodologies such as those involving data mining and big data.
  • Developing a working knowledge of several widely-used methods.

Research Design and Process:

  • Formulating research questions and appropriate designs.
  • Evaluating and developing research proposals.
  • Planning and managing the research process, including practical and ethical issues, with a particular focus on supporting the dissertation research process.

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Social Research:

  • Exploring the nature of social scientific research, including issues associated with establishing cause and meaning within it.
  • Consider different disciplinary and ethical issues associated with different approaches to social scientific research.

In addition, students will take a relevant 15 credit optional module developing a particular aspect of research further; for example, in previous years, one option has been:

Participatory Action Research:

  • History and origins of Participatory Action Research; key values and ethical/political issues.
  • Theorising and critiquing PAR.
  • Participatory approaches to research design, process, analysis, dissemination and implementation, including working with partner organisations to influence change.

Other anticipated optional modules (subject to availability) include those focused on advanced ethnographic research, intermediate statistics, multi-level modelling, simulating data in R, and/or systematic review.

This Masters degree is completed by undertaking a 15,000 word dissertation (60 credits) based on a supervised research project.


These MA Research Methods courses are offered full-time, starting in early October and continuing over 12 months following University terms. They can also be taken part time over two years.

The main teaching methods include lectures, seminars, workshops and computer practical sessions. Lectures introduce the key concepts, theories, current debates and other issues critical for understanding the topics. Seminars are opportunities for you to discuss any questions arising from the readings, to share experience of conducting research and to present your own work for comments. Workshops combine lecture and seminar content interactively within individual sessions. Modules that teach the use of computer software packages have practical sessions in computer rooms so that you can carry out hands-on exercises under supervision and further assistance.

Modules are usually assessed through coursework. Statistics modules may require you to complete specific analyses with more structured instructions. Some module conveners may allow you to submit formative assignments in order for you to obtain a sense of how well you understand the subject. Some modules’ assessment may contain a proportion of presentations and group projects.

Further academic support is available. You will have the opportunity to learn from your dissertation supervisors at individual tutoring meetings, dissertation workshops, and forums. Every member of teaching staff has two hours of office hours each week where you can access additional support for your modules, assignments and so forth. In addition, both the University and the School host seminars for external speakers that are open to all students.

Entry requirements

Normally a second class honours degree (2:1) or equivalent.

An undergraduate degree in social sciences is desirable but not compulsory and we welcome students with degrees in arts, humanities and science subjects. You should demonstrate clearly why you are interested in the MSc in your personal statement.

We are also keen to consider applications with a professional background in criminal justice.

Additional requirements

When submitting your online application, you will also need to provide:

  1. Current Transcript and Certificate (if possible)
  2. Two academic references (it is the applicant's responsibility to obtain their references from their referees).

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £9,900 per year
EU students £23,800 per year
Island students £9,900 per year
International students £23,800 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £5,500 per year
EU students £13,100 per year
Island students £5,500 per year
International students £13,100 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


Our degrees are an excellent foundation for careers in a wide range of sectors, including health and welfare, the Civil Service, local government, the voluntary sector, banking and academia.

We support students in gaining excellent employability skills. As well as pursuing further study, recent graduates have proceeded to careers with a range of high-profile employers.

Department information


We are a leading international centre of excellence in applied social research that shapes and informs social policy and practice. We enhance individual, community and social wellbeing, promote social inclusion, and form the foundations of research-led education. We have expanded over time to provide a focus for collaboration across the related academic disciplines of applied sociology, criminology and social work.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 150 in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Sociology 2022
  • 3rd in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2023
  • 5th in The Complete University Guide 2023
  • 6th in The Guardian University Guide 2023


For a current list of staff, please see the Department of Sociology pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • We are 4th in the UK for research impact (REF 2021)


Our Departmental buildings are located in the centre of Durham City and we teach, supervise and meet students in these. Our main office building is in 32 Old Elvet and includes a student common space, networked computer access and our main teaching and learning offices.

Our University library is one of the best in northern Britain and is well resourced with books, ebooks and journals supporting all of our areas of study. College libraries also hold copies of some of the main textbooks.

Visit Us

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Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 08/02/2023
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
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Postgraduate Open Days - Online
  • Date: 13/02/2023
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
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