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Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

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Course details

The MA in Social Research Methods has been designed to provide a broad-based practical grounding in research methods training across the social sciences with a specific focus on the research practices of a chosen field. You can choose to focus on social policy, criminology, sociology or social work. 

The course is one of a suite of methods-based postgraduate degrees delivered across the University. Successful completion provides wide-ranging opportunities for interdisciplinary study which can help you transition into enhanced careers in academia, the public sector, non-governmental organisations, charitable organisations, the business sector and more. Alternatively, it can serve as a stepping-stone into social science research. 

You will look at the conceptual and practical underpinnings and implications of research, exploring a range of research techniques and the rationale behind them. The MA Social Research Methods will enable you to develop essential skills in both quantitative and qualitative work and to apply those skills to social research in your chosen field. Some combinations of modules (subject to availability) offer recognised training as part of the North East and Northern Ireland Doctoral Training Partnership.

The Department of Sociology is home to the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action and the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse. As a student in the Department, your learning will be informed by the ongoing research carried out by experts from the research centres, many of whom are working at the forefront of their field.

Course structure

Core modules:

Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Practices across Social Research introduces contemporary social scientific research from an interdisciplinary perspective. You will explore complex causation and how it is addressed methodologically across different disciplines. The module also introduces design strategies and different disciplinary practices, and considers ethical issues in the conduct of social research, including issues of power and equality.

Quantitative Methods and Analysis develops your knowledge, critical understanding and skills in quantitative data analysis. You will learn how to use statistical techniques for exploration and description of data sets and to make appropriate statistical inferences about associations between social phenomena.

Research Design and Process provides training in research design and an understanding of the research process to prepare you for the MA dissertation/PhD research and careers in social research. You will develop an understanding of how to formulate and design a research project, the ethical, political and organisational issues involved in social research, and the processes and stages involved in planning a research project.

Computational Social Science introduces the methodologies used in the rapidly changing landscape of computational social science, from machine learning and complex network analysis to simulation and visual and textual analysis. The module includes a working knowledge of several of the most widely used methods.

Qualitative Methods and Analysis equips you with the advanced knowledge and skills to understand, conceptualise and critically appraise qualitative social sciences research, including different approaches to research and design, and analysis of qualitative data. This module helps prepare you to carry out your own qualitative research projects.

The 15,000-word Dissertation gives you the opportunity to explore and write about a suitable subject of your choice under the guidance of a supervisor, and to use the techniques developed in the research modules. It enables you to demonstrate your capacity for independent thought, critical thinking and analysis.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Policy Related and Evaluation Research
  • Analysing Causal Relations in Social Science Research
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Advanced Ethnographic Research
  • Multilevel Modelling
  • Simulating Data in R
  • Systematic Review
  • Social Policy and Society
  • Public Sociology: Theory and Practice
  • Social Work Context and Practice
  • Criminology: Theory and Critical Issues


Teaching is delivered via lectures to introduce key concepts, theories and debates; discussion-based seminars; interactive workshops; and practical sessions enabling you to learn to use computer software packages with support.

Your contact hours will be supplemented by a substantial element of independent learning, including further reading and research. You will have access to a variety of learning resources, including learning spaces in libraries and teaching rooms, computers, databases, journals and a wide range of textbooks.

All teaching staff are available for two allocated hours each week so you can access additional support. You will also be assigned a supervisor for your dissertation who will provide support through a series of individual tutoring meetings, dissertation workshops and forums.


The majority of the MA is assessed through coursework, and this takes a variety of forms depending on the modules studied. Assessment methods include written assignments, statistical/computer-based projects, reports, group and individual presentations and research proposals and analyses. The statistics modules may require you to complete specific analyses with more structured instructions.

The 15,000-word MSc dissertation, carried out under the guidance of a supervisor, makes up one third of your credits.

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) 

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £10,400 per year
EU students £24,750 per year
Island students £10,400 per year
International students £24,750 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £5,800 per year
EU students £13,700 per year
Island students £5,800 per year
International students £13,700 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


Teaching and research in sociology develops the skills and knowledge required to carry out further research at a high level.

It also provides an excellent foundation for careers in a wide range of sectors by enhancing skills that are appropriate for the workplace and are highly sought after by employers. These range from interpreting and evaluating information to analysing situations and constructing a persuasive argument.

Previous postgraduates have progressed to stimulating and rewarding roles in health and welfare, local and central government, the Civil Service, the police, the voluntary sector, banking and the media as well as business, with high-profile employers such as M&S, Mencap, Accenture and Unilever.

Department information


The Department of Sociology carries out significant research and teaching that considers the world from a social perspective. We use the knowledge gained from our research into human behaviour to contribute to vital policy and practice that addresses contemporary social challenges.

These ever-present challenges range from social inequality and its implications for social mobility, education and health as well as violence, abuse, and the role of responses from bodies such as governments and agencies.

We offer postgraduate taught masters courses in Sociology, Social Work and Social Research Methods. We also offer masters by research and doctorates by research in the areas of Communities and Social Justice, Higher Education and Inequality, Violence and Abuse, and Health.

Our academic staff have a vast pool of expertise in innovative and socially conscious research in areas ranging from Criminology and Sociology through Social Policy to Social Work and Community and Youth Work.

We are also home to prestigious research centres that are respected for the contribution they make to the field of sociology including the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action and the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 15 in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Sociology 2023
  • 1st for Criminology in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2024
  • 3rd for Sociology in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2024 
  • 8th for Sociology in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 3rd for Criminology in The Guardian University Guide 2024


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)


The Department is located in the centre of Durham. Our main building is 32 Old Elvet and is within walking distance of the Students’ Union, University Colleges and the city’s castle and cathedral.

The buildings include 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 offers a wide range of books, ebooks and journals that support all of our areas of study. We also make extensive use of Learn Ultra, the University’s virtual learning environment.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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