Taught course

Social Research Methods

Durham University · Department of Sociology

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).

Months of entry


Course content

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.

Information for international students

If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take a pre-Masters pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.

Fees and funding

UK students
£10,400 per year
International students
£24,750 per year

For further information see the course listing.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MA
    part time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details