Taught course

Research Methods (Politics, International Relations, Security)

Durham University · School of Government and International Affairs

Entry requirements

UK 2.1 Bachelor degree, or equivalent. The degree should be in the field of social sciences, but we will actively consider significant relevant experience in lieu of this requirement.

Two satisfactory academic references. In cases of applicants who have significant relevant experience, one work-related reference and one academic reference would be considered appropriate.

Months of entry


Course content

This MA in Research Methods provides Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-recognised training in the fields of politics, international relations and security. The course has been designed to provide a thorough grounding in research methods allied to further specialisation within these fields for those intending to progress to a PhD and, as such, fulfils the ESRC research training guidelines requirement for ‘1+3’ PhD students.

The MA is offered in collaboration with other departments in the Faculty of Social Sciences. This provides wide-ranging opportunities for interdisciplinary study which you can tailor to your career development needs or use as a stepping-stone into social science research.

You will study core modules in research design, qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, as well as exploring the ethical and political issues that underpin social sciences research. This combination of theoretical and practical training is designed to develop the techniques you need to create your own research studies.

You also choose optional modules, some of which are designed to further develop your knowledge of research methods and others that are specific to politics, international relations and security. The MA dissertation brings together the different areas of learning into an area of research interest.

The School of Government and International Affairs is home to the Durham Global Security Institute and the Global Policy Institute. As a student in the School, your learning will be informed by the ongoing research carried out by experts from these institutes, many of whom are working at the forefront of their field.

Course structure

Core modules:

Empirical Research in Politics, International Relations and Security provides an overview of the types of research designs most frequently used in empirical research in politics, international relations and security. Teaching is structured around the two main types of research designs: theory-generating (inductive) and theory-testing (deductive).

Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Practices across Social Science Research examines contemporary social scientific research from an interdisciplinary and mixed-methods perspective. You will learn about methodological practices, ethics and explore the challenges of studying social complexity across the different disciplines.

Quantitative Methods and Analysis gives students with a range of disciplinary backgrounds and experiences the opportunity to assimilate and develop their knowledge, critical understanding and skills in quantitative data analysis. You will study the use of statistical techniques for exploration and description of data sets and learn to make appropriate statistical inferences about associations between social phenomena.

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 provides the foundation for qualitative research projects.

The Dissertation is a substantial piece of independent work in a related aspect of research methods. The 12,000-word dissertation is the culmination of the MA, bringing together elements of learning from across the course.

Examples of optional modules:

Research Methods

  • Advanced Ethnographic Research;
  • Multilevel Modelling;
  • Simulating Data in R;
  • Systematic Review;
  • Advanced Statistics for Psychology and the Behavioural Sciences;
  • Computational Social Science;
  • Participatory Action Research.


  • Core Concepts in Political Science

International Relations

  • International Relations Theory;
  • International Organisations.


  • Defence, Development and Diplomacy in Conflict: Evolving Actors, Factors and Paradigms;
  • Conflict Prevention and Sustainable Peace;
  • Peace Processes and Everyday Political Negotiation;
  • Consolidating Peace After Violence.

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
International students

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

School of Government and International Affairs