Explore this course:

    Applications for 2024 entry are now open. Apply now or register your interest to hear about postgraduate study and events at the University of Sheffield.

    2024 start September 

    Data Science

    Information School, Faculty of Social Sciences

    All organisations face the challenge of how to analyse and use data. On this course, you'll learn data science concepts and how to support data-driven approaches to problem-solving within complex organisational and societal contexts.
    Academic with two students by a computer

    Course description

    Gain an in-depth understanding of the theory and practice of data science and its application in different organisational contexts. You'll be provided with a set of fundamental principles that support ethical extraction of information and knowledge from data. Case studies will help to show the practical application of these principles to real life problems.

    The programme is centred on three key aspects of data science fundamental data-related principles, supporting infrastructures and organisational context.

    You'll gain practical skills in handling structured and unstructured data, analysing and visualising data, data mining, as well as gaining hands-on experience of software tools used and their use in real-world settings. You'll gain the skills of a data manager who understands what the algorithms (e.g., for data mining or handling ‘big data’) can do and when to use them for the benefit of the organisation.

    Throughout the programme, there will be opportunities to gain hands-on experience using a variety of tools, such as R, Python and SPSS, Weka or Tableau/Spotfire and, although you're not required to have any knowledge of these tools before starting the course, it may be advantageous to read up on them in advance. You'll conduct in-depth research into your particular areas of interest for your dissertation.

    Applying for this course

    We use a staged admissions process to assess applications for this course. You'll still apply for this course in the usual way, using our Postgraduate Online Application Form.


    CILIP accredited


    A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    You’ll need 180 credits to get a masters degree, with 90 credits from core modules, 30 credits from optional modules and a dissertation (including dissertation preparation) worth 60 credits.

    Core modules:

    Data Visualisation

    Visualisation is a crucial technique to summarise data in an intuitive fashion. It can provide insights that are difficult to extract from the raw data. Because of this, visualisation is often used to enhance the delivery of information in the media and in reports. The module will focus on the theoretical frameworks to design visual elements that are able to provide information about a data set. It will cover how to create and critique different visualisations to display data, as well as design considerations and good practices in data visualisation.

    15 credits
    Introduction to Data Science

    Data science is an emerging field that seeks to discover and explore new ways of exploiting data to support decision-making for a range of domains and problems. With individuals and organisations producing vast amounts of real-time heterogeneous data (i.e. Big Data), there is greater demand than ever to manage and analyse data effectively. This module aims to introduce students to the concepts and theories that underpin data science, provide an understanding of how they are used and impact on organisations, and gain hands-on experience with analysing and presenting data effectively using R and R Studio.

    15 credits
    Data Mining

    As the volume of and types of information collected and stored in databases grows, there is a growing need to gain new insights into the data by identifying important patterns and trends. Data Mining is the process by which this is done. This module will examine the two main goals served by data mining: (i) insight (identifying patterns and trends on which to base actions), and (ii) prediction (modelling future activities or outcomes based on input data) and how algorithms are used to support these. An overview will be provided on the algorithms that underpin the most commonly used machine learning methods for building models and identifying patterns in data. Practical experience will be gained through the use of appropriate software to complete weekly tasks (i.e. KNIME). 

    Students will be introduced to key themes in data mining, including types of data mining problem  (e.g. classification, clustering, rule mining), common algorithms used in machine learning (e.g. SVM, decision trees, k-means, neural networks, etc.), feature selection and evaluation issues (e.g. measures and standardised benchmarks). Case studies will be used throughout the module to highlight the use of data mining methods for tackling real-world problems as well as the various ethical, social and legal issues associated with its use.

    15 credits
    Data Analysis

    This module provides an introduction to analysing data using statistical methods, e.g. descriptive, bivariate and multivariate analyses. It demonstrates different ways of analysing data, presenting the results of analyses (for example, graphically and using tables and text) and interpreting their meaning. Students undertaking the module will gain practical experience in using SPSS. By the end of the module students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the concepts and theories of statistical data analysis, describe and use a variety of statistical methods, present the outputs of data analysis in an appropriate way and be able to use statistical software. The module will involve lectures, practical classes and student-led seminars which, together with self-directed learning, will cover the conceptual, theoretical and practical aspects of data analysis.

    15 credits
    Data and Society

    The module draws upon key concepts and emerging debates from across the social sciences to address how social and political factors interact with (big) data and evolving data science techniques such as data mining, visualisation and analytics. Key issues and debates will be examined in relation to developments in fields such as marketing, political campaigning, and state security. The module complements more technical and management orientated modules, and aims to aid students in becoming more critical and reflective data scientists, decision makers and/or citizens able to successfully navigate the challenging social, political, legal and ethical issues related to data processing and use, and to reflect critically on the ways in which emerging data practices are shaped by and contribute to the development of complex social worlds.

    15 credits
    Database Design

    Effective data management is key to any organisation, particularly with the increasing availability of large and heterogeneous datasets (e.g. transactional, multimedia and geo-spatial data). A database is an organised collection of data, typically describing the activities of one or more organisations and a core component of modern information systems. A Database Management System (DBMS) is software designed to assist in maintaining and utilising large collections of data and becoming a necessity for all organisations. This module provides an introduction to the area of databases and database management, relational database design and a flavour of some advanced topics in current database research that deal with different kinds of data often found within an organisational context. Lectures are structured into three main areas: An introduction to databases, The process of designing relational databases, Advanced topics (e.g. data warehouses and non-relational databases) The course includes a series of online tasks with supporting 'drop in' laboratories aimed at providing you with the skills required to implement a database in Oracle and extract information using the Structured Query Language (SQL).

    15 credits
    Research Methods and Dissertation Preparation

    This module assists students in the identification of, and preparation of a dissertation proposal. Students will: familiarise themselves with on-going research in the School; identify and prepare a dissertation proposal; carry out a preliminary literature search in the area of the dissertation research topic; and be introduced to the use of social research methods and statistics for information management.

    15 credits

    This module enables students to carry out an extended piece of work on an Information School approved topic, so that they can explore an area of specialist interest to them in greater depth. Students will be supported through tutorials with a project supervisor, will apply research methods appropriate to their topic, and implement their work-plan to produce an individual project report. Students will already have identified a suitable topic and designed a project plan in the pre-requisite unit Research Methods and Dissertation Preparation.

    45 credits

    Optional modules - two from:

    Researching Social Media

    The module will examine the key theoretical frameworks and methods used in social media studies. Students will explore the following questions: 1) What can be learnt about society by studying social media? 2) How should researchers construct ethical stances for researching sites such as Facebook and Twitter? 3) What are the traditional and digital research methods and tools that can be applied to conduct research on social media? 4) What are the strengths and weaknesses of these methods?

    15 credits
    Information Governance and Ethics

    This module explores a) the emergence of information and data as an economic resource; b) the governance challenges and ethical issues arising from organisations' systematic capture, processing, and use of information and data for organisational goals, e.g. value, risk, accountability, ownership, privacy etc; c) governance, ethical, legal and other frameworks relevant to the capture, processing and use of information and data within organisational and networked contexts; and d) technologies and techniques used in the governing and governance of information and data. Case examples from a number of domains, e.g. business, government, health, law, and social media illustrate the topics investigated.

    15 credits
    Big Data Analytics

    Data Science techniques often need to be applied to large amounts of data to generate insights. To deal with volume, velocity, and variety of data we need to rely on novel computational architectures that focus on scaling-out data processing as compared to the classic scale-up approach. Such systems allow to add computational resources to a distributed system depending on requirements and load which changes over time. This module will give students knowledge about modern scale-out system architectures to perform data analytics queries over very large structured/unstructured datasets as well as to run data mining algorithms at scale.

    15 credits
    Business Intelligence

    We will cover the principles and practices of gathering and synthesising business intelligence from the external environment, including organisations,  competitive intelligence operations, environmental scanning activities, market intelligence, and strategic intelligence using open source information. A  secondary focus for the module is the role of BI software in organisations to collect and analyse internal information. This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the ways in which business people use information and of how information is used to support strategic decision-making. Students will learn how to carry out effective searches using both free and fee-based resources, and will study key issues concerning the value, cost and availability of information. The module will concentrate primarily on external information resources but also covers the ways in which information internal to an organisation can be used strategically to enhance competitive advantage. Students will learn through a combination of lectures and practical exercises, and will have opportunities to develop expertise in using business-focused electronic information services.

    15 credits
    User-Centred Design and Human-Computer Interaction

    Interface design and usability are central to the experience of interacting with computers. The module introduces usability principles and the design process for interactive systems exploring four major themes. Firstly, user psychology and cognitive principles underlying interface design. Secondly, user interface architectures, modes of interaction, metaphors, navigational structures. Thirdly, the user interface design process including task analysis, modelling constructs and prototyping techniques. Fourthly, the evaluation of user interfaces covering concepts of usability, goals and types of evaluation. The module focus is on the underlying principles of HCI and user-centred design approach with practical sessions to demonstrate these principles.

    15 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    Find out what makes us special at our next online open day on Wednesday 17 April 2024.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    • 1 year full-time
    • 2 years part-time
    • 3 years part-time


    A variety of teaching methods are used combining lectures from academic staff and professional practitioners with seminars, tutorials, small-group work, and computer laboratory sessions. There is a strong emphasis on new ways of exploiting data to support decision-making for a range of domains and problems in an organisational context. In addition to the taught components, you will be expected to engage in independent study, reading and research in support of your coursework.

    Teaching consists of two 15-week semesters, after which you'll write your dissertation.


    Assessments are designed to test your grasp of the theoretical principles, technologies and frameworks used to collect, store, analyse and exploit data; they may include essays, report writing, oral presentations, in-class tests and group projects.

    There is a dissertation of 10-15,000 words, which provides you with the opportunity to focus in depth on a topic of your choice with one-to-one supervision. Opportunities exist for both project and dissertation studies to be carried out with our collaborating organisations, which can provide the opportunity to tackle real-life problems.

    Your career

    Examples of organisations that have employed our graduates include:

    • Deloitte LLP
    • Huawei Technologies
    • National Institute for Health Research
    • Financial institutions in the UK and overseas

    NHS Graduates are employed in roles such as:

    • Data Analyst
    • Development Engineer
    • Machine Learning Engineer
    • Market Data Analyst
    • Optimisation Analyst
    • Project Management
    • Service Consultant


    Information School

    The University of Sheffield Information School is ranked number one in the world for library and information management in the QS World University Rankings by subject 2023. These rankings are based upon academic reputation, employer reputation and research impact.

    The school has been at the forefront of developments in the information field for more than fifty years. The subject is characterised by its distinctive, interdisciplinary focus on the interactions between people, information and digital technologies. It has the ultimate goal of enhancing information access, and the management, sharing and use of information, to benefit society.

    When you come to study with us you'll be an integral part of our research culture. The school is your home and we pride ourselves on the friendliness and helpfulness of our staff.

    We offer an outstanding academic education through a wide range of taught postgraduate degrees which embed the principles of research-led teaching.

    When you join any of our degree programmes you'll develop a critical understanding of current issues in library and information management. You'll benefit from being taught by staff who are undertaking leading-edge research and who have many links with industry.

    As part of our mission to provide world-quality university education in information, we aim to inspire and help you pursue your highest ambitions for your academic and professional careers.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


    We use a staged admissions process to assess applications for this course. You'll still apply for this course in the usual way, using our Postgraduate Online Application Form.

    Apply now

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.