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    Social Research

    Sheffield Methods Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences

    On this course you'll become well-versed in the theoretical concepts in social research. Choose from a wide range of modules that reflect your interests, and apply your qualitative and quantitative skills to your field of research. Our graduates go on to PhD research or careers that demand world-class research skills.
    Postgraduate social research students at workshop

    Course description

    Whether you are starting your career in social research, are an experienced researcher seeking to enhance your skills or looking to further your academic research career, this course will build on your existing expertise, equipping you with advanced mixed methods research skills, along with the theoretical foundations of social research. 

    You'll gain a versatile range of cutting-edge qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research skills. We will develop your ability to successfully deliver complex research projects from proposal through to the design, implementation and communication of the results. You will learn how to:

    • Formulate research questions
    • Develop an appropriate research design
    • Apply practical quantitative and qualitative research skills including data visualisation and interviewing techniques
    • Manage and analyse your data and meaningfully communicate the results to project stakeholders, maximising the chances of your research making a difference   

    You'll develop widely transferable and practical skills that can be applied to real-life research problems and support your career development. Our innovative teaching methods will enable you to learn by doing, giving you the chance to use your new knowledge in your current role or to further your PhD studies. 

    Guided by our expert staff, as part of your course you will complete either a hands-on research project in the form of a dissertation or extended research proposal, where you have the opportunity to design a large-scale research project. We try to pair you with a supervisor that shares an interest in your research topic, providing you with further expert insight. 

    You can tailor your course to your own interests by selecting optional modules from a wide range of departments from across the Faculty of Social Sciences, exposing you to the latest debates within your field of research.

    The course has been specifically developed to meet the ESRC postgraduate training and development guidelines.

    Part-time study option

    The MA Social Research course is 180 credits, 60 of which are the dissertation/proposal, which comes at the end.

    On a full-time basis that amounts to 60 credits per semester, followed by the 60 credit dissertation/proposal completed over the summer. Part time study is half of that, so depending on the way you choose to organise your studies, it's 30 credits per semester (over four semesters) followed by the dissertation/proposal. 

    We can and do help students organise modules around work commitments but it definitely helps if employers are willing to be flexible.

    The amount of contact time for part-time students is about 5 to 6 hours per week. We do try and cluster core teaching into as few days as possible but students can be expected to attend campus for up to five days per week, depending on optional module choices.

    The course is best experienced through small group in-person teaching so there is no online or remote learning option.

    If you want to know more about the MA Social Research and the Sheffield Methods Institute, follow us on X and Instagram.

    Alunma Chloe, will tell why she chose to study MA Social Research and how it has helped progress her career.


    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.

    Principles of Research Design I

    This unit addresses the foundations of research: what needs to be established before a research project can be conducted. It has three main focuses, which are the philosophical foundations upon which social scientific research are based, the process of establishing the current state of the art in a given field of social science, and establishing which study design is most appropriate for a given research question. In this way, it combines both conceptual and practical issues in the social sciences. It precedes Principles of Research Design II, which addresses the principles to be applied while a research project is underway.

    15 credits
    Introduction to Qualitative Research

    This unit introduces students to a variety of qualitative research techniques. This unit aims to familiarise students with a full range of research methods and analyses in common use in social science. The module covers interviewing, observation, document work, the use of visual data and mixed methods. As well as learning how to use these tools, techniques and processes, students on this module will learn how to apply them to their own research projects. Students will also learn to evaluate these research methods and techniques. They will learn to develop an understanding of how qualitative methods are used to create knowledge. This module forms the basis for further subject-specific research training in the contributing departments across the social sciences.

    15 credits
    Introduction to Quantitative Research

    This module has been designed to help you develop your ability to conduct quantitative data analysis in the social sciences. The emphasis is not only on technical competence but also on understanding the principles behind the methods, as well as being able to competently interpret your results. We will be using real data with countless examples from across the social sciences (e.g., politics, economics, psychology, sociology, criminology, etc.) to learn about descriptive, exploratory, and inferential statistics. In doing so, we will cover a broad range of topics such as descriptive statistics and data distributions; scaling and measurement; data visualisation; linear and logistic regression and causal inference; uncertainty in estimation; cluster analysis; and spatial analysis using the R statistical software.

    15 credits
    Principles of Research Design II

    This unit follows SMI607 in introducing students to research design, with a focus on what happens during and after the process of conducting research, and the relevant professional skills required by researchers. It addresses issues of research ethics, sampling and recruitment, reflexivity, project management, collaboration with other researchers, different approaches and techniques for analysing data, and the process of presenting, publishing, and disseminating research to a range of different audiences. In this way, in combination with SMI607, it provides students with a toolkit to conduct an entire research project independently from a range of different philosophical and methodological perspectives.

    15 credits
    Working Beyond Disciplines

    The purpose of this module is to provide an introduction to interdisciplinary study for research students in the social sciences, highlighting the importance of research which reaches beyond disciplinary boundaries, and exploring the differing approaches through which such research can be achieved. By engaging students with the specific thematic pathways that are central to the intellectual project of the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership, it introduces students to `grand challenges for the social sciences that relate to their own proposed research areas. Through this, it links interdisciplinary epistemological approaches to their application in the context of students own proposed research projects.

    15 credits
    Research Ethics and Integrity

    Training on research ethics and integrity for all postgraduate research students as part of the Doctoral Development Programme. The training will: Enhance students' ability to critically analyse/reflect upon their own actions and behaviours when conducting research from start to finish, as well as interactions with research participants, supervisors, co-workers etc; Heighten ethical sensitivity and reasoning, enabling students to plan and prepare for ethical challenges they may face and to be able to manage challenges.The training will complement and reinforce existing research methods training.

    You will also take one or both of the following courses in your second semester, amounting to 15 or 30 credits.

    Advanced modules:

    Advanced Qualitative Methods

    This unit introduces students to a variety of advanced qualitative research techniques common to the social sciences, but which can be used in wider cross-faculty research contexts. The unit provides students with a philosophical introduction to advanced qualitative methodology, and will introduce a selection of advanced and pioneering research techniques, which will include techniques such as: creative approaches to qualitative interviewing, the use of sensory and mobile methods, participatory research techniques (including the use of diaries and drawings), qualitative longitudinal research, memory work, and life history approaches.
    It will also introduce all students to the potential of re-using qualitative data and to advanced analytical techniques (including Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis). Students will also learn about innovative approaches to writing and communicating qualitative research. Finally, the module will also introduce students to a range of ethical issues arising from creative and innovative approaches to qualitative research.

    15 credits
    Advanced Quantitative Methods for Social Research

    The course will introduce more advanced uses of multivariable statistics in the social sciences. This unit then covers several methods that are often employed across the social sciences. These will include: Multiple Regression (including Ordinary Least Squares and Logistic Regression) and more advanced extensions such as multilevel models and longitudinal techniques. Students will undertake a small secondary data analysis project of their own devising for assessment.

    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


    Your teaching will be research-led through:

    • Lectures
    • Seminars
    • Computer workshops
    • Independent study
    • Individual tutorials

    You'll be taught by research active academic experts who are developing new and innovative research methods and who will bring live research projects into the classroom to enhance your learning experience.


    • Group work
    • Essays
    • Project reports
    • Portfolios
    • Oral presentation
    • Independent research project

    Your career

    You may currently work in a research based role and are looking to widen your skillset or you may be wanting to enhance your research career prospects, The MA Social Research will develop your understanding of a wide range of advanced practical research skills, giving you the opportunity to directly apply your learning to your current role. 

    Here are just some of the specific skills you will develop on our course: 

    • The principles of research design, including how to formulate research questions and develop the appropriate strategies to answer them.
    • Quantitative research skills including practical data tidying, visualisation, data analysis in the R programming language with no prior experience required.
    • Qualitative research skills including interviewing, ethnographic approaches, participatory and creative approaches, reflexive thematic analysis, and narrative analysis.
    • How to be ethically responsible researchers, foregrounding moral considerations in all aspects of the research process.
    • How to communicate research convincingly and impactfully, using a range of formal and creative dissemination techniques.

    The skills on the MA enabled me to get my current position, as working with data is a central point of the post. I think the MA gave me some 'clout', when it came to getting this position, as it demonstrated that I have a robust understanding of research methods


    Research Officer, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council


    Sheffield Methods Institute

    The Sheffield Methods Institute (SMI) is a unique organisation created to promote innovation in research methods that can be applied to the social sciences to ultimately help solve the big challenges facing today’s society.

    A masters course from the SMI will help you with the next step on your career path, whether you are looking to pursue a research degree or develop your skills as a researcher in the workplace. Our course will advance your research ability and knowledge of research methodology - skills that can be applied to any area of social science research.

    Our postgraduate degree has been designed to develop highly skilled researchers in the social sciences to world-class standards as defined by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). You’ll be taught by academics at the forefront of their fields, working to develop new research methods to help solve real world questions and problems. 

    You’ll develop highly sought-after qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods research skills through our hands-on teaching methods and you can tailor the course to your interests by selecting from a wide range of modules.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in a subject related to your intended specialism.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

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


    You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now


    +44 114 222 8345

    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.