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 


    Department of Sociological Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences

    Extend, develop, and deepen your knowledge of key areas of sociological scholarship and enhance your social research methods skills.
    Students and tutor in a seminar

    Course description

    Immerse yourself in established and emergent ideas in sociology and delve into debates about the most pressing sociological challenges in the social world.

    The MA in Sociology is driven by the research of academics on the course team, with a mix of core and optional modules designed exclusively for masters students. In your core modules, you'll pursue debates in current sociology, engage with advanced social and sociological theory, and explore advanced qualitative and/or quantitative research methods.

    You'll also study areas of sociological research that interest you through a range of optional modules. These are likely to include: the sociologies of digital worlds; intimacies and everyday life; genders and sexualities; and refugees and asylum seekers.

    Why study sociology at Sheffield?


    A selection of modules is 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.

    Students complete 180 credits in total.

    Core modules:

    Current Sociology

    This module introduces students to current and emerging sociological frameworks for thinking about the nature of social relationships, divisions, practices, identities and inequalities, in micro/macro local/global contexts. It will cover central theoretical approaches for conceptualising current sociological concerns (social identities and stratifications, diversities, post-colonialism, mobilities, securitisation, globalisation, consumption, urban and rural divides, gentrification, community, conflict, conviviality, the human/non-human) and social inequalities, and the intersectional relationships between these. In order to explore how various social processes, practices, identities and inequalities manifest themselves, change and interrelate, specific empirical contexts will be addressed.

    30 credits
    Concepts and Ideas in Sociological Theory

    The module explores concepts, arguments, and ideas that have decisively shaped and advanced social and sociological theory. After revisiting influential works in classical social thought (e.g. Marx), the module focuses on key interventions in critical theory (e.g. Horkheimer), feminist theory (e.g. Irigaray), postmodern theory (e.g. Lyotard), and poststructuralist theory (e.g. Foucault). The module aims to guide students in understanding, analysing, and evaluating the contributions of these theoretical frameworks to the critical examination of social relations and conditions and to the conception of sociology as the study of social conditions. The module involves close readings and discussions of primary theoretical texts.

    30 credits
    MA in Sociology Dissertation

    This module is concerned with enabling students to undertake an in-depth study on a topic of their own choice, guided by one-to-one academic supervision, relevant to sociology. It aims to enable students to develop and demonstrate skills in the planning, definition and management of a substantial piece of sociological enquiry. The dissertation may take the form of a theoretical and literature based analysis of a topic relevant to the course, or it may additionally involve an empirical exploration, either through primary or secondary research, of a sociological topic.

    60 credits

    Optional modules - one or two from:

    Innovations in Qualitative Research

    This unit introduces students to a variety of advanced and innovative qualitative research techniques common to sociology and the social sciences more widely. The module provides students with a philosophical introduction to qualitative methodology, and covers a range of innovative research techniques including creative interviewing, sensory ethnography, mobile methods, longitudinal research, memory work, re-using qualitative data and participatory approaches such as the use of diaries and drawings. The module will also introduce students to a range of analytical techniques and covers innovative approaches to writing and communicating with qualitative data. Finally, the module will also introduce students to a range of ethical issues arising from creative and innovative approaches to qualitative research.

    15 credits
    Introduction to Quantitative Research

    The course will introduce uses of quantitative research in the social sciences. This unit introduces basic statistical concepts such as sampling, distributions, hypothesis testing and descriptive statistics. It then goes on to bivariate statistics such as correlation and cross-tabulation along with relevant statistical tests. Students then move on to multivariate statistical analysis using regression based techniques. Students will become familiar with the key role that secondary data analysis now plays in the social sciences. Students will gain proficiency in using the statistical software package SPSS.

    15 credits

    Optional modules - two or three from:

    Contemporary Challenges: Refugees and Asylum

    Contemporary Challenges explores a key contemporary challenge in depth and applies key concepts in Sociology (e.g. class, race, nationalism, democracy) in analysing it. The focus of the challenge will change on a 3-4 yearly basis.
    In its first iteration, the module focuses on Brexit: ideas of class and 'the left behind', English nationalism, nostalgia for empire, the media, and some of the impacts of Brexit in relation to everyday life. In doing so the module will develop a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the vote for the UK to leave the EU, as well as some of its consequences.

    15 credits
    Sociologies of the everyday

    This module will explore theoretical and empirical insights into the mundane, personal and everyday. Beginning with an exploration of theoretical approaches to making sense of everyday, personal and mundane facets of the social world, the module goes on to explore key areas of everyday life including personal relationships; belonging in time, space and place; interactions between politics and personal life and everyday racisms. The module will also consider the challenges involved in attempting to 'capture' the everyday in empirical sociological research.

    15 credits
    Sociology of Genders, Sexualities and the Bodies

    Why are gender, sexuality and the body important areas for sociological study? How can these domains be seen to be political as well as personal? How have understanding around gender, sexuality and the body changed across time and cultures? How might experiences and practices of gender, sexuality and the body be impacted by intersectional factors such as race and ethnicity, ability and disability, faith, social class, age, and space and place? These are some of the key questions explored on this module, which will consider the diverse ways in which gender, sexuality and the body are understood and practiced at individual, collective and structural levels.

    15 credits
    Digital Media in a Datafied Society

    This unit examines the social consequences of widespread use of social media, a key characteristic of digital society. It explores what happens as a result of the digitised and networked sharing of personal information and life experiences of all kinds, in times of datafication (that is, the transformation into data, numbers and statistics aspects of social life which formerly did not exist in such forms). The unit reviews theoretical literature on social media, data and society and addresses specific debates and issues, including: social media data mining; social media surveillance; the economic value of social media data; data tracking, privacy, rights and data subjects; governing social media data mining; data activism and open data; data visualisation; new forms of data work; data and everyday life.

    15 credits
    Digital Health

    This module looks at the social implications of digital technologies in health, considering what these mean for our experiences of health and illness as patients and as citizens, for the work of health care professionals, and for the provision of health care. The module will consider a range of contemporary areas such as self-tracking and gamifying health, telemedicine and care at a distance, health information on the net, electronic patient records, illness death and dying on the web, and health activism and online patient groups. Drawing across these, the module will consider questions about changing representations and cultures of health and illness, whether we can all be medical experts now, who has responsibility for health, how we relate to health care professionals, the commodification of health data and the relative benefits for state and industry.

    15 credits
    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
    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
    Hate, Hope and Digital Misinformation

    The module explores contemporary issues that affect the relationship between digital media and society in the global context. It focuses on digital media and dis/misinformation (for example debates around fake news), the relationship between misinformation and online extremes (such as online hate, conspiracy theories, or online radicalisation), and attempts to counter these phenomena (including fact-checking and the creation of digital counter-narratives). These developments are contextualized in relation to longstanding debates about the ways that power, inequality and the political economy of the mainstream media shape the availability and visibility of information. The module takes examples from around the world and applies relevant theories to their analysis.

    15 credits
    How the World Gets Made

    How do we produce and co-ordinate the most mundane and taken-for-granted aspects of the social world? How do we, for example, cross the road without bumping into one another, produce and understand directions of how to get somewhere, or 'just know' when someone is misunderstanding or lying about something? This module provides an in-depth, hands-on immersion in influential, radical interactionist approaches to the study of social order. We emphasise the improvised and locally produced nature of the social world, drawing on radical philosophical, conceptual and methodological frameworks for conducting studies. The approach's utility in a range of fields—including science studies, human-computer interaction, workplace studies, crime and deviance—will be considered. Structured seminars will introduce key thinkers, central themes, conceptual positions and methodological opportunities. Tutorial workshops will provide students with the support and guidance needed for them to undertake analysis of a segment of social interaction of their choice.

    15 credits

    Guided Module Choice - you can take a maximum of 15 credits from the following:

    Theory and Debates in Food Security and Food Justice

    Food Security and Food Justice are areas of increasing importance at local, national, transnational and global scales. Political and non-political agents at multiple scales have recognised that Global Hunger and Food Security (of which Food Justice is a primary component) is a key challenge requiring urgent interdisciplinary investigation and problem solving. There remains limited agreement as to how best to approach these issues. This module provides students with a background to the problems encompassed within the food security/food justice nexus by drawing on academic and policy debates that focus on both the macro as well as the micro impacts. By looking across food systems, the module also critically evaluates different strategies for mitigating the impacts of food insecurity and injustice. In addition to academic, knowledge and critical thinking skills, the module will help students to develop the following attributes: Communication, Networking, Collaboration, Influencing, Inclusivity, Defining Purpose, and Growth Mindset.

    15 credits
    Urban Development in the Global South

    This module explores the challenges of urban planning and development in the global South: how are conflicting imperatives of ecological sustainability, social inclusion and economic competitiveness being balanced by practitioners, and what implications does this have for those living there? The module will develop understanding of how urban planning systems are constructed and mediated by different actors. The unit will use a series of scenarios; representing some of the diversity of conditions that exist in the global South, to develop understandings of how planning systems shape and are shaped by the contexts in which they operate.

    15 credits
    Managing Climate Change

    This module aims to provide students with a strong understanding of the social and physical science of climate change with relevance to international development. This understanding is then applied to consider the challenge of living with climate change in the Global South. The module is taught through seminars and lectures. Lectures introduce and impart factual knowledge while seminars allow discussion and an emphasis on applying key concepts to practical situations. Together these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the wide ranging literature on climate change.

    15 credits
    Environment, Society and Development: Key Issues, Debates and Concepts

    This module engages critically with the key theoretical debates that shape the relationships between the environment, society and international development. By looking at current questions in development theory and their relationship to development practice in the context of the Anthropocene and environmental change, it encourages students to think critically about the ways in which interdisciplinary approaches define issues and problems, and the theoretical viewpoints that inform their actions. The module is taught primarily through seminars: these structure students’ learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the academic literature on international development.

    15 credits
    Debating Cultural Imperialism in the Nineteenth-Century British Empire

    The Nineteenth-century British Empire was ruled through a complex colonial bureaucracy, violent conquest, and exploitative economic relationships. But, arguably the most controversial element of British colonialism was its cultural projects. Missionaries, humanitarians, educationalists and doctors all had their own aspirations for indigenous people and came bearing 'western' and ostensibly very different ways of understanding the mind and the body. This course will introduce you to debates around cultural imperialism in the nineteenth-century British Empire. The seminars will explore the texts and issues around specific areas of 'cultural' intervention: English-language education; religion; medicine; and what is discussed today as 'women's rights'.

    15 credits
    Sex and Power: The Politics of Women's Liberation in Modern Britain

    This module examines the integration of women and the evolving themes and demands of the women's movement in the political sphere in Britain from the heyday of the suffrage movement up to the reign of Britain's first female PM, Margaret Thatcher. We will focus on both women's wide-ranging attempts and their more limited achievements to gain entry into the political establishment, at the local, national and international levels. Topics will include women's suffrage agitation; the aftermath of suffrage; inter-war feminism; feminist internationalism; studies of women politicians; Second Wave Feminism; and gendered readings of British political history.

    15 credits
    Before Facebook: Social Networks in History

    In a world of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, social networks seem a distinctly modern phenomenon, but are they only a product of our digital age? This module explores historians' efforts to reconstruct social networks in diverse contexts, from the ancient to the modern world. Drawing upon techniques first developed by social scientists, and increasingly digital methods too, they have found networks of trade and business; religious groups and political exiles; family, friends and much more. This innovative work is revealing how far lives and communities cut across boundaries of time and space - with important consequences for historical debates and issues.

    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.

    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


    Teaching is conducted through a combination of lectures, workshops, seminars, tutorials, and small-group work. Emphasis is placed on the individual aspects of learning.


    Assessment varies across modules and will include different forms of coursework, such as essays, projects, and blogs.

    Students will also conduct a sociological research project on a topic of their interest and write a dissertation of 15,000 words on their project. You will be allocated a dedicated Dissertation Supervisor who will be there to support you along the way, providing you with advice and guidance throughout your dissertation.

    Formal examination may be required for some optional modules.

    Your career

    85.7% of our graduates are in work or further study fifteen months after graduating (2020/21 Graduate Outcomes Survey).

    Completing this programme will set you apart from the rest as you embark on your career journey. Your employability is a priority for us. This is why you can add valuable skills to your CV throughout the course, by taking advantage of the faculty employability hub and access support and opportunities.

    Alumni from the department have gone on to work in various organisations and sectors such as Deloitte, Sodexo, Government and Non Government Organisations.

    Progressing to study for a PhD within the department, is also a popular route that many of our students choose to take following completion of their MA. 

    Find out more about graduate careers on our PGT Careers and employability page.


    Department of Sociological Studies

    You'll learn about key concepts like society, community, social relationships, and identity. Our courses explore important sociological issues, including inequalities, gender, migration, and the digital world.

    Our world-leading research shapes our teaching, so you're always challenged and up to date. Our interdisciplinary approach brings sociologists, social policy analysts, digital media scholars and social workers together under one roof.

    Your tutors are experts in their fields and work with organisations in the UK and worldwide, bringing fresh perspectives to your studies. They'll give you the advice and support you need to excel in your subject.

    Department staff also play key roles in the Faculty of Social Science's Digital Society Network (DSN), an active group of researchers working on all aspects of digital-society relations. The DSN hosts events and activities to stimulate and support research in this area.

    Our courses develop students who are socially aware, with strong analytical skills and a flair for approaching problems in new ways. You'll become skilled at research and bring your own insights to key issues that affect our lives.

    Department of Sociological Studies students are based in the world-class Faculty of Social Sciences building, The Wave. It features state-of-the-art collaborative lecture theatres, study spaces and seminar rooms. Teaching may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space. If you want to have a closer look, check out our 360 degree tour.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in a relevant social science subject (e.g. sociology, social policy, politics, anthropology, international relations or development studies).

    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.

    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

    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.