MA in Social Research

Course overview

Our MA in Social Research 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 will be become well-versed in the theoretical concepts in the social research environment and develop highly sought after practical qualitative and quantitative research skills through our hands-on teaching experience.

You will use these research skills and apply them to the subject of your choice from the Faculty of Social Sciences and work with that department to complete an independent research project or dissertation. Departments include:

  • School of Architecture
  • School of East Asian Studies
  • Department of Economics
  • School of Education
  • Department of Geography
  • Information School
  • Department of Journalism Studies
  • Department of Landscape
  •  School of Law
  •  Management School
  •  Department of Politics
  •  Department of Sociological Studies
  •  Department of Urban Studies & Planning
  •  Department of Psychology

This Masters degree will enable you to transition into a higher level of research either directly into PhD research or career that demands world-class research skills.

Course structure & module information

During the year-long course, you will be a student at The Sheffield Methods Institute within the Faculty of Social Science. The SMI is home to leading experts in qualitative and quantitative research methods, and hosts a purpose-built data lab for training in cutting-edge data analysis software.

You will take the following core modules at the SMI:

    Core modules

    Principles of Research Design

    This module will introduce student to key principles in relation to the design and practice of research. The module covers three broad areas of content that underpin the pursuit of research: a range of philosophical frameworks within which research is conducted; a variety of strategies and approaches to designing, conducting and appraising research; and reflections on the place of the researcher and their skills in the research process. Students will explore how these ideas and principles shape the design and conduct of research across disciplines, as well the implications for the knowledge produced.

    Introduction to Qualitative Research

    Introduction to Qualitative Research introduces students to a variety of qualitative research techniques and 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 and evaluate them.

    Introduction to Quantitative Research

    The module introduces uses of quantitative research in the social sciences and basic concepts such as statistical distributions, hypothesis testing and descriptive statistics. It then goes on to bivariate statistics such as correlation and cross-tabulation, followed by multivariate statistics including regression. Students will become familiar with the key role that secondary data analysis now plays in the social sciences and will gain proficiency in using the statistical programming language R.

    Professional Skills for Researchers

    Professional Skills for Researcher enables students to develop and reflectively assess the professional skills that are expected of effective researchers in the social sciences. Through Faculty and University training sessions they will develop their own skill sets as indicated through the Training Needs Analysis (TNA) process, and will evaluate development within a self-reflective portfolio.

    Research Ethics and Integrity The purpose of this module is to encourage students to be sensitive to issues of research integrity and ethics, starting from research design, through to publication and beyond. It is designed to help students understand research activity as more than the generation of research questions, collection and analysis of data, and dissemination of results. Research involves students in a complex set of relationships with a range of stakeholders, and will require students to make decisions that involve ethical questions and considerations of values. Good research is inherently ethical, and the best research has integrity and ethics considerations built in from the beginning. Ethics and integrity is not about jumping through regulatory hoops (although this may be required too). Instead, it focuses on reflecting critically about research throughout the process. The best researchers are not afraid to identify and solve problems with their research.
    Working Beyond Disciplines 

    This module will provide you with an introduction to interdisciplinary study 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. 

    You will also be introduced to the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership interdisciplinary grand-challenge themes. You will consider what "grand challenges" are in your Pathway and how you might address them.

You will apply the skills and training from the core modules to an independent research project module taught within the department of your choice. This will either be in the form of a dissertation or high level-academic project proposal at the discretion of your department tutor.

Independent Research Project

Independent Research Project by Proposal

Students will undertake an in-depth study on a topic of their own choice guided by one-to-one academic supervision based in their disciplinary area. This module aims to enable students to develop and demonstrate skills in the definition and planning of a substantial piece of enquiry that will further and deepen knowledge in their chosen specialist field. This module will demonstrate the ability to identify research questions through literature-based analysis, and show how these questions could be investigated through detailed research design.

Independent Research Project by Dissertation

Students will undertake an in-depth study on a topic of their own choice guided by one-to-one academic supervision based in their disciplinary area. This module aims  to enable students to develop and demonstrate skills in the planning, definition and management of a substantial piece of enquiry that will further and deepen knowledge in their chosen specialist field. This module will demonstrate skills in the design and conduct of research: this may involve theoretical or policy literature-based analysis, and may additionally involve empirical exploration, either through primary or secondary research, of a relevant topic.

You will also take one of the following modules, taught by the SMI:

    Optional 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.
    Students will also be introduced to the potential of re-using qualitative data and to advanced analytical techniques (including Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis and will 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.

    Advanced Quantitative Methods for Social Research

    The course will introduce more advanced uses of multivariate statistics in the social sciences with a focus on comparative methods, covering several methods that are often employed in comparative sociology and social policy. These will include: Cluster analysis; Factor analysis; Multi-dimensional scaling; Regression (including Ordinary Least Squares and Logistic Regression); Event history analysis; and an introduction to comparative and longitudinal techniques. Students will undertake a small secondary data analysis project of their own devising for assessment.

    Depending on the route you choose to take, you will study two modules in other departments. 

    There is the option to take the course as a part-time route over two years.


The fees for the course are £6,500 for home students and £16,000 for overseas students for 2017-18.

Up-to-date information on course fees for home and overseas students

Entry requirements

We require a minimum of an 2:1 honours degree from a UK University (or international equivalent). This will normally be in a relevant discipline to your intended chosen area of research. Other qualifications or suitable relevant experience will be considered on a case by case basis.

International students are also required to hold a suitable English language qualification, such as IELTS with an average score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component.

How to apply

Please apply via the Postgraduate Application form.

There is more information about applying for postgraduate courses on the university postgraduate pages.

If you are interested in applying and have any questions please contact us

Course outcomes

Our MA in Social Research delivers the skills and training to allow you to progress to research within a Social Science PhD. It has been designed to meet the latest post-graduate training development guidelines of the UK's Economic and Social Research Council.

You could also take your world class research skills into a career in research where your practical expertise and theoretical knowledge will be in great demand.