Social Research Methods MSc

The Department of Sociology offers a stimulating and supportive environment for our Social Research Methods students. Offered as part of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme.

Why Surrey?

Social researchers use a constantly developing range of qualitative and quantitative methods to explore attitudes and experiences, and to understand patterns of social behaviour. As a highly regarded research department specialising in cutting-edge research methods, the Department of Sociology offers a stimulating and supportive environment for our Masters students. This is enhanced by our research activities in fields such as the environment, health and ageing, new technologies, identities and criminal justice.

Our students remain highly sought after owing to their ability to think logically about social problems, together with their skills in conducting effective research to address them. Taught modules cover key topics in research design and evaluation. Skills are put into operation through a group research project and an individual dissertation.

Programme overview

2014 was the 40th anniversary of our MSc Social Research Methods programme. In 1974 the MSc in Social Research was the first Masters programme of its kind in the UK, and people who have graduated from the programme over the decades are now found in all kinds of organisations and occupations, in all parts of the UK and overseas. 

The programme won't just train you in the application of specific research techniques: It will also illuminate the connections between sociological theory and empirical research, and relate research to the development of public policy and the analysis of substantive social issues.

Wider issues of the social research process are also covered. These include the planning and management of research projects, research ethics and the presentation and publication of research findings.

The programme aims to:

  • Provide training across a range of technical and practical social research skills
  • Equip you with a good understanding of the contribution that quantitative and qualitative approaches make to the collection, interpretation and analysis of data
  • Encourage you to reflect critically on methodological, theoretical, philosophical and ethical aspects of social research practice
  • Develop an understanding of the contribution that social research makes to social policy formation and the evaluation of planned social interventions
  • Provide you with the opportunity to complete a piece of research, in the form of a dissertation, on a topic in which you have a professional interest

Module overview

For students undertaking full-time study, the programme runs for two semesters (12 months). Students on the part-time mode of study will undertake modules over four semesters (24 months, attending one day per week -  Fridays in Year 1 and on Tuesdays in Year 2).

Compulsory modules

Data Analysis

The aim of this module is to provide you with a grounding in the basic principles of data analysis and statistical methods and to familiarise you with the use and capabilities of the statistical package SPSS for Windows.

Field Methods

This module aims to provide you with a firm methodological basis for conducting various forms of qualitative analysis. Principal data sources are observational fieldnotes, interview transcripts and video.

Theory and Methodology

This module aims to provide you with an understanding of the importance of conceptual and theoretical issues in social research and some of the philosophical concepts and assumptions that underpin the practice of research.

Statistical Modelling

This module provides an introduction to the core ideas and principles of statistical modelling and multivariate data, with particular reference to factor analysis, logistic regression and log-linear modelling.

Principles of Survey Design

This module will provide you with an outline of the main issues in contemporary social research methodology, with a particular focus on the design and conduct of large-scale surveys.

Documentary Analysis and Online Research

This module provides an overview of the techniques used to analyse written, visual and oral documents, and examines methodological innovations in relation to the internet.

Research: From Design to Dissemination

This module aims to develop students’ research skills through the design and conduct of a small-scale collaborative research project. The practical experience on the project is supported through specific training in research-based skills and professional development. Through taking this module, students will come to understand the practices and procedures involved in initiating, managing and disseminating a research project.

Evaluation Research

This module covers the theoretical, methodological and practical aspects of evaluative research. Emphasis is placed upon the major research methods employed by evaluators to determine the impact of social programmes and evaluate the effectiveness of planned change.

Workshops in Advanced Methods

This unassessed series of workshops and lectures introduces students to a range of innovative and advanced research methods. These provide an opportunity to gain an appreciation of developments in methods for collecting and analysing data, to reflect on the pragmatics of their use and to gain some hands-on experience of the techniques involved. Topics may include: data management using qualitative software; focus groups; geographic information systems; random control trials in social research; latent variables/structural equation models; multilevel modelling; event history modelling; and longitudinal data analysis.


You will complete a report of not more than 15,000 words based on your own original empirical research.

Teaching and assessment

A variety of teaching methods is used. In addition to formal lectures, you will participate in workshops and undertake individual practical assignments. You will have full access to University and departmental facilities and resources, including a well-equipped computer laboratory with a wide range of statistical packages and qualitative data analysis software.

The total contact time for core assessed modules is 183 hours. Students may opt to spend time undertaking additional, non-assessed modules. We do not estimate self-study time in our module totals.

Work experience

On the MSc Social Research Methods, we offer the opportunity to take four weeks of work experience during the Easter vacation. This will provide you with first-hand experience of large-scale and real-life research in action. In the past, students have found placements with organisations such as the National Centre for Social Research, the ESRC Data Archive, the Policy Studies Institute, the Home Office, the Institute for Employment Studies, MORI, the British Market Research Bureau, the National Children’s Bureau, the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, the National Foundation for Educational Research, ONS, Surrey Police and so on.

Where the full period is not practical, as may be the case for part-time students, it is also possible to take up the opportunity of a shorter period of two to four weeks, usually during the summer. Work experience is arranged with the help of the Department’s placement tutor. Please note that while we try to meet all requests for work experience, in some cases it may not be possible.


Scholarships for 2015/16 Entry

Two scholarships of up to £3,000 each will be available to students across the Department of Sociology's three MSc programmes, to be awarded on a competitive basis to self-funding students accepting an offer of an MSc place for the academic year 2015/16. Please visit the Department of Sociology webpages for application details and deadlines.

The Department of Sociology has a strong track record of attracting ESRC funding for PhD students. We manage the ESRC-funded South East Doctoral Training Centre (DTC), which offers doctoral training in association with the Universities of Kent, Reading and Royal Holloway. The MSc Social Research Methods can comprise the training component of a 1+3 PhD studentship in Sociology within the DTC. Opportunities to apply for ESRC doctoral funding will be advertised annually on the DTC website.

Department of Sociology

The Department is a leading centre of applied social research and methodological innovation, with an international reputation for excellence in both research and teaching. We were ranked 5th out of all sociology departments in the UK by The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide 2015, reflecting our commitment to high-quality teaching and research. In the 2014 REF exercise we were ranked in the UK's top 15 sociology departments, and in the top 12 for world-leading 4* research.

Residential conference and day conference

The MSc Social Research Methods includes a residential conference, usually in November. The conference provides an opportunity for discussion in an informal atmosphere, around current research issues and debates, technologies and methods at the forefront of social research; it includes lectures from eminent guest speakers and members of staff, seminars and small group discussions.

The Department also organises a day conference for MSc students at the University, with student presentations and guest speakers.

Sociology research

The Department of Sociology is internationally recognised as a centre of research excellence. A particular area of strength is research methodology and research training. Our research is organised into six groupings which reflect contemporary concerns:

  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Developments in Methodology
  • Identities, Generation and Everyday Life
  • Media, Culture and Communication
  • Science, Environment and Technologies
  • Work, Organisations and Inequalities

In addition to the research groups, members of staff undertake a wide variety of internationally renowned individual scholarship including work on gender, employment, organisations, cross-national survey, culture, ethnicity, sociological theory, environment, youth and identities, sociology of sleep and the sociology of social policy.

Three leading journals are edited in the Department:

  • Ethnic and Racial Studies
  • Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (JASSS)
  • Popular Communication: International Journal of Media and Culture

The Department’s commitment to developing technical competence in research methods, and encouraging the use of appropriate information and communication technologies in social research, is reflected in the fact that it houses the UK national centre for software for qualitative data analysis (CAQDAS). The Centre for Research on Simulation in the Social Sciences (CRESS) applies computer simulation to the understanding of social phenomena.

The Department runs a successful international fellowship scheme which enables international researchers to visit Surrey each year. These strengths in research, and in innovative research methods in particular, feed into our master’s-level teaching and inform the continued updating of content within modules. A further departmental research centre, the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender (CRAG), brings together social scientific expertise to conduct policy-relevant research on gender and ageing. There are also strong research links between members of the Sociology Department and the Digital World Research Centre.


Recent graduates of the MSc Social Research Methods have been appointed to the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Office for National Statistics, the National Centre for Social Research, Institute for Employment Studies, the Department of International Development and market research companies such as BMRB. Many others have completed a PhD and gone on to an academic career. Part-time students often already work in a research context, and take the MSc for continuing professional development.

Professional recognition

The programme has Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) recognition for providing an appropriate foundation to undertake a part-time or full-time PhD.

Related programmes

Postgraduate (Taught)

Related departments/schools

Related research areas

Programme leader

Dr Jane Fielding

Find out more

General enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681

Admissions enquiries:


Programme facts

Type of programme:


Programme length:

  • Full-time: 12 months
  • Part-time: 24 months

Start date:

Sep 2016

Entry Requirements

Usually a UK first or 2.1 honours degree or equivalent in a social science or related subject. Entry is also open to professionally trained non-graduates with relevant experience and qualifications. We also require evidence of basic numeracy (a GCSE pass at grade C or above in maths).

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time Sep 2016 £7,000 £15,000
Part-time Sep 2016 £3,500 £7,500

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2016/2017 only. Annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our Masters Programmes


Discounts for Surrey graduates

Thinking of continuing your education at Surrey? As an alumnus of Surrey you may be eligible for a ten per cent discount on our taught Masters programme fees. Learn more.

For more details

Admissions Information

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Further information for applicants

Postgraduate Study Advice

Steps to Postgraduate Study is an official, independent guide for anyone considering a taught postgraduate course. The guide is produced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland.

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Modules listed are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that not all modules described are compulsory and may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.