Social Research Methods MSc

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Why Surrey?

Surrey’s highly regarded Department of Sociology specialises in pioneering research methods and offers a stimulating study environment for our highly sought-after graduates.

The MSc Social Research Methods programme is backed by decades of experience: we were the first in the UK to run this type of programme in 1974.

Programme overview

Social researchers employ a constantly evolving range of qualitative and quantitative methods to explore attitudes and experiences, and to understand patterns of social behaviour.

This programme won't just train you in the application of specific research techniques: it will 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 and include: the planning and management of research projects; the methodological, theoretical, philosophical and ethical aspects of research; and the presentation and publication of research findings.

Programme structure

This programme is studied full-time over one academic year and part-time over two academic years. It consists of eight taught modules and a dissertation.

Example module listing

The following modules 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.

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

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.

Sociology Scholarships Available for 2017/18

Thomas Asdell Bursary

Thanks to the generosity of the family of former student Thomas Asdell the department can offer a bursary of £1000 to one new MSc student for 2017/18- please email the course director for details.

Sociology Scholarships

Two scholarships of up to £3,000 will be available across all Sociology MSc programmes, to be awarded on a competitive basis to self-funding students accepting an offer of a place on the MSc for the academic year 2017/18.

Both types of scholarship will be paid in the form of a fee remission of the appropriate amount, and will be open to both home and overseas students. Part-time students will be eligible to apply and, if successful, will receive a scholarship which is reduced pro rata but may be continued for a second year of study subject to successful completion of the first year.

Application Process for Sociology Scholarships and Bursaries

The closing date to be considered for a scholarship/bursary is 23rd June 2017. All students who have applied for the academic year 2017/18 by this date will be asked to indicate if they wish to be considered for the scholarship competition.

Eligible applications will be assessed on grounds of academic merit regardless of whether applicants are full-time or part-time and whether they hold home or overseas status. The application process may include an interview, which would contribute to the assessment process for the scholarship competition and complement written information and evidence provided with the standard University application form.

Applications will be evaluated by a committee comprising MSc Programme Directors and Head of Department or a nominated deputy.

It is our intention to notify successful applicants by 7th July 2017.

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.

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.

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 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.

Thomas Asdell Prize

Each year thanks to the family of Thomas Asdell, the department awards a prize of £200 pounds at graduation to the year’s best MSC student.

Past winners include:

12/13- Hannah Jane Roscoe

13/14- Claire Janet Fraser

14/15-Luke Brian Hubbard

15/16- Joanne Paula Smith

Educational aims of the programme

The main aims of the programme are to:

  • Provide an appropriate training for students preparing MPhil/PhD theses, or for students on to employment involving the use of social science research
  • Introduce students to a variety of different approaches to social science research at an advanced level
  • Cover the principles of research design and strategy, including formulating research questions or hypotheses and translating these into practicable research designs
  • Make students aware of the range of secondary data available and equip them to evaluate its utility for their research
  • Develop skills in searching for and retrieving information, using library and Internet resources
  • Introduce students to the philosophical, theoretical and ethical issues surrounding research and to debates about the relationship between theory and research, about problems of evidence and inference, and about the limits of objectivity
  • Develop skills in the use of SPSS, and in the main statistical techniques of data analysis, including multivariate analysis
  • Develop skills in the use of CAQDAS software for the analysis of qualitative data
  • Develop skills in writing, in the preparation of a research proposal, in the presentation of research results and in verbal communication
  • Help students to prepare their research results for wider dissemination, in the form of seminar papers, conference presentations, reports and publications, in a form suitable for a range of audiences, including academics, policy makers, professionals, service users and the general public

Programme learning outcomes

The programme provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, skills, qualities and other attributes in the following areas:

  • Formulate, design, plan, carry out and report on a complete research project
  • Use the range of research techniques commonly employed in sociological research, from survey research to field methods
  • Collect or generate quantitative and qualitative data through an array of techniques, and select techniques of data generation on appropriate methodological bases
  • Analyse: quantitative data using basic and more advanced skills; qualitative data from both ‘real world’ and ‘virtual world’ environments
  • Employ a quantitative and qualitative software package to manage and analyse data
  • Apply critical reflection skills to the methodological, theoretical, ethical, and philosophical aspects of social research practice
  • Plan, manage and execute research as part of a team and as a sole researcher
  • Present research findings to differing audiences
  • Have an understanding of the contribution social research makes to social policy formulation and the evaluation of planned social interventions

Knowledge and understanding

  • Appreciate the epistemological and ontological questions that underpin social research
  • Show critical awareness and understanding of the methodological implications of a range of sociological theories and approaches
  • Show systematic knowledge of basic principles of research design and strategy
  • Understand the use and value of a wide range of different research approaches across the quantitative and qualitative spectra
  • Show advanced knowledge of techniques, and appropriate use, of quantitative and qualitative data analysis
  • Recognise the significance of social/political contexts and uses of research
  • Show engagement with innovations and developments in social research
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of research ethics

Intellectual / cognitive skills

  • Systematically formulate researchable problems; analyse and conceptualise issues; critically appreciate alternative approaches to research; report to a range of audiences
  • Analyse qualitative and quantitative data drawn both from ‘real world’ and ‘virtual world’ environments, using basic and more advanced techniques, and draw warranted conclusions
  • Develop original insights, questions, analyses and interpretations in respect of research questions
  • Use methodological, theoretical, ethical, and philosophical knowledge about social research practice to address complex issues creatively
  • Critically evaluate the range of approaches to research

Professional practical skills

  • Formulate, design, plan, carry out and report on a complete research project
  • Use the range of research techniques commonly employed in sociological research
  • Generate both quantitative and qualitative data through an array of techniques, and select techniques of data generation on appropriate methodological bases
  • Employ a quantitative (SPSS) and qualitative software package to manage and analyse data
  • Plan, manage and execute research as part of a team and as a sole researcher
  • Present research findings to differing audiences in both written and oral formats, as appropriate

Key / transferable skills

  • Communicate complex ideas, principles and theories by oral, written and visual means
  • Work to deadlines and within work schedules
  • Work independently and self-organise
  • Apply computing skills for research instrument design, data analysis, and report writing and presentation
  • Formulate and solve problems, both individually and as part of a team
  • Demonstrate experience of a work environment

Global opportunities

We often give our students the opportunity to acquire international experience during their degrees by taking advantage of our exchange agreements with overseas universities.

In addition to the hugely enjoyable and satisfying experience, time spent abroad adds a distinctive element to your CV.

Learn more about opportunities that might be available for this particular programme by using our student exchanges search tool.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time Sep 2017 £7,500 £17,500
Part-time Sep 2017 £3,800 £8,800

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2017/2018 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

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

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Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
MSc Full-time 12 months Sep 2017
MSc Part-time 24 months Sep 2017

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

IELTS 7.0 overall, 6.0 in each component (or equivalent)

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.


Loans, scholarships and financial support

There are many streams of funding for postgraduate students including awards, scholarships and loans. Learn more.


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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.

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Admissions Information

Our Admissions Policy provides the basis for admissions practice across the University and gives a framework for how we encourage, consider applications and admit students.

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 modules may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.

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