Social Research Methods MSc

Key information

Start date: October 2020

Full-time: 1 year

Part-time: 2 years

Why choose this course

Our MSc Social Research Methods is designed to give you an in-depth understanding of the full methodological toolkit available to social science researchers. These skills are in high demand, and many of our graduates go on to work in research agencies such as the Office for National Statistics, Ipsos Mori and the Home Office, while others go on to study for a PhD.

We have an unrivalled research methods heritage, and our teaching is backed by decades of experience. We were the first in the UK to run this type of course in 1974.

Five reasons to study a masters in criminology or social research methods at Surrey

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What you will study

This course examines both quantitative and qualitative approaches, beginning with a comprehensive overview of the research essentials. You’ll learn about how to formulate research questions and the connections between theory and method, as well as important approaches to data collection and the main analytic techniques.

Once you’ve established these core skills for advanced social research, you’ll select four options from a suite of advanced methods courses taught intensively in week-long modules. This innovative modular format is designed to give you an in-depth understanding of specific research techniques, combining lectures with practical workshops in our computer lab. This enables you to fully immerse yourself in particular research approaches, as well as tailor your learning experience to your research interests.

Aims of the course

Our approach to learning and teaching is shaped by a clear philosophy: the need for sound conceptualisation, methodological rigour and sophistication, and technical competence. We also place value in research-led teaching, as all of our module convenors are skilled users of advanced methods.

Our main aims are to:

  • Provide you with an understanding of the core quantitative and qualitative approaches to social science research at an advanced level
  • Introduce you to the range of cutting-edge methodology (including complex systems approaches, social network analysis and advanced qualitative analysis) that is increasingly being used in the social sciences
  • Cover the principles of research design and strategy, including formulating research questions or hypotheses and translating these into practicable research designs
  • Expose you to the philosophical, theoretical and ethical issues surrounding research and debates about the relationship between theory and research, about problems of evidence and inference, and about the limits of objectivity
  • Develop skills in writing, in the preparation of a research proposal, in the presentation of research results and in verbal communication
  • Develop skills in the use of R and in the main statistical techniques of quantitative data analysis
  • Develop skills in the use of software for the analysis of qualitative data
  • Help you to prepare your research results for wider dissemination
  • Provide appropriate training for students moving on to MPhil or PhD level study, or for students going on to employment involving the use of social science research.

MSc conference

This course includes a conference, usually in November, which provides an opportunity, in an informal atmosphere, for discussion concerning current research issues and debates, technologies and methods at the forefront of social research, and other related themes. The conference programme includes lectures from guest speakers and members of staff, seminars, workshops and small group discussions.

You are not required to attend the conference to complete the course, but it’s strongly encouraged. Students are not directly charged for attending.

Study and work abroad

There may be opportunities to acquire valuable European experience by working or conducting research abroad during your degree or shortly afterwards. It is possible to do this in the summer period with an Erasmus+ grant working on your dissertation or as a recent graduate. In order to qualify your Erasmus+ traineeship must be a minimum of two months.

Professional recognition

MSc - Economic and Soical Research Council (ESRC)
This is recognised by the ESRC as a research training MSc degree, making it ideal if you are seeking ESRC funding for a PhD.

Careers and graduate prospects

We offer careers information, advice and guidance to all students whilst studying with us, which is extended to our alumni for three years after leaving the University.


Modules listed are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that modules may be subject to teaching availability, student demand and/or class size caps. 

The University operates a credit framework for all taught programmes based on a 15-credit tariff. Modules can be either 15, 30, 45 or 60 credits, and additionally for some masters dissertations, 90 credits.

The structure of our programmes follows clear educational aims that are tailored to each programme. These are all outlined in the programme specifications which include further details such as the learning outcomes:

Optional modules for Year 1 (part-time) - FHEQ Level 7

Modules in semester 1 are taught in two-hour classes each week, and students must complete two modules ('Field Methods' and 'Social Data Analytics').

In semester 2 students must select two option modules from the available selection. Each module in Semester 2 is taught intensively in one week from Monday to Wednesday.

Optional modules for Year 2 (part-time) - FHEQ Level 7

Modules in semester 3 are taught in two-hour classes each week, and students must complete two modules ('Methodological Issues in Research Design', and 'Evaluation Research and Evidence Based Policy').

In semester 4 students must select two option modules from the available selection. Each module in Semester 4 is taught intensively in one week from Monday to Wednesday.


Timetables are normally available one month before the start of the semester. Please note that while we make every effort to ensure that timetables are as student-friendly as possible, scheduled teaching can take place on any day of the week (Monday–Friday). Wednesday afternoons are normally reserved for sports and cultural activities. Part-time classes are normally scheduled on one or two days per week, details of which can be obtained from the course administrators. View our Timetabling Policy (PDF).

You will take four modules in Semester 1:

  • ‘Methodological Issues in Research Design’
  • ‘Field Methods’
  • ‘Social Data Analytics’
  • ‘Evaluation Research and Evidence Based Policy’.

These four modules are designed to cover the fundamentals of social research, from basic principles of research design and the importance of connecting theory and method, through to the range of classical qualitative and quantitative approaches available for collecting and analysing data. All four modules follow a semester-long format, with a two-hour session each week combining traditional lectures, practical workshops and seminars. Modules are usually scheduled on two days a week.

In Semester 2, you will select four modules from a selection of options designed to cover more advanced research approaches. The current suite of modules has been curated to provide good coverage of the latest in qualitative methods (e.g. ‘Computer-Assisted Qualitative and Mixed Methods Data Analysis’; ‘Online Research Methods’) and quantitative methods (e.g. ‘Statistical Modelling’; ‘Multilevel Modelling for Social Scientists’; ‘Social Network Analysis’; ‘Practical Survey Design and Web-based Methods’). We also offer modules that deal with methodologies that transcend traditional boundaries (e.g. ‘Agent Based Modelling for Social Science Questions’; ‘Complex Social Systems’; ‘Participatory Systems Mapping’). You can find out more about the content of each module on the ‘programme details’ tab above.

Once you’ve completed eight modules, you will begin work on a dissertation. This is an original piece of empirical work applying some of the methodological skills you’ve developed throughout the course. Although this is an independent project, you’ll receive individual support and guidance from an academic supervisor.

Entry requirements

A minimum of a 2:2 UK honours degree in Social Science. We also require evidence of basic numeracy (a GCSE pass at grade C or above in maths).

We can also consider relevant work experience if you don’t meet these requirements.


View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 7.0 overall with 6.0 in in each element.

View the other English language qualifications that we accept.

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Credit transfer

The University of Surrey recognises that many students enter their higher education course with valuable knowledge and skills developed through a range of professional, vocational and community contexts. If this applies to you, a process called recognition of prior learning (RPL) may allow you to enter your course at a point appropriate to your previous learning and experience, or to join the start of a course without the formal entry requirements. This means that you may be exempt from certain elements of study in the course for which you have applied and be awarded credit based on your previous qualifications/experience. There are restrictions on RPL for some courses and fees may be payable for certain claims. 

Please see the code of practice for recognition of prior learning and prior credit: taught programmes (PDF) for further information. Please email Admissions with any queries.


Start date: October 2020

Full-time - 1 year

UK/EU £8,300

Overseas £18,000

Part-time - 2 years

UK/EU £4,200

Overseas £9,000

View the list of fees for all postgraduate taught courses.

Please note:

  • These fees apply to students commencing study in the academic year 2020-21 only. Fees for new starters are reviewed annually.
  • If you are on a two-year full-time Euromasters or MFA programme, or a two-year or three-year part-time masters programme (excluding modular/self-paced/distance learning), the annual fee is payable in Year 1 and Year 2 of the programme.
  • Annual fees will increase by 4% for each subsequent year of study, rounded up to the nearest £100, subject to any overriding applicable legislative requirements. 

Additional costs

There are associated costs with this programme:

  • Trips (including overseas travel and accommodation): £60 approx. - Occasional optional trips to London or within Surrey will be organised by the School which may incur travel costs.

Grand total: £60 approx.


You may be able to borrow money to help pay your tuition fees and support you with your living costs. Find out more about student finance.

Admission information

Our postgraduate admissions policy provides the basis for admissions practice across the University and gives a framework for how we encourage, consider applications and admit students. You can also read our postgraduate applicant guidance.

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read more.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey

University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH