I want to work in Political and Social Research

Find out how you can start a career in political and social research. Here we list potential job roles and some of the leading companies in that sector.

Job roles


"Social research” can be summed up as research in any field of social sciences. Social research is used by policy makers and political representatives, the media, academics and businesses to inform policy choices. It may be carried out within universities, public bodies or specialist research organisations.  

Social research includes research related to politics, but the term “political research” tends to refer to research carried out within a “political” context, such as for an MP or a political party. Often, this research focuses on providing responses to specific questions and may therefore be more varied and time-pressured, and less analytical, than other forms of social research.

Civil Service

“Government Social Researchers ensure that government policies and services are relevant, effective and meet people’s needs. At its core it is about people; ensuring that government and frontline decisions are based on an understanding of and engagement with people affected by that decision – those implementing it and those directly affected by it – as well as an understanding of the wider social consequences”
For further information, see the following links:

Houses of Parliament

Library Clerks in the House of Commons and the House of Lords are not actually librarians! The main duties of Library Clerks are to carry out research and provide information to Members. They respond, orally or in writing, to requests from Members and prepare briefing papers on subjects of public and parliamentary concern. While responses to individual Members are confidential, much pre-prepared and regularly updated briefing material is made available to all Members on the Parliamentary Intranet and the Parliament website. Many requests from individual Members have tight deadlines, sometimes needing an instant answer on the telephone or requiring a response the same or the next day. Briefing papers linked to the business of the House may also need to be produced at short notice, but some subjects allow time for a more considered approach.

You will need to keep up to date with developments in the subjects which you cover and to develop contacts who are experts in these fields. Librarians in research teams compile a knowledge base of source material relevant to the subjects covered. Your sources will include relevant on-line databases as well as contacts in Government Departments and other outside organisations. All Library Clerks are expected to acquire a knowledge of parliamentary procedures and documentation, to become familiar with the procedures of the European Union and to keep abreast of European proposals in the areas which they cover.

Library Clerkship vacancies are advertised on an irregular basis in the national press and in specialist publications.

MP’s researcher (Profile)

  • INVOLVES: Monitoring the press, Hansard etc. Researching background to political issues & campaigns. Writing reports, speeches, etc. Assisting with constituency business. General gofering.
  • EMPLOYERS: MPs, MSPs, AMs, MEPs, political parties.
  • RELATED JOBS: Civil Service Fast-Stream, EU administrator, public relations, public affairs consultant, journalist, House of Commons library clerk, academic research.
  • SATISFACTIONS: Involvement in the political world. Working for an individual and organisations whose motivations parallel your own. Being able to see results form your work.
  • NEGATIVES: "Low pay. Dogsbody work. Low job security. Lack of external recognition for your work – your MP will take the credit. A lot of research involves summarising information from others, rather than solving problems yourself. A few politicians have egos the size of Belgium & the charm of a trapped nerve."
  • SKILLS: Excellent communication skills, to work with your employer, local officials and constituents. Good organisational and time management skills. Flexibility. Commitment to the aims of the political party in question. A can-do attitude and a sense of humour help!
  • CAREER DEVELOPMENT: No set career path but a good background for moving into other career areas. Many researchers move on into public affairs or journalism. MPs’ researchers may find their career develops alongside that of their employer, if s/he achieves high office. Increasingly, researchers are going on to become MPs themselves.
  • DEGREE: Any, but politics, law, economics degrees useful. A postgraduate degree, particularly in politics, is an advantage.
  • VACANCY SOURCES: The House magazine, Guardian, Working for an MP . Few vacancies are advertised - make speculative applications using sources such as The British Politics Page Competition for entry is intense - any advertised vacancy is likely to attract 1000+ applications.
  • TIPS: Contact MPs or other organisations and offer to work as a volunteer.
  • "Everybody who works for me has come first to my constituency office, as a volunteer, answered the phone to a constituent & dealt with their request for help. That's the best training" (Simon Hughes, LibDem Deputy Leader)

Trades Union Research

This role may involve some or all of the following:

  • Researching issues such as terms and conditions; salary negotiations
  • Producing reports, articles, press releases and other material
  • Contributing to union projects
  • Organisation of training and conferences
  • Building and maintaining union relationships, generally and for research purposes, with other groups such as the TUC and other unions

For further details, see:


Please note that the descriptions in the following listing are taken from the think-tanks’ websites and do not reflect the opinion of the Careers and Employability Service at the University of Kent.

  • Adam Smith Institute ASI is the UK's leading innovator of practical market-economic policies.
  • Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion The Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) is an ESRC Research Centre, core-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council since October 1997.
  • Centre for European Reform The Centre for European Reform is a think-tank devoted to improving the quality of the debate on the future of the European Union.
  • Centre for Policy Studies The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) is an independent think-tank which develops and publishes public policy proposals and arranges seminars and lectures on topical policy issues, as part of its mission to influence policy around the world.
  • David Hume Institute The David Hume Institute promotes research, analysis and debate on public policy issues. Its work is primarily focused in areas linking economics and law, with a particular interest in the interaction between institutional or legal frameworks and market forces.
  • DEMOS Demos is a forum for new ideas which can improve the quality of our lives. As an independent think-tank, the aim of DEMOS is to create an open resource of knowledge and learning that operates beyond traditional parties, identities and disciplines.
  • European Policy Centre The European Policy Centre (EPC) is an independent, not-for-profit think-tank, committed to making European integration work. It provides information and analysis on the EU policy agenda. EPC aims to promote a balanced dialogue between the different constituencies of its membership, spanning all aspects of economic and social life.
  • The Federal Trust The Federal Trust is a think-tank that studies the interactions between regional, national, European and global levels of government.
  • Institute for Development Studies IDS is an internationally-renowned centre for research and teaching on development.  It was established in 1966.
  • Institute of Economic Affairs The IEA seeks to explain free-market ideas to the public, including politicians, students, journalists, businessmen, academics and anyone interested in public policy.
  • Institute for Fiscal Studies The Institute for Fiscal Studies is a research institute which exists to provide economic analysis independent of government, political party or any other vested interest.
  • International Institute for Environment and Development IIED is an independent, non-profit organization promoting sustainable patterns of world development through collaborative research, policy studies, networking and knowledge dissemination.
  • International Institute of Strategic Studies The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is the world’s leading authority on political-military conflict.
  • Institute for Public Policy Research IPPR is an independent think-tank on the centre left.
  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is one of the largest social policy research and development charities in the UK.
  • The Kings Fund The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation whose goal is to improve health, especially in London.
  • NatCen Social Research the largest independent social research institute in Britain.
  • National Institute of Economic and Social Research The Institute's objective is to promote, through quantitative research, a deeper understanding of the interaction of economic and social forces that affect people's lives so that they may be improved.
  • New Economics Foundation NEF is an independent think-tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being.  It aims to improve quality of life by promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic, environment and social issues.
  • New Local Government Network The New Local Government Network (NLGN) was founded in 1996 by a small group of senior local government figures whose stated aim was to make local government more relevant and credible to local people.
  • New Policy Institute The New Policy Institute is a progressive think-tank, founded in 1996. The aim of the NPI is to advance social justice in a market economy.
  • Policy Exchange Policy Exchange is an independent think-tank whose mission is to develop and promote new policy ideas which will foster a free society based on strong communities, personal freedom, limited government, national self-confidence and an enterprise culture.
  • Science and Technology Policy Research SPRU is one of the world leaders in policy research on science, technology and innovation and its wider economic, social and environmental implications.
  • The Smith Institute The Smith Institute is an independent think-tank, which has been set up to undertake research and education in issues that flow from the changing relationship between social values and economic imperatives.
  • Social Market Foundation The SMF was established in 1989 to provide a source of innovative economic and social policy ideas.

 For information regarding more research organisations take a look at the Association for Qualitative Research’s listings
National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA) produces a World Directory of Think Tanks

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