“Social research” can be summed up as research in any field of social sciences. Social research provides empirical evidence and analysis to understand and explain the nature of human behaviour, social structures and cultures, as well as the social impacts of issues such as government policies. Social research is used by policy makers and political representatives, the media, academics and businesses to inform policy choices and to help understand and manage the risks associated with these 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.

Advice from Steven Coutinho, a Kent graduate now working as a graduate researcher at NatCen Social Research, outlining how he got into social research in his blog Tough times for today's youth

Some major employers and roles within the broad field of social research are set out below:

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 ParliamentBig Ben

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


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 www.w4mp.org . Few vacancies are advertised - make speculative applications using sources such as The British Politics Page www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk.htm 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)



The Oxford English Dictionary defines a think tank as "a research institute or other organisation providing advice and ideas on national or commercial problems". A more contemporary definition is “a group which performs research and develops reports and recommendations on topics relating to strategic planning or public policy, and which is usually funded by corporations, interest groups, or government” (http://en.wiktionary.org)

List of think-tanks

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.

 For information regarding more research organisations take a look at the Association for Qualitative Research’s listings at www.aqr.org.uk

National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA) produces a World Directory of Think Tanks www.nira.or.jp/past/ice/nwdtt/2005/index.html

Trades Union Research

This role may involve some or all of the following:

For further details, see:

Other useful links:


Last fully updated 2012