The MA Methods of Social Research provides essential training for employment where an understanding of social research is important, as well as for further academic research in a social science discipline.
This MA programme at Kent exposes students to a wide range of thinking and approaches in social science research presented in a multi-disciplinary context and at an advanced level.
The focus of the programme is on developing practical skills in data collection, in data analysis and interpretation, and in the presentation of research findings so that students gain insight into the research process from design to the production of new knowledge.
More generally students will broaden their understanding of the philosophical, theoretical and ethical issues that matter in research, and will become aware of debates about the relationship between theory and research and between research and policy/practice.
About the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR)
Our School has a long and distinguished history and is one of the largest and most successful social science research communities in Europe. An impressive 94% of our research-active staff submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, with 99% of the research submitted judged to be of international quality.
The School supports a large and thriving postgraduate community and in 2010 distributed in excess of £100,000 in Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) quota awards, and in University and SSPSSR bursaries and scholarships to new students.
Academic staff specialise in research of international, comparative and theoretical significance, and we have collective strengths in the following areas: civil society, NGOs and the third sector; cross-national and European social policy; health, social care and health studies; work, employment and economic life; risk, ‘risk society’ and risk management; race, ethnicity and religion; social and public policy; sociology and the body; crime, culture and control; sociological theory and the culture of modernity.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research was ranked 2nd for research power in the UK. The School was also placed 3rd for research intensity, 5th for research impact and 5th for research quality.
An impressive 94% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 99% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research, gaining the highest possible score of 100%.
The MA programme consists of:
- four compulsory one-unit modules (total of 80 credits, 40 ECTS)
- two optional one-unit modules or one two-unit module (total of 40 credits, 20 ECTS)
- and a supervised dissertation (60 credits, 30 ECTS).
The compulsory modules are:
- Qualitative Research
- Quantitative Data Analysis
- Critical Social Research: Truth, Ethics and Power
- Design of Social Research
For the MA also:
The dissertation will be on a topic of your choosing and involves carrying out original empirical research using the research methods covered in modules.
Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma (PCert/PDip)
There is the option to take this programme as a Postgraduate Certificate, where you just take the four compulsory modules (80 credits). The Certificate is offered to all registered PhD students (part-time or full-time) within the Faculty of Social Sciences (not only to SSPSSR students) free of charge subject to supervisors’ consent.
You can also take it as a Postgraduate Diploma, where you take the four compulsory modules and two optional modules but without taking the dissertation (120 credits).
Full time or part time?
The Programme can be taken either full-time over one year or part-time over two years. For part-time students, in the first year you take 'Design of Social Research' and 'Qualitative Data Analysis.' In the second year, you take 'Quantitative Research' and 'Using Research – Advanced Critical Skills'. Additional credits will be obtained from optional modules offered within the Faculty.
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year. Those students who wish to follow a sociology pathway should take optional modules that focus on sociology or social policy:
|Modules may include||Credits|
SO817 - Qualitative Research
This module focuses on the theory and practice of qualitative research. It explores the various aspects of using and collecting qualitative data. The aim of the module is to illustrate a range of practical techniques while considering related problems of evidence and inference in qualitative analyses.
Students will be versed in a range of techniques and will have the opportunity to practice some of them, this includes:
• the theory and practice of interviewing and different varieties of interview;
• focus groups;
• oral history;
• case study methods;
• ethnographic theory and method;
• action research;
• critical discourse analysis;
• narrative analysis;
• visual methods.Read more
SO819 - Quantitative Data Analysis
The module will provide an introduction to the use of Statistical Analysis within the Research Process. It will begin by introducing and discussing different types of measurement and the practical problems of data entry in SPSSW. After discussing basic data description and transformation the focus will shift to Exploratory Data Analysis and the need to examine the data carefully. Simple approaches to summarising data and distributions will then be examined. This will then be followed by methods to test research hypotheses through bi-variate and multivariate methods that are used extensively in the Social Sciences. The final part of the module will look at various issues surrounding the practical issues of quantitative data analysis, such as how to find appropriate data and about presenting research outcomes.Read more
SO832 - Critical Social Research: Truth, Ethics and Power
This course provides students with the understanding and skills necessary to use research, whether within a research career or outside of it. Building on other training in the details of specific methods, it focuses on two sets of broader questions. Firstly, it looks at uncertainty in social research – how confident are we about what we know? In answering this question it looks at issues of quality in qualitative and quantitative research, the difficulties of causal inference and generalisation, coming to conclusions from research reviews, and philosophical issues around ‘truth’ and values. Secondly, it looks at the link between research and action. In doing this, it goes from the very practical (how to ensure that your research is used by policymakers and/or practitioners, and to deal with the political pressures on researchers) to the conceptual (in what ways does evidence get used by wider society?) to the normative (should researchers be ‘critical’, and if so, what are their ethical obligations in doing this?).Read more
SO833 - Design of Social research
This course introduces students to the logic and methods of social research. The course aims to familiarize students to central topics in research design, the methodological choices necessary to address in designing social research and the ethics of social research. The module introduces students to both positivist and critical/interpretive approaches and the debates behind their selection for conducting research. Students will be versed in the scientific approaches to social research, including both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The module aims to provide students a robust understanding of social research methods and the decisions needed to write up a research proposal.Read more
SO998 - Dissertation
The aims of this module are twofold:
First, to provide students with the opportunity to independently carry out an in-depth inquiry to investigate a research question(s) of their choice, producing a coherent review of the relevant literature, a logical discussion and a clearly communicated set of conclusions in the form of a dissertation.
Second, to prepare students to become ‘research-minded’ practitioners in order that they have the capacity to undertake research in practice settings and/or take a lead role in supervising others in such work.
The following represents the likely format for curriculum delivery:
In mid-November, there will be a two-hour workshop, which will outline the aims, the structure, the process of the dissertation. During the spring term, the students will finalise their proposal with their chosen supervisor. If the dissertation requires ethical research approval, an application will be submitted to the school research ethics committee by the beginning of the summer term. During the summer term and vacation, students will meet their supervisor every fortnight to discuss the progress of their dissertation. The supervisors will provide feedback on written work and will set monthly work plans and targets for the students. The dissertation topic will relate to a key question, issue and problem within social science.Read more
Teaching and Assessment
Teaching for the MA will take a variety of forms, including lectures, tutor-led seminars, student-led seminars, small group work, workshops on data analysis, guided search of on-line data sources, and self-directed learning based on the University Library.
Students will be assessed in each module and on a 12,000-15,000 word dissertation on a topic of their choice.
Module assessments vary. Some require either one 5,000-word or two 2,500-word essays; others require more of a portfolio of work, including in-class tests. The individual module outlines contain the necessary information on assessment.
This programme aims to:
- provide appropriate methods training for students preparing an MA dissertation or MPhil/DPhil theses, or for students going on to employment involving the use of social science research
- introduce you to a variety of different approaches to social science research, presented in a multidisciplinary context
- cover the principles of research design and strategy, including formulating research questions or hypotheses and translating these into practicable research designs
- make you aware of the range of secondary data available and equip you to evaluate their utility for research
- develop skills in searching for and retrieving information, using library and internet resources in a multidisciplinary context
- introduce you to the philosophical, theoretical and ethical issues surrounding research and the debates about the relationship between theory and research, the problems of evidence and inference, and the limits of objectivity
- develop skills in the use of SPSS and other statistical techniques of data analysis, including multivariate analysis
- develop skills in writing, the preparation of a research proposal, the presentation of research results, and verbal communication
- help you to prepare your research results for wider dissemination, such as seminar papers, conference presentations, reports and publications to a range of audiences, including academics, policymakers, professionals, service users and the general public
- give you an appreciation of the potential and problems of social research in local, regional, national and international settings.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- the theoretical basis for social science research
- ethical and methodological issues in social science research
- the strengths and weaknesses of different epistemological approaches used within the social sciences
- common research techniques used in social science research
- sources of secondary data and how to access them
- the common statistical techniques used within social science research
- the political and policy contexts within which research takes place
- the reflexivity of research in the social sciences.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- the ability to identify research questions and hypotheses
- the ability to select a research design appropriate to the questions being asked
- the ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different research techniques.
- the ability to plan and develop a research proposal
- the ability to combine quantitative and qualitative approaches
- the ability to criticise other research studies and the methods used in them
- the ability to present results in ways which contribute to knowledge in that field.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- the ability to identify research questions and hypotheses
- the ability to choose research methods appropriate to the research question.
- a familiarity with the ethical issues involved in research and with ethics application guidelines
- the ability to choose a valid sample from the population of interest
- the ability to design and produce questionnaires and other data collection instruments
- the ability to use participant observation and focus groups in research
- the ability to use comparative and longitudinal approaches
- the ability to make use of existing library and documentary material
- the ability to access the UK Data Archive and make use of survey data from that source
- the ability to record, store and present quantitative data using SPSS
- the ability to use statistical techniques appropriately and critically to support your research
- the ability to evaluate the use of basic statistical methods in the research literature
- the ability to plan and carry out structured and semi-structured interviews
- the ability to analyse qualitative data from interviews, focus groups and other sources
- the ability to analyse observational and life history data
- the ability to analyse textual data and documentary sources
- the use of computer-assisted packages for data handling
- preparing research results for publication and dissemination.
You will gain the following transferable skills:
- managing your own time, prioritising workloads and recognising and managing stress
- using problem-solving skills in a variety of different situations
- the ability to take responsibility for your own learning and professional development
- the ability to communicate with a wide range of audiences in written and oral media
- the ability to use ICT to access information, process data and text, communicate with others and present research results effectively
- an understanding of the career opportunities in your own fields and beginning to plan for your future.
Building on Kent’s success as the region’s leading institution for student employability, we place considerable emphasis on you gaining specialist knowledge in your chosen subject alongside core transferable skills.
We ensure that you develop the skills and competences that employers are looking for including: research and analysis; policy development and interpretation; independent thought; writing and presentation, as well as time management and leadership skills.
You also become fully involved in the professional research culture of the School. A postgraduate degree in the area of social and public policy is a particularly flexible and valuable qualification that can lead to many exciting opportunities and professions.
Recent graduates have pursued careers in academia, journalism, local and central government, charities and NGOs.
The atmosphere in the School is informal and friendly and has at its centre a lively and diverse postgraduate community. The weekly staff/postgraduate seminar series is designed to introduce you to the work of major scholars from the UK and abroad, and there is also a wide range of other seminar and workshop series each academic year.
Our postgraduate students have access to dedicated office space within the department and are able to take advantage of excellent library and computing facilities. Where appropriate, research students are encouraged to expand their experience by teaching part-time in the School.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of Social Policy; Journal of European Social Policy; Voluntas; Social Policy and Administration; and Social Policy and Society.
Global Skills Award
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
A good honours degree in a relevant subject. In certain circumstances, the School will consider applicants who have not followed a conventional education path and these cases are assessed individually.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.
English language entry requirements
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Academic staff at Kent share a number of interests, grouped here for your guidance. However, there is often a degree of overlap between groups and your research project does not have to fall neatly within any one of them. The School also has several research centres that bring together experts in the field, co-ordinate research, organise talks and offer opportunities for postgraduate students to get involved in discussions and research projects.
The Civil Society
Staff in this research cluster seek to: understand the social forces and cultural interests that move people to take moral responsibility for responding to/caring for the needs of others; document and explain the institutional organisation of charitable behaviour and its social impacts; the socio-cultural dynamics of philanthropic behaviour and its effects on society. They also perform research into contemporary humanitarianism and its powers of influence over social policy and political process; and the character of the social ties and cultural values that structure the interrelationships between humanitarian action, charitable endeavour and philanthropic intervention; as well as the bearing of government policies and governmental processes upon the charitable sector and philanthropic activity.
Cross-National and European Social Policy
Using the framework of studying different welfare regimes, academic staff research a wide range of topics, while postgraduate students conduct research projects in every part of the world. Many of these projects involve overseas students making comparative studies involving their own country and European or UK services. The work of academic staff has resulted in a wide range of policy research related to Europe. Recent cross-national work has included projects examining home care services for older people, formal and informal social care systems, institutional change and the future of welfare reform, industrial relations, housing and community activism. Other interests include globalisation and welfare, and subsidiarity and convergence. Current or recent thesis topics include: democratisation and social policy in Korea; youth homelessness in Greece and the UK.
Health and Social Care
Present studies cover a range of issues within the fields of health services, social work and health policy. Particular interests include health care organisation and policy; risk assessment and management; primary care; public and user views of health care; health inequalities; occupational therapy; care work in health and social care; adoption; foster care; adult attachment theory; mental health; child protection; body work; psychoanalysis; race, ethnicity and health. Current or recent thesis topics include: women’s health in Uzbekistan; improving men’s health: the role of healthy living centres; women, the body and madness.
Migration and Ethnicity
Though socially and discursively constructed, ‘race’ continues to be a key basis of social division and identification in British society, across Europe, and globally. Not only do many disparate ethnic minority groups continue to identify along ethnic, racial and religious lines, but ethnicity and race continue to shape a variety of outcomes, such as employment, educational attainment and senses of ‘belonging’. In this sense, ‘race’ and the recognition of difference continues to matter and is a key element in the School’s research interests.
Risk and Uncertainty
The critical analysis of risk and perceptions of risk have become central issues in the sociology of the ‘risk society’ and this is an important focus of activity in the School. Staff research includes work on health risks and their management, the implications of attitudes and behaviour concerning risk for the welfare state, the development of a culture of risk and anxiety, moral panics, risk and crime, risk and the life course, suffering, and the perceptions of new communications technology.
Work and Economic Life
Interest in the issues surrounding work stretches across SSPSSR and current projects focus on work identity and meaning; work/life balance; age, generation and employment; visual representation of work; deindustrialisation; organisational sociology; gender, ethnicity and class at work; historiography of work sociology; moral economy; workplace ethnography and oral histories.
The School also has several research centres that bring together experts in the field, co-ordinate research, organise talks and offer opportunities for postgraduate students to get involved in discussions and research projects.
Centre for Child Protection
The Centre for Child Protection is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and is the first centre of its kind in Europe. Combining research with distance learning programmes and a range of innovative serious training games, the Centre for Child Protection is leading the way in building knowledge and training opportunities for professionals working in this area.
We aim to:
- develop innovative techniques for professional training and support
- translate and apply the latest research and knowledge to inform best practice
- create diverse and flexible learning programmes
- address gaps in post-qualification training provision and opportunities
- facilitate safe and realistic environments in which child protection professionals can develop and enhance their skills and professional practice.
The Centre is led and informed by a team of experts in the field of child protection. With many years of experience in both research and practice, we are committed to improving the provision of continued professional development to enhance the skills of those involved in child protection.
Centre for Health Services Studies (CHSS)
The Centre for Health Services Studies has a strong record in attracting research grants from the National Institute for Health Research, European Union Framework Programme, ESRC, Department of Health, as well as local health authorities and trusts. It is a designated NIHR Research Design Support Service. Particular areas of expertise include pragmatic trials, risk assessment and management, care of vulnerable adults including older people, and public health.
Centre for Philanthropy
Dedicated to an understanding of the social processes and cultural experiences by which people acquire moral dispositions to care for others, the Centre for Philanthropy offers a focal point for much of this work. Research is conducted into the ways in which our capacity for feelings are socially cultivated, corporately structured, politically mediated and economically expressed. The School is also linked to the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), collaborating with the University of Birmingham on third sector theory and policy analysis.
Centre for Social and Political Movements
The Centre was established in 1992 in order to consolidate Kent’s leading position in the study in Britain of social and political movements. The Centre is actively involved in international networks of social movement researchers through its participation in the Erasmus network on ‘Social movements, conflict and political action’ and through its members’ activity in the relevant research committees of the International Sociological Association, the European Sociological Association, and the European Consortium for Political Research.
Centre for Social Science and Risk
The Centre conducts research into the concept of risk and uncertainty: how and why risk is manifested and how it is experienced in today’s society. Staff take an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing upon sociology, law, social psychology, and history. The Centre’s research seeks to understand causal issues from the perspectives of both individuals and organisations while considering the wider political and social context.
Personal Social Services Research Unit
The PSSRU is the largest social services research unit in the UK, and operates at three sites: the University of Kent, the London School of Economics and the University of Manchester. Facilities include the Griffiths Library of Community Care, a reference library of more than 10,000 books, journals and other literature linked to the Unit’s field of study. Research focuses on needs, resources and outcomes in health and social care: major concerns are resourcing, equity and efficiency from the perspective of users, agencies and others. The Unit has developed a distinctive analytical framework called the ‘production of welfare approach’ to illuminate this research.
The University of Kent is one of 15 universities in the UK to have a Q-Step Centre, significantly funded by HEFCE, the Nuffield Foundation and ESRC, to provide students with advanced training in quantitative methods in social sciences.
The Centre is based in SSPSSR and incorporates teaching from Politics and International Relations, Law, Business and Liberal Arts. At its heart is the delivery of quantitative skills training in a subject context, a community-based project and professional placements. Quantitative Methods (QM) training, which greatly enhances employability and provides a deeper and more secure grasp of the quantitative skills needed to evaluate evidence and analyse data within a discipline, is delivered in a practical and engaging manner.
The Tizard Centre is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and has excellent links with health and social care organisations, and other relevant establishments. The Centre is at the forefront of learning and research in autism, intellectual disability and community care, and in 2013 received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of its outstanding work in these areas.
Our primary aims, through research, teaching and consultancy, are:
- to find out more about how to effectively support and work with people with learning disabilities
- to help carers, managers and professionals develop the values, knowledge and skills that enable better services
- to aid policymakers, planners, managers and practitioners to organise and provide enhanced services.
The Tizard Centre is recognised as leading the field in deinstitutionalisation and community living, challenging behaviour, quality of staff support, sexuality and autism, and has had a significant impact on national policies in these areas. We are committed to addressing issues arising from social inequality.
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger: Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy
Disability; the workplace; inequality; the benefits system; addictions policy; Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); the relationship between evidence and policy; stratification across the lifecourse; new ideas for the welfare state.View Profile
Dr Heejung Chung: Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy
Employment insecurity perceptions; work-family conflict and gender gaps; flexible working time arrangements; support for child care in Europe; youth in the labour market after the crisis; relative importance of social life and the role of the welfare state; gender norm dimensions.View Profile
Dr Dawn Lyon: Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Sociology of work; migration; visual sociology; gender relations; comparative cultural sociology (especially France and Italy).View Profile
Dr Trude Sundberg: Lecturer in Social Policy
Research methods and comparative welfare issues.View Profile
Dr Robert de Vries: Lecturer in Quantitative Sociology
Social stratification and social comparisons, cultural consumption, health inequalities, social attitudes and stereotypes (particularly with respect to welfare benefit claimants).View Profile
Dr Tina Haux: Lecturer in Quantitative Social Policy
Family policy, parenting, family separation, lone parents, welfare-to-work, social justice, evidence-based policy-making and, increasingly, longitudinal research methods, comparative social policy.View Profile
The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
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For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact email@example.com
General additional costs
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