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MA Social Research

Start date
1 year full-time; 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

Our Masters in Social Research degree will provide you with a sound background in social research design and the most up-to-date training in methods of data collection and analysis.

The College of Social Sciences welcomes all postgraduates to the MA in Social Research programme which continues to enjoy full Research Training recognition by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). 

The different pathways and the combination of core modules and advanced training courses on more advanced topics provide maximum flexibility and different levels of intensity for taught postgraduate students and doctoral researchers. You can customise your research training throughout the course of your study at Birmingham. The core elements of the programme are delivered by research active staff across the entire College, many of whom are engaged in cutting-edge research in their own fields. You will benefit by undertaking this training with students from different departments in the Schools of Social Policy, Business, Education and Government and Society. Above all, you will learn how to communicate research findings effectively and develop an understanding of the potential impact of your research within and beyond academia.

Core modules

  • Philosophy of Social Research (20 credits)
  • Research Design, Practice and Ethics (20 credits)
  • Fundamentals in Quantitative Research Methods (20 credits)
  • Foundations in Qualitative Research (20 credits)

Students registered for the MA in the college or in one of the schools (named MA  programmes below) can select up to 40 credits of modules from their school MA programmes instead of four advanced training courses:


Core modules

Philosophy of Social Science Research (20 credits)

The module will consider the fundamental philosophical debates about what counts as ‘knowledge’ across the social sciences. This will include debates around structure/agency, individualism/holism, and explanation/ interpretation. The module will consider (natural) science as a method of obtaining knowledge, and the strengths and critiques of science, as well as thinking about whether the natural sciences can (or should) be a model for the social sciences. As part of this undertaking, the module will address the interpretative tradition in the social sciences, including hermeneutics and phenomenology, in order to consider the importance of causality and meaning in social science research. 

Research Design, Practice and Ethics (20 credits)

This module will introduce you to social science research designs and ethical issues in research practice. Research design consists of the choices necessary to transform a research question into actual research. These choices relate to strategies and modes of case selection, data collection and modes of analysis, and they pertain equally to qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods studies. 

Fundamentals in Quantitative Research Method (20 credits)

This module will focus on the concepts, methods and skills central to quantitative research, including data collection approaches and concept operationalization. Building on a grounding in ideas relating to probability sampling, sampling error and statistical inference, coverage of techniques will extend from comparisons of means and simple cross-tabular analyses to a discussion of multivariate analysis approaches, focusing on linear and logistic regression

Foundations in Qualitative Research (20 credits)

Qualitative research will be examined across a range of topics, from different approaches and methods including ethnographic and observational research, discourse and conversation analysis, documentary and archival analysis, participatory research and the use of interviews. Ethics in qualitative research is specifically considered, as is the evaluation of qualitative research.

Advanced training modules

The Advanced Training modules which run in the summer term, are available to students registered on a variety of programmes across the College of Social Science in the University of Birmingham, including a range of masters and doctoral programmes. You will be studying different disciplines (e.g. from the four different schools: Education, Social Policy, Business, and Government), engaged in different modes of study (part-time and full-time), and studying for different qualifications (e.g. MA, PhD, and EdD).

Many of the modules are also available to staff and students from across the University of Birmingham. As part of our Doctoral Training Partnership role, we also welcome doctoral research students studying at other Midlands Graduate School DTP institutions, as well as other universities nationwide.

This list is updated regularly as new courses are approved so do check this website from time to time to see what is on offer.

  • Advanced Qualitative Interviewing
  • Introduction to Econometrics Software
  • Approaches to Research on Discourse
  • Multiple Linear to Logistic Regression
  • Researching Disability
  • Introduction to Time Series Regression
  • Regression with Categorical Dependent Variables
  • Mixed Methods Research Design
  • Researching Young People
  • Introduction to Causal Inference
  • Policy Evaluation

Please note this is an indicative list of advanced training modules which are available in CoSS. The modules listed may be subject to change and no longer be available. 


Standard fees apply
Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships may be available. International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

How To Apply

Learn more about applying

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

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Our Standard Requirements

Learn more about entry requirements.

International Requirements

The core elements of the programme are delivered by staff across the entire College, many of whom are engaged in cutting-edge research in their own fields. You will benefit by undertaking this training with students from within our diverse schools including the Business School, Education, Government, and Social Policy. You will also receive more discipline-specific research training, as well as dissertation supervision, provided by individual departments. On completion of this MA, many students continue their studies as a graduate research student, or pursue a career in research in the public, private, or voluntary sector.

Skills and attributes gained

You will acquire a solid foundation of a broad range of research methods that are widely used in the social sciences and will have developed:

  • A sound understanding of the methodological debates
  • An overview of the philosophy of social science and how this informs research design, methods chosen of data collection and analysis
  • An ability to use a range of research techniques appropriate to their subject area
  • Competence in the representation and presentation of information and data
  • An ability to communicate research findings effectively to a wider range of audiences
  • An appreciation of the potential use and impact of their research within and beyond academia
  • An ability to engage with relevant users at all points in the research process, from devising and shaping research questions through to enhancing practice
You will be expected to engage in high-level discussion during all sessions. Teaching will be delivered by a combination of lectures, seminars and computer workshops. Some fieldwork involving primary data collection is required where appropriate.

Assessment Methods

Many students go on to do a PhD after completing this MA. Others have followed a career in local authorities, government departments, health authorities, management consultancy, media, the voluntary sector.

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