MSc Social Research and Evaluation

About the Course

Knowledge and skills development on the MSc SRE

Educational Aims of the Programme

Full-Time Route Structure

Part-Time Route Structure


Knowledge and skills development on the MSc SRE

The course starts with an induction that will familiarize you with the services at the university that you will use for your learning along with those you may need to draw on for support. Key services are the software we shall use in teaching: UniConnect, e-mail and Yammer along with the website and UniLearn pages that contain the teaching resources such as videos that we shall use. Support services include a wide range, such as the library, learning support, counselling and disability support. We shall focus on how you can access these services from off campus. The School operates the Student Hub which acts as a single point of access to these support services and other forms of support for your study.

We shall then move to two, key, core modules: HMB2000 Social Research Methods and HMB2007 Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Data Analysis. These are complementary. The first examines issues of reliability, validity and generalizability that characterise good quality social research and alongside this will focus on how to design good social research. Through in-class discussions you will be able to reflect on the relevance to research methods of your current professional experience. Both this and the assessment will hone your skills in appraising and designing social research. The second module is more directly a skills-based module. You will be able to practice hands-on a small number of different ways of analysing data so you develop confidence in beginning both qualitative and quantitative (statistical) analysis. For the assessment you will carry out some analysis of real data.

Later modules build on these core modules in two ways. First there are modules that will enable you to develop skills in particular data collection techniques or to develop further your analytic skills. There are modules on Questionnaire and Survey Design (HMB2002) and Qualitative Data Capture (HMB2006) where you will actually practice hands-on design and collection of data. You will design and test out a questionnaire and design and carry out an in-depth interview or focus group. Through the supporting sessions you will be able to reflect on the design issues you are learning about and report on this in your final assessment. HMB2009 and HMB2010 are the more advanced analysis modules that you will take; Qualitative Data Analysis and Statistical Analysis of Research Data, respectively. A key to both these modules is hands-on analysis with provided data sets. In the supporting sessions you will learn and practice analysis to a high professional standard but also gain confidence and independence in the use of the analytic techniques.

Second, there are two modules that build on the core in a different way. Research has now become a wider field than just collecting primary data and analysing it. HMB2001 Evaluation and Reviews shows how research methods are applied to evaluate a range of social programmes, but in so doing, the researcher needs to be aware of the much more political context in which the evaluator operates. In both class discussions and in your presentation and assessment you will be able to develop your awareness of these issues. HMB2008 Philosophy and Design in Health and Social Research takes a step to one side of research to consider the underlying methodological issues which guide the research enterprise. This is a key to the professional and academic justification of your chosen research approaches. Most social researchers also need to bid for research funding to undertake the research they want to do. You will learn about how this is done and through a hands-on exercise will learn how such bids are appraised and reviewed. The assessment will allow you to use your professional experience to build your methodological justification for your proposed research and build a high quality design for it.

In most cases, this proposal will act as a first draft of a plan for your dissertation. The dissertation and the research you will undertake for it is a culmination of the skills and understanding you have acquired in the taught elements of the course. You are required to carry out a piece of empirical investigation involving design, data collection and data analysis addressing a research question that you have chosen. In this you will be supported by a personal supervisor from the course teaching staff. You will be expected to do this research to a very high, professional standard, addressing all the methodological, philosophical, practical, political, ethical and analytic issues you have learned about in the taught sessions. Your topic of research can reflect your own work experience or it can be on a distinct topic that is of interest and represents a direction you want to work towards after completing the degree. You will write up this research in a dissertation of about 12,000 words. You will also be offered help with your career planning. Your dissertation supervisor will play a major role here and the School run Student Hub can direct you to other relevant support such as the Careers Service.

After completion of the Master's course you will be very well qualified to undertake research either as a research assistant on an existing project or as a research student undertaking an MPhil or PhD. You will also have the skills and knowledge to appraise or evaluate research in your work and to be able to specify and commission research proposals.


Educational Aims of the Programme

The MSc Social Research and Evaluation (Distance Learning) course provides critical study of research methods and data analysis appropriate for social research. The course operates within a multidisciplinary framework to provide a rigorous practical and applied training in social research. The course is designed to meet the postgraduate training requirements of the Economic and Social Research Council and, a fortiori, the training needs of those undertaking social science (and related disciplinary) doctoral research.

The aims of the course are:

a) To assist students to develop their knowledge of social research (including, where appropriate, evaluation research).

b) To require students to analyse and critically assess current practices within social research.

c) To foster an understanding of the design process within social research.

d) To sensitise students to a range of styles, strategies, methods and techniques falling within social research.

e) To set the enterprise of social research within a philosophical and methodological context.

f) To develop general research skills and specific skills appropriate to individual student's needs and concerns.

g) To help students plan, carry out, and report on a piece of social research.

h) To provide students with scope to define their own needs and interests, and to enable them to develop a range of transferable skills.

i) To provide students with the skills needed to analyse both quantitative and qualitative data.

j) To apply learning and understanding from (a) to (i) above to the analysis of the carrying out of research in specific areas.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

On completion of this course students will be able to:

1) Demonstrate an awareness of the complexity and likely sensitive nature of research involving people.

2) Show an awareness of both the contribution and limitations of social research in seeking to understand and solve problems.

3) Undertake a balanced analysis of the relative advantages and disadvantages of different styles, strategies, methods or techniques of social research.

4) Demonstrate an attempt to reach unbiased assessments and conclusions which nevertheless acknowledge the values of the researcher and do not gainsay their possible commitment or involvement.

5) Demonstrate a critical and comprehensive understanding of the application of social research methods to 'real world' concerns.

6) Evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them.

Skills and Other Attributes

Professional Practical Skills

On completion of this course students will be able to:

1) Analyse qualitative and quantitative data.

2) Critically evaluate current research in the social sciences, including the epistemological and methodological foundations of such research.

3) Write a research proposal to a professional standard.

4) Devise and conduct an independent piece of research to create knowledge in the social sciences.

5) Report the findings of an empirical investigation to a professional standard.

Transferable/Key Skills

On completion of this course students will be able to:

1) Work independently and produce output to given deadlines.

2) Communicate clearly and effectively to different audiences and using different media.

3) Demonstrate independence of thought and the ability to reflect critically on their own skills.

4) Demonstrate an ability to make decisions in complex and unpredictable situations.

5) Exercise initiative and personal responsibility.

Basic Principles Underlying the Structure

The structure is designed to meet the research methods needs of postgraduate researchers in the social sciences and of professionals who may be undertaking research and/or commissioning and appraising research.

It provides for different potential exit points at PgCert and PgDip en route to the Masters qualification; with each qualification having a defined and defensible structure in its own right. There is an optional element but this is kept limited so that most study is concentrated on social research.

For the full-time route, the academic year (the full 12 months) is divided into three sessions. For example, session 1 could be semester 1 (equivalent to the autumn term), session 2 could be semester 2 (weeks before and after Easter) and session 3 could be the summer period through to late August. For the part-time route, the normal period of study is 3 years but by negotiation and with the appropriate timing of taking modules (so that exactly 90 credits are taken each year) the course could be completed in two years.


Full-Time Route Structure

Diagram showing fulltime route through the course.


Part-Time Route Structure

An example pattern of provision for students taking the degree on a part-time basis to Masters is as follows:

Year 1:

Semester 1 HMB2000 Social Research Methods (DL) (15 credits)

HMB2007 Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Data Analysis (DL)

(15 credits)

Zero or one optional module (0/15 credits)

Semester 2 HMB2001 Evaluation and Reviews (DL) (or optional module) (15 credits)

Zero or one optional module (0/15 credits)

Year 2:

Semester 3 HMB2008 Philosophy and Design in Health & Social Research (DL) (15 credits)

One or two optional modules (15/30 credits)

Semester 4 One or two optional modules (15/30 credits)

Year 3:

Semester 5 Zero or one optional module (0/15 credits)

HMB2017 Dissertation (DL) (60 credits)

Semester 6 HMB2011 Dissertation (DL) (60 credits) Cont.

Although most students will follow the standard pattern outlined above, students may complete the programme to a given award over a longer time period to suit their needs up to that specified in the University regulations. In some cases it will be possible for part-time students to complete the programme in 2 years, though they must undertake six taught modules in their first year of study.

Part-time students aiming for other awards (PgCert and PgDip) must fulfil the course requirements as outlined above for full-time students. However, the part-time pattern is designed to be flexible with students able to plan their pattern of study to suit their needs over varying periods of time.