School of Psychology

MSc Psychological Research Methods

Interested in a research-orientated career in psychology? Gain confidence in the acquisition, analysis and use of research information on our psychological research methods programme. Develop a sophisticated understanding of psychological research, from the creation of questions you’ll need to ask, through to the meaningful organisation of results. Be primed for a research role across a range of sectors, including consultancy and government agencies, and have the foundation for future PhD work.

Key features

  • Designed to provide you with the understanding and skills to help you develop academic or commercial careers based on psychological research.

  • Choose to study full time over one year, or take the flexible two year part-time pathway to fit in with your career plans or caring commitments.

  • Be confident studying with us – this programme is provided by the School of Psychology, which was recognised in the latest Research Assessment Exercise with 85 per cent of activity judged to be of international standard, placing it in the top third of departments nationally.

  • Benefit from a programme recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as providing the research training within the 1+3 framework.

  • Receive thorough training in research methodology and design, as well as the philosophical issues that underpin your research decisions.

  • Learn to analyse a problem, select the appropriate methodology and understand the implications of your choice.

  • Gain the skills and knowledge to conduct research in a rigorous, appropriate and ethical manner, using a range of techniques (qualitative and quantitative) in a range of settings (experimental, observational, fieldwork, and focus groups).

  • Hone your ability to communicate your research findings effectively to different audiences, both orally and in writing.

  • Equip yourself, as part of the masters programme, with the skills and experience to design and conduct a major psychological research project.

  • Learn from a teaching team with the in-depth knowledge of many areas of psychology and experience of publishing both fundamental and applied research in the best scientific journals. Their expertise, spanning from ethics to research design and statistics, offers you the ideal environment to develop your research skills.

  • Immerse yourself in our school’s newly refurbished laboratory and teaching space, including electrophysiology (ERP), Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), virtual reality and eye-tracking laboratories.

  • Benefit from our school’s research expertise. The Centre for Brain, Behaviour and Cognition attracts substantial external funding from UK research councils, the EU, charities and industry.

  • Acquire skills that are highly prized by a wide range of employers, and be ready to join previous students employed in academia, consultancy, government agencies and non-governmental bodies.

  • Contemplating a PhD in the future? This programme will provide you with the essential pre-requisites for research at this level, including a thorough grounding in research methodology, design and analysis as well as the philosophical issues that underpin research decisions.

Course details

  • Programme overview
  • You’ll cover the whole spectrum of psychological research skills and most research methods used by psychologists, and have the opportunity to study methods that are particularly relevant to you. We aim to equip you with high-level research skills and give you the opportunity to apply these skills in original psychological research. Early in the programme, you’ll begin a substantial independent piece of research and continue this throughout the year. Special emphasis is placed on practical research skills and communication - these are integrated in project work to achieve professional standards of psychological research. If you study full time the programme lasts one year starting in late September and involves attendance for at least three days a week over two 12-week teaching periods. A draft timetable for the next academic year is available on request. If you want to study part time please discuss your requirements with the Programme Director.
    Core modules
    • PSY555 Communication of Research for Psychology

      This module teaches students to communicate their research, both in writing and orally by introducing the skills required to write journal articles, present conference papers and posters, review journal articles and write grant applications.

    • PSY556 Statistical Methods for Experimental and Clinical Research

      A Masters-level module covering multiple regression, ANOVA, ANCOVA, and MANOVA. The module is intended to provide coverage of the techniques most likely to be applied by students in their own research.

    • PSY557 Quantitative Analysis of Complex Clinical and Behavourial Data

      This module extends knowledge of statistical techniques to cover discreet data, and nested data structures commonly found in complex interventions, and to introduce more advanced covariance modelling techniques.

    • PSY558 Evaluating Complex Interventions

      This module provides the background rationale for and training in the design of trials for evaluating complex interventions for behaviour change and psychological health.

    • PSY559 Experimental Research Design

      A series of lectures and workshops discussing the major issues involved in experimental designs including internal and external validity, statistical power and ethics.

    • PSY560 Qualitative Research Methods for Psychology

      This module will examine different qualitative approaches relevant to the human sciences. These approaches will cover the range of approaches from discourse-as-a-resource-for to discourse-as-the-topic-of investigation. Along the way we will critique the standard view of discourse as a route to 'things in the head'.

    • PSY561 Skills and Techniques in Psychological Research 1

      This module will focus on the development of practical skills in the implementation of a range of methods and techniques currently employed in advanced research paradigms within the areas of psychology and neuroscience.

    • PSY562 Skills and Techniques in Psychological Research 2

      This module will focus on the development of practical skills in the implementation of a range of methods and techniques currently employed in advanced research paradigms within the areas of psychology and neuroscience.

    • PSY571 Project Planning and Literature Search

      This module requires students to design and plan a major research project under the supervision of an individual member of staff.

    • PSY572 Project

      This module is the dissertation associated with the Masters programme. It comprises an independent piece of research work conducted by the student and written up as a research report.

    Optional modules
    • PSY563 Understanding Risky Behaviour

      This module focuses on risk-taking in individuals, the perception of risk and a range of psychological strategies and techniques for bringing about behavioural change and risk-reduction.

    • PSY564 Understanding Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

      This module introduces students to fundamental principles and techniques of the cognitive behavioural approach to addressing psychological difficulties.

    • PSY566 Issues in Behaviour Change

      This module covers contemporary issues in behaviour change, focusing on a topical problem behaviours and the theoretical and ethical issues of behaviour change that they raise. Based on this, students will examine and seek to change their own behaviour.

    • PSY567 Designing for Behaviour Change

      What makes a psychologically based intervention effective? This module covers a range of contemporary interventions for clinical psychological and behavioural problems, focusing on a critical analysis of the psychological mechanisms underlying interventions and explores how laboratory research can be translated into new interventions.

    • PSY568 Issues in Clinical Psychology

      This module introduces students to contemporary issues in clinical psychology and the evaluation of therapies aiming to address psychological difficulties.

    • PSY569 The Brain and its Disorders

      This module teaches students advanced functional neuroanatomy by studying the biological, psychological and social aspects of various common neurological disorders. This module will cover congenital/ developmental as well as acquired neurology.

    • PSY570 Issues in Cognitive and Brain Science

      This module focuses on how cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience approaches and techniques can be combined to provide convergent evidence about contemporary issues in understanding how the mind works.

    • PSY577 Foundations in Clinical Psychology: Children and Families

      This module introduces core concepts in clinical child psychology that underpin clinical practice. It will cover topics including early attachment relationships as predictors of psychological vulnerability and resilience; an introduction to systems theory and family relationships; a formulation approach to understanding psychological difficulties in children, and consideration of vulnerable children such as those with learning difficulties and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MSc Psychological Research Methods 1478

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Most students will hold an honours degree, usually a 2:1, recognised by the British Psychological Society. However, other qualifications will be considered, and we encourage applications from talented students in cognate disciplines. Where students have demonstrated their ability to thrive on the course through other academic qualifications, or through professional experience, this will also be taken into consideration. 

English language requirements.

If your first language is not English then evidence of English proficiency is required. The level of proficiency that is required can vary with the type of programme for which you are applying. For further advice on the appropriateness of overseas qualification and proficiency in the use of English, please contact our International Office.

The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is normally 6.5.

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2017 2018
Home/EU £6,500 To be confirmed
International £13,250 To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) £350 To be confirmed
Part time (International) Check with School To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Fees are correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change.

How to apply

Applying for postgraduate study

The University aims to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail. 

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by Plymouth University, please visit our Disability Services website. Support is also available to overseas candidates applying to the University from our International Admissions Team via international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk

If you would like to speak to one of our course information advisors, please contact us:


Submitting an application

Apply for postgraduate study using our postgraduate online application form.

Alternatively you can download a copy of the application form to be submitted by hand, by post or via email with accompanying attachments.

Additional guidance information can also be downloaded on how to complete the form.

Meet the Programme Leader – Ben Whalley

Dr Ben Whalley is Programme Leader of MSc Psychological Research Methods. He is a lecturer with expertise in the evaluation of complex interventions in health and clinical psychology.

Find out more about Ben

Facilities in the School of Psychology

Make the most of our specialist facilities – we’re a well equipped department ready to support your research.

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Psychology research

Psychology research

Our world-leading research is based in the Centre for Research in Brain, Cognition and Behaviour (CBCB), which is part of the Cognition Institute.

Research seminars, online studies, current grants and recent publications.

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PhD opportunities in the School of Psychology

Your chance to study a topic of your choice over three years with support and supervision from an expert in their field.

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Psychology staff - qualified to teach

80 per cent of staff in the School of Psychology have teaching qualifications, and many are Higher Education Academy Fellows. All new staff are required to qualify for a fellowship of the HEA.

Nationally only 38 per cent of university academics are qualified to teach - you deserve better than that.

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