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

  • Gain the understanding and skills to build an academic or commercial career, based on psychological research. You will be taught in small groups by experts in the field, choosing from a suite of elective modules related to cognitive and brain sciences, behaviour change, or clinical psychology.

  • 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. Our timetable is specifically designed to accommodate mature students, take a look at PDF version of our provisional timetable for 2018. Taught sessions are scheduled for Tuesdays and Fridays; this consistency enables our students to plan their other commitments, including their research and work experience activities (please note that this timetable is for illustrative purposes only and final dates/times may be subject to some change).

  • Follow your own interests, working with an expert supervisor to develop a substantial individual piece of research. Many of our students’ dissertations are published in peer reviewed journals, providing an excellent start to an academic career.

  • 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. Our neuroimaging centre (BRIC) will be opening in 2018, offering fMRI and other imaging facilities.

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.

    • 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
    • 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 programme specification 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 2018 2019
Home/EU £7,500 To be confirmed
International £14,000 £14,400
Part time (Home/EU) £410 To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

A range of studentships, fee waivers and other funding for psychology students is also available for both UK/EU and international students.

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

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.

Read more about our facilities

Studentships and funding for psychology

A range of studentships, fee waivers and other funding for psychology students is also available for both UK/EU and international students.

Find out more

Scholarship for international applicants

A £5000 fee waiver will be awarded to international applicants who meet the entry requirements for this programme. 

There are 15 scholarships available and they will be awarded on a first come first served basis to those accepted onto the programme.

Psychology research

Psychology research

Plymouth is in the top 20 of all UK universities in psychology, neuroscience and psychiatry with 83 per cent of our research output rated world-leading or internationally excellent by REF2014

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

Discover the research in progress in the school

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.

Find out about studying for a PhD with us


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.

Find out what qualifications our staff have