School of Law, Criminology and Government

MSc Social Research

Taught by a team with national leading teaching quality metrics and nationally and internationally recognised research, the MSc Social Research combines the philosophical and methodological foundations for social research with advanced methods training.

This combination will enable you to become part of a new generation of social researchers integrating creative and imaginative critical thinking with the qualitative and quantitative tools necessary for addressing current interdisciplinary global challenges.

Key features

Real world training: You will develop the ability to create, manipulate, analyse and interpret data to inform decision making. The strongly applied focus of the MSc Social Research will enable you to work in a variety of research settings in the public and private sectors, as well as going on to undertake further (e.g. doctoral) research. The involvement of speakers from a variety of organisations, such as the Office for National Statistics, will ensure that the programme meets the current needs of employers.

World-class research team: The programme is underpinned by our research strengths in areas such as health policy and sustainability communication. In the most recent research assessment (REF 2014) 62% of our research was judged as ‘world leading and internationally excellent’, while a further 36% was deemed ‘Internationally significant’. We have a longstanding reputation for excellence in innovative methodologies and expertise in areas such as action research, synthetic estimation and microsimulation, photo-elicitation and autobiographical research methods.

Flexible blended delivery: Theory-based materials will be delivered via a variety of tools including in-class lectures, video and audio podcasts, and interactive online discussions. Practical-based training will be delivered by face-to-face workshops where students will have the opportunity to interact with staff, invited professionals, and their peers.

Interdisciplinary team-working: The MSc Social Research is designed to provide high quality methods training, equipping the next generation of social researchers with the necessary tools to be able to address key interdisciplinary global challenges.

Course details

  • Programme overview
  • You will study following modules:

    Philosophy for social research and design (30 credits, core)
    The module explores the principal features of scientific method and critical perspectives on this from which to identify and analyse key epistemological and ontological assumptions underlying social research and design. A range of methodological perspectives (quantitative and qualitative) will be considered in terms of their underlying philosophical assumptions (with reference where appropriate to the student’s planned research).

    Researching social life (30 credits, core)
    This module builds upon your understanding of epistemological, ontological and methodological issues to develop knowledge of different research methods. Examples will include: basic statistical modelling; surveys; ethnography; interviewing / biographical / oral histories; auto/biography; auto-ethnography; creative approaches (e.g. photo-voice); focus groups; discourse analysis; network analysis; systematic review; archival research; Participatory Action Research; re-analysis of published data; social media; visual methods; content/textual analysis.

    Media, culture, and the environment (30 credits, core)
    This module critically examines the ways in which the media communicate about the environment. It provides you with an in-depth critical appreciation of key concepts and debates in relation to both traditional legacy media and digital/social media. You will learn to employ a range of research methods (quantitative and qualitative) in analysing media discourse. The module will also introduce students to multidisciplinary theories and research on the psychology and effectiveness of environmental messaging in order to understand how various media technologies affect individual and collective thinking and action.

    Applying social research (30 credits, core)
    This module introduces you to a range of ethical and practical issues involved in research. You develop skills in the presentation of their research and consider the implications of research processes. Notably, you use this module to develop research proposals in preparation for your dissertation. Further the module enables you to apply and develop your understanding of social research processes in applied settings. You spend at least 54 hours in appropriate research environments engaged in research. You apply theoretical knowledge gained in other modules to the practical application in one or more applied settings.

    Dissertation/apprenticeship dissertation (60 credits, core)
    In this module you will be expected to operationalise an appropriate research question developed in the research-planning phase, identifying strengths and limitations of the methodological approach. This will require attention is given to the selection and use of appropriate research methods, and relevant ethical issues. You will demonstrate an ability to design and conduct an independent research project; analyse, evaluate and report findings effectively, and identify potential application in policy or practice settings. There will be a requirement for critical reflection on strengths and weaknesses of the research.

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 Social Research Programme Specification 6514

Entry requirements


Normal minimum entry requirements are 2:1 and a 200-500 words statement of intent. Candidates are interviewed before an offer is made. We will consider students below 2:1 if they can demonstrate a strong academic portfolio or a record of professional experience Other qualifications accompanied by substantial experience in an appropriate field may also be considered. Non-standard applications will be considered on a case by case basis.


Please view the country specific pages for further information regarding the equivalency of your degree. International applicants will be required to provide evidence of their English language ability, for example by achieving an IELTS score of 6.5 overall (with a minimum of 5.5 in each element) or equivalent, see our English language requirements. Pre-sessional English language courses are available if you do not meet these requirements.

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

Personal statement

Applicants are required to submit a personal statement of 200-500 words addressing the following questions: Why do you want to study social research methods at Plymouth? What is your specific area of interest? What do you hope to achieve?


Scholarships are available for postgraduate taught programmes. Tell me more about scholarships and bursaries.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

New Student 2020 2021
Home £7,800 £9,100
International £14,800 £15,200
Part time (Home) £450 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. For more information about fees and funding please visit

How to apply

When to apply

Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full. 

Before you apply

Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance.

Disability services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Submitting an application

Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page).

What happens after I apply?

You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeks of us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.

We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries 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 would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858

Admissions policy

More information and advice for applicants can be referenced by downloading our Student Admissions Policy Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Applying for postgraduate study

The University aims to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Information team are on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail. The Doctoral College is also available to answer any queries on our postgraduate research degrees.

Submitting an application

Apply for postgraduate study using our online postgraduate application form.

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by the University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office.

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

Telephone: +44 1752 585858


Documents for downloading


We have a strong record of aligning evidence and expertise with policy and practice, which we believe is highly attractive for students seeking to develop expertise in areas where they can go on to work in academia or in the public sector, third sector organisations, think tanks or business. Areas of particular expertise include health services research, media, working with offender communities and local community organisations.

“In my view there is clearly a wider demand for employees with these [social research] skills. As a Commissioner of Health and Social Care Services working within a Local Authority, I can attest that (…) a skillset that includes the ability to create, manipulate, analyse and interpret data to inform decision making (…) is definitely a skill set that is needed across a wider group of staff. It helps to inform funding decisions and other planning processes (…) I also work closely with the third sector (voluntary and community sector) and these skills are certainly important for a wide range of purposes across this sector.”

Rachel Silcock, Commissioner of Health and Social Care Services, Plymouth

Meet our alumni

Our strength - research culture

The MSc Social Research capitalises on the sociology team’s strengths in research, combined and enhanced by collaborations with our colleagues in the School and Faculty.

Research within the School integrates the disciplines of sociology, criminology, law, politics and international relations, with a broad focus on furthering reform, informing policy and involving related issues. We engage in an extensive range of theoretically oriented and empirical research, driven by an overall commitment to promoting fairness and social justice.

Please have a look at our current research clusters of Politics and identities and Health, well-being and social policy to read more about sociology’s current research projects and check out our programme of our Sociology Public Talks.

Collaboration with stakeholders

We collaborate and have links with a variety of local and national community groups such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Plymouth City Council, Landworks, Maker Memories, and Devon Community Foundation. Representatives of such groups will enhance your experience through guest lectures and provide a potential focus for dissertations and research-based learning opportunities.

Postgraduate loans

You may now be eligible for a government loan of over £10,000 to help towards the cost of your masters degree.

The loans will be available for both taught and research masters programmes across all disciplines and subject areas.

Find out more about your eligibility for a postgraduate loan.

*A loan of up to £10,906 was available from August 2019, please be aware the loan amount may change annually depending on when you start your course.