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MA in Social Research

  • Length
    1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
  • Department
    Sociology

Course overview

The MA Social Research draws upon a wide variety of contemporary theoretical traditions including postcolonial theory, poststructuralism, discourse analysis, critical or subtle realism, and feminism.  

The MA Social Research is located in a high ranking Sociology Department and draws upon a wide variety of contemporary theoretical traditions including postcolonial theory, poststructuralism to discourse analysis, critical or subtle realism, and feminism. The aim of the MA is to explore how these may present implications for methodological design and analytical strategies.

“The students clearly have access to an enthusiastic and dedicated teaching team and a well-designed course which provides robust grounding in key methods and cutting edge examples of how this work is conducted to stimulate critical thinking. Essay, report and dissertation structure allows the students to engage in depth with key methodologies and substantive fields of interest. The quality and consistency of feedback is a particular strength. Encouraging students to interrogate their interests and life experiences and to use data and methods accordingly makes their assessed work really lively and engaging.”
Professor Ann Kerr (University of Leeds)
External Examiner


The MA teaching is made up of lectures and workshops covering both qualitative and quantitative methods during which students are encouraged to try out, evaluate and sometimes combine different approaches. The range of methods covered include interviewing and observation, archival research, visual methods, ethnographic work as well as statistical analysis of large-scale quantitative data sets. 

The dissertation research project assesses your proficiency in managing different types of data and your ability to design and carry out an original piece of research. Dissertation workshops will guide you as you prepare to undertake a substantive piece of research on a topic of your choice. The dissertation research will be supervised by an experienced member of staff.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Prof Les Back

Modules & structure

Core Modules Module title Credits
  Modelling Social Data I 30 credits
  Modelling Social Data II* 30 credits
  Theory, Concepts and Methods of Social Research I* 30 credits
  Theory, Concepts and Methods of Social Research II* 30 credits
  Dissertation 60 credits

Assessment

Assessment consists of coursework, extended essays, reports, presentations, practice based projects or essays/logs, group projects, reflective essays, and seen and unseen written examinations.

Download the programme specification, relating to the 2017-18 intake. If you would like an earlier version of the programme specification, please contact the Quality Office.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Department

Sociology at Goldsmiths is ranked:
1st in London* 8th in the UK and 37th in the world**
9th in the UK for the quality of our research**

Sociology

The Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths is active, contemporary and inventive. We are interested in everything from the ‘global’ issues of poverty and injustice to the ‘micro’ issues of cultural identity and the presentation of self in a digital world.

Our staff are some of the top academics in the world for this discipline – they’re the pioneers who are pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. They’ve played a key role in developing social research methods, setting agendas in social and cultural policy, and linking theory to practice.

Through their world-leading research you’ll be at the forefront of current debates and will be encouraged to see the world differently.

Find out more about the Department of Sociology.

*Guardian University Guide League Tables 2017
**QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017
***Research Excellence Framework 2014, Times Higher Education research intensity subject rankings

Staff

Research

While not based in one research centre, the scope of the programme can feed into the work of the Methods Lab and the Centre for Urban and Community Research

Suggested reading

Suggested preliminary reading

Readings to help you prepare for the course

Social Science degrees vary in the extent to which they cover research methods. Applicants  lacking a recent acquaintance with the basics of social research methods should consult one or more of the following:

  • Seale, C, 2004, Researching Society and Culture, London: Sage
  • Bryman, A, 2008, Social Research Methods, Oxford: OUP

Recommended Texts for course modules

Marsh, C, 1982, The Survey Method: The Contribution of Surveys to Sociological Explanation, (Chapters 2 and 3), London: Allen & Unwin

Healey, T.  (2004 onwards) Statistics: A Tool for Social Research: International Student Edition. Wadsworths. Seventh Edition.

de Vaus, D 2002 Surveys in Social Research. 5th Edition London: Routledge

Jane Ritchie, et al 2013 , Qualitative Research Practice, London Sage Publications.

Those wishing to investigate recent debates on sociological methodology might consider reading:

Back, L, and Puwar, N, (2013) Live Methods, Wiley-Blackwell.

Byrne, D (2002) Interpreting Quantitative Data. London: Sage Publications.

Carter, B and New, C (eds) (2004) Making Realism Work: Realist Social Theory and Empirical Research. Routledge.

Law, J  (2007) After Method: Mess in Social Science Research

Lury, C, & Wakeford, N, (201 Inventive Methods: The Happening of the Social. Routledge

Skills & careers

Skills and Careers

Skills

The programme will enable you to develop:

  • the capacity to generate, execute and evaluate sociological research at an advanced level
  • the ability to examine how social research and sociological knowledge can both influence and help us understand social, public and civil policies
  • the ability to define, investigate, communicate and appraise empirical evidence 

Careers

The MA is ideal research preparation for an MPhil/PhD and a future academic career in Sociology. A number of successful doctoral students have completed the MA Social Research before applying for ESRC funding and/or going on to successfully complete their doctorate. These include current members of staff. Also, the MASR has provided an excellent preparation for those entering the public, health and third/NGO sector with such organizations as the Resolution Foundation and the Parkinson’s Charity. Others have successfully competed for entry into the Civil Service ‘fast track’ scheme for government social research. Similar examples of success can be seen under student profiles.

Student work

Here are some of the topics chosen by students in the last few years:

  • Critical Skateboarding on the Southbank
  • An Ethnographic Study into London's Grime and Dubstep Scene(s) and the Politics of Essentialism and Hybridity
  • Metaphors of fMRI: the metaphorical framing of a brain scanning technology
  • Finding Traces: Modelling End of Life Decision Pathways in Medical Practice: A secondary analysis of quantitative data
  • "I don't really think of it as a gated community": investigating security and community in the construction of home among London's gated women
  • Political Technologies and (Re) Construction of Disabled People Between 1998 and 2008.
  • 'Structure Liberates': Race, Class and the Construction of a School Ethos

Student profiles

Maisie

"I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to investigate the social world for themselves."

Doing a Masters wasn’t an easy decision financially, so I wanted to choose a course that would allow me to pursue my sociological interests, but give me concrete, practical skills that I could use in both academic and non-academic settings. It definitely delivered.

I appreciated that the course seemed carefully structured to get the most out of the time. There was plenty of support to get through the quantitative element, which was definitely challenging for me; but it was satisfying to work with the data and gave me a whole new confidence in finding and understanding social patterns. The Theory, Concepts and Methods module mixed interesting and lively debates on writing, ethics and qualitative methods with hands-on group-work. We practised interviews, found ways of capturing the sounds of the city, and worked on small projects in the local area, which built confidence and a team spirit.

Goldsmiths’ creative and original vibe meant that conducting a dissertation in the less traditional area of human-animal studies was encouraged and was a brilliant experience. I’ve now begun a paid internship as a Hospice Community Researcher, investigating decisions that families with children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions make about their care. The MA in Social Research helped me secure the post and prepared me for that level of responsibility. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to investigate the social world for themselves.

Emma

"The combination of knowledge of different methodological approaches and research methods is proving invaluable."

"The MA in Social Research at Goldsmiths provided advanced in qualitative and quantitative methods as well as giving me the scope to explore my own research interests. Doing the MA enabled me to go on and do a PhD in Sociology

I then went on to work as a research assistant as part of a large research team at King's College London, on a project studying the Middle Classes, and then held a post-doctoral fellowship in Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow. I am now a lecturer in the Sociology department at Goldsmiths where I convene the Urban Field Encounters module.

In my work as a researcher and lecturer, the combination of knowledge of different methodological approaches and research methods that I received at Goldsmiths has proved invaluable and I am delighted to be able to make a contribution to MA teaching in the department where I started out."

Alice

"Studying Social Research at Goldsmiths was one of the best decisions for my career."

"Studying Social Research at Goldsmiths was one of the best decisions for my career.  I chose it because I believed it would give me the skills required to work in a range of environments; I knew I wanted to do research within the third sector, but hadn’t yet decided beyond that.  

The course gave me such a strong foundation that even before I had submitted my dissertation, I had already been offered a job as the Evaluation Manager for Pilotlight; a small charity that supports other charities to be more effective in their work.

At Pilotlight I oversaw our monitoring & evaluation, designed further ways to measure our work, helped other organisations (and ourselves) to develop a theory of change, and supported other organisations to better measure their impact.  After working there for nearly two years, I was then head hunted by Teach First.

I now work at Teach First as a Senior Officer for Impact.  My main tasks are to help develop our own theory of change (and a theory of change for the education/charity sector) and to measure our work against the Fair Education Alliance’s Impact Goals – analysing the changes on the pupils that our participants (trainee teachers) teach.  My role is varied, stimulating and intense, and I really enjoy working for the charity.

My understanding and knowledge of research methods has been crucial for my career.  I would not have worked for Pilotlight without it; and I would not therefore be where I am today without it.  I would strongly recommend it!"

See more profiles for this programme

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

Selection process

As part of the admissions process, you may be offered an informal advisory meeting with the Programme Convenor.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us.

For this programme we require:

IELTS 6.5 with a 6.5 in writing

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments.
  • An electronic copy of your reference on letter headed paper, or alternatively the email address of your referee who we can request a reference from. It is preferrs that you use an academic reference, however in cases where applicants are unable to provide one, a professional reference is acceptable.
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online.

          Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory).

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline.

Find out more about applying.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Find out more about tuition fees.

Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

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