This course prepares students for undertaking social research and evaluation, leading to careers in research, research management and commissioning or using research. Our MSc is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as meeting the research training guidelines for undertaking a PhD in Sociology, Social Policy, Social Work or Socio-legal Studies, as well as preparing you for an ESRC recognised interdisciplinary PhD in Families, Relationships and Demographic Change and Social Care. A course on Applied Social Research (Criminology) is also available.
The course is recognised as research training by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for those who are studying or going on to study for a PhD (+3), and is also recognised by the ESRC for Master’s Course plus Research Studentship (1+3) purposes.
The objectives are to:
- Provide you with the skills and knowledge base required to collect, analyse and report qualitative and quantitative data, taking account of ethics, reliability and validity
- Enable you to examine critically the theoretical foundations that underpin social scientific research
- Enable you to examine issues concerning comparative social research
- Develop your understanding of the relationship between research and policy, and the meanings of evaluation, its terminology, practice and use
A minimum of a second class honours degree (2.1 preferred) or equivalent in a relevant subject. Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.
English language requirements
If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence of your proficiency such as a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (6.0 in all bands).
ESRC awards are available on a competitive basis via the Scottish Doctoral Training Centre for students who wish to pursue the MSc plus a PhD on a 1+3 basis. Please contact the School of Applied Social Science for details.
Information on possible sources of funding
Modes of study
Full-time: one year, five modules per semester
Part-time: two and a half years, two/three modules per semester
Course start date
Structure and content
The MSc/Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Social Research comprises eight compulsory taught core modules, a group project and (for the MSc) a dissertation.
The modules are: The Nature of Social Enquiry; Research Design and Process; Introduction to Information Technology and Library Services; Quantitative Data Analysis; Qualitative Data Analysis; Comparative Social Research; Policy Analysis and Evaluation Research.
You must take one of three Applied Social Research option modules:
- Thinking Sociologically
- The Principles of Social Policy
- Theorising Social Work
These modules comprise a series of reading groups in which a number of central ideas are debated. In addition to the modules, you will complete both of the following:
- Group Project: An opportunity to obtain first-hand experience of research techniques, data collection strategies and group work with the guidance of staff.
- Research Dissertation: MSc students must undertake an original social science research study and complete a research dissertation with academic supervision.
Examples of recent dissertation topics include:
- A Study of High Risk Behaviour
- Young People and National Identity
- Substance Use Prevalence and Looked-after Young People in Scotland
- Women’s Decisions about Returning to Work After Childbirth
Delivery and assessment
Teaching methods are designed for each module to facilitate your acquisition of skills and progressive development. You are expected to participate in lectures, seminars, tutorials, computer-based workshops and group work.
Full-time and part-time MSc/Diploma students experience a range of different forms of assessment across the compulsory taught modules. These include essays, critical review essays, book reviews, research proposals, a computer lab-based assessment for quantitative data analysis, group project reports and the research dissertation. There are no examinations.
In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), 95 percent of the research in Applied Social Science at Stirling was ‘Internationally Excellent’ with the top 10 percent of that judged to be ‘World-leading’.
Why did you choose to study at Stirling?
I looked at the various options for this type of course in Scotland, and the Stirling course seemed like the best option for me, providing a well-rounded programme of research training. It was also local!
Can you tell me what the highlights were for you as a student at the University of Stirling?
The standard of teaching was generally very good and the content of the course as a whole worked really well. The balance between qualitative and quantitative approaches is good, and the more fluid modules on policy analysis and sociological approaches were an excellent opportunity to explore the application of research theory.
How did your course help you improve in your chosen subject?
By the end of the course, I felt that I had really gained a solid grounding in social research. Although I had studied social sciences before, and research methods to some extent, I felt substantially more confident in my skills and knowledge by the end of the course. In particular, the dissertation worked really well as an opportunity to apply the learning from the course as a whole.
If you had to summarise your experience of the School of Applied Social Science in a few words, what would you say?
Inspiring, stretching and friendly (all at the same time!)
Can you tell me how your acquired skills and knowledge will help you in your career or has helped you in your professional role or secured employment?
I undertook the course with the aim of obtaining a PhD place, having previously failed to obtain funding. By the end of the course, I was having to make a decision between different PhD offers! I am now starting my PhD and feel like the MSc has given me a really good basis to build on.
Over the past five years, over half of our graduates have entered social research-related careers in the public, voluntary and private sectors, for example, a manager commissioning research for a local authority, a research fellow at a university and a senior research executive for a European-wide commercial research organisation.
In general, one in ten graduates have enhanced their practice in current posts by undertaking studies in Applied Social Research, with support from their employer. Over one third of our graduates continue with academic study and undertake a PhD.