Applied Social Research (MSc)

MSc, Postgraduate Diploma


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.

Key information

EU Applicants
EU students enrolling for a taught postgraduate degree in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic year will be admitted as Scottish/EU fee status students and will be eligible for the same tuition support as Scottish domiciled students.

  • Qualification: MSc, Postgraduate Diploma
  • Study methods: Part-time, Full-time, Campus based
  • Start date:

    Full-time: September

    Part-time: September/January

  • Course Director: Richard Simmons
Download postgraduate prospectus

Faculty of Social Sciences
Colin Bell Building
University of Stirling
Scotland UK

Course objectives

  • 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

What makes us different?

World-class library and teaching facilities

Studying for a degree means learning in different ways; managing your own time; conducting research; mastering new computer skills. We have the facilities and advice on hand to help you do all this - and do it well.

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Life at Stirling

Of the many reasons students come to Stirling, such as academic reputation and research standards, one factor is always cited: the outstanding beauty of the University's Stirling campus. View our online films to get a picture of what it's like to live and study on our beautiful campus.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

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.

INTO University of Stirling offers a Graduate Diploma for those students who do not meet the required criteria for this course. If you successfully complete the Graduate Diploma in Media, Humanities and Social Sciences and meet the required progression grades, you will be guaranteed entry onto year one of this Masters degree.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS: 6.5 with 6.0 minimum in each skill
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Grade B
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): 60 with 56 in each component
  • IBT TOEFL: 90 with no subtest less than 20

For more information go to English language requirements

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard. View our range of pre-sessional courses.

Flexible Learning

If you are interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email to discuss your course of study.

Fees and costs

2016/17 Overseas £12,450
2016/17 Home/EU £4,500


2017/18 Overseas £13,050
2017/18 Home/EU £4,600


2018/19 Overseas £13,650
2018/19 Home/EU To be confirmed

From 2016/7 onwards, the fees for all taught postgraduate courses are to be held at the level set upon entry.

Please note there is an additional charge should you choose to attend a graduation ceremony. View more information

Cost of Living

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

Find information on paying fees by instalments

Scholarships & funding

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 Faculty of Social Sciences for details +44 (0)1786 467681

Information on possible sources of funding

Scholarship finder

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

The MSc/Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Social Research comprises six compulsory taught core modules, 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 (not formally assessed); Quantitative Data Analysis; Qualitative Data Analysis; Comparative Social Research; Policy Analysis and Evaluation Research.

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 the following:

  • 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 and the research dissertation. There are no examinations.


ASRP001: The Nature of Social Enquiry 

SCQF level 11, 20 credits
This module aims to introduce students to the theoretical foundations that underpin social scientific research and analysis. The module begins by examining the main themes and issues within the philosophy of science and social science and then investigates different classical and modern theoretical perspectives for exploring the social world. 

ASRP002: Research Design and Process 

SCQF level 11, 20 credits

The module takes students through the process of designing a research project. It enables them to think up an interesting research idea, to carry out a literature review, identify appropriate theoretical frameworks, refine the research question and then work out which methods to use. It introduces students to some of the more common research strategies and methods. It invites reflection on the ethics and politics of the research process, and encourages students to think systematically about dissemination of findings, knowledge exchange and research impact. The assessment for the module reinforces what has been learned: it involves thinking up a research topic, refining it into some researchable questions and then writing a proposal for funding.

ASRP003 Introduction to IT and Library Services 

No credits given

The module is designed to make you aware of resources concerning Information Technology and Library Services; make you comfortable in the application of certain core IT and Library skills and aware of how to go about extending your knowledge of and confidence in further IT applications and Library Services.

ASRP004: Quantitative Data Analysis 

SCQF level 11, 20 credits

The module introduces quantitative data analysis, covering a selection of those statistical techniques which are most commonly employed in social science research. It also covers practical training in the application of quantitative methods to social science data. The emphasis will be on the analysis of data collected in social surveys, particularly the secondary analysis of large scale surveys.

ASRP005 Qualitative Data Analysis 

SCQF level 11, 20 credits

This module introduces students to qualitative data analysis. It aims to provide them with understanding and experience of conducting the analysis of qualitative data (including visual data), as well as a critical awareness of the role of computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS). Students will demonstrate the ability to conduct secondary analysis on a qualitative dataset and a critical appreciation of the impact of analysing secondary as well as primary data.

ASRP006 Comparative Social Research

SCQF level 11, 20 credits
This module aims to introduce students to comparative social research methods and to enable students to develop a critical awareness of key methodological considerations throughout the research process.
ASRP007 Policy Analysis and Evaluation Research SCQF level 11, 20 credits
This module explores the relationship between policy and research. It aims to equip students with the intellectual and practical tools needed to analyse policy developments, evaluate evidence of ‘what works’, and appreciate the different approaches to evaluation.

ASRP010 Dissertation 

SCQF level 11, 60 credits

This module aims to provide students who have completed the Diploma in Applied Social Research programme the opportunity to carry out a major social science research project. With supervision, students are encouraged to use and develop their accumulated research skills and their knowledge of theoretical and methodological work in conducting their own research project. By the end of the module, students will produce a coherent, well-argued dissertation based on their original piece of social science research. 

Modes of study

Full-time: one year, four/five modules per semester
Part-time: two and a half years, two modules per semester

Daytime teaching

Study method

Part-time; Full-time

Why Stirling?


In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.

In the Social Work and Social Policy unit of assessment for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework:

  • 24% of our overall research activity was assessed to be world-leading.
  • 78% of our overall research activity was assessed to be internationally excellent or world-leading.
  • 99% of our outputs were assessed to be internationally recognised, internationally excellent or world leading.
  • 100% of research environment factors assessed as internationally excellent or world leading.
  • 100% of our research impact was assessed as world leading or internationally excellent.
  • The work of more than 90% of our researchers was assessed.
  • We were judged to have the 2nd highest research power in Scotland and 13th highest in the UK.
  • We ranked 17th overall in the UK and 3rd in Scotland for our research, with a grade point average of 3.01 (out of 4).

The School has attracted considerable sums of external research funding from Research Councils, Government, Independent and Charitable funders, and from the European Commission.

International Students

The University of Stirling welcomes students from around the world. Find out what studying here could be like for you .

Our students

‌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 Faculty of Social Sciences 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.

Careers and employability

Career opportunities

Employability an important focus of the course. Past graduates have entered social research-related careers in the public, voluntary and private sectors for example, commissioning research for local authorities, working on university research projects, and conducting research for charities and voluntary organisations. The course is suitable for those wishing to enhance their research practice in a current post. Others choose to continue their studies and undertake a PhD or Doctorate. The MRes offers a combination of high quality, flexibility and choice.

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.

Over one third of our graduates continue with academic study and undertake a professional doctorate or PhD.

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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