Applied Social Research (MRes)

Postgraduate Diploma, MRes


The Master’s in Applied Social Research gives graduates the ideal preparation for undertaking social research and evaluation. There is a core of four shared modules in generic research skills, plus specialist disciplinary modules and a range of options. They combine high quality with flexibility and choice for students. 


The course has been recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as meeting its requirements for postgraduate research training.

Fully funded places are available through the ESRC, details can be found here on the pages of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science website.

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: Postgraduate Diploma, MRes
  • Study methods: Full-time, Part-time, Campus based
  • Duration: 1 year full-time, 5 semesters part-time.
  • Start date:

    Full-time: September 
    : September or January

  • Course Director: Richard Simmons
  • Location: Stirling Campus
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
  • Provide you with the opportunity to tailor your programme with a choice of further research-based modules 

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.

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

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

The MRes/Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Social Research comprises four compulsory taught core modules, plus two other optional modules (from two available lists), and (for the MRes) a dissertation.

The compulsory modules are:

  • The Nature of Social Enquiry
  • Research Design and Process
  • Quantitative Data Analysis
  • Qualitative Data Analysis

You must also take two further modules from a list including the following:

  • Comparative Social Research
  • Research Placement
  • Advanced Quantitative Data Analysis
  • Policy Analysis and Evaluation Research
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Digital social research
  • Social Statistics modules
  • Gender Studies modules
  • Policy Masters modules

or other modules by arrangement with the Programme Director.

In addition to the above modules, MRes students will complete the following:

  • Research Dissertation: MRes students must undertake an original social science research study and complete a research dissertation with academic supervision

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 MRes/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, presentations, a computer lab-based assessment for quantitative data analysis,  and the research dissertation. There are no examinations.


Core modules

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.
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. 

Optional modules

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.
CRMP010 Criminological Perspectives SCQF level 11, 20 credits
This module aims to introduce students to the theoretical foundations that underpin criminological research and analysis.  As part of the student’s work in preparation for the criminology dissertation, the module begins by examining the epistemological contexts of the main theories within criminology and proceeds throughout the course to investigate through a broad range of classical and modern criminological texts, the historical context of the subject area as a whole. 
EDRP001 Nature of Educational Enquiry SCQF level 11, 20 credits
Drawing upon specific research projects and debates, this module will introduce you to the differing ways of conceptualising the purposes of education, and the theories informing knowledge claims in research. It will enable you to engage with the different traditions of ideas informing research into education, and their strengths and weaknesses. The module therefore involves a critical examination of different approaches to and traditions in educational research and their underlying assumptions.
GNDPP02 Feminist Research SCQF level 11, 20 credits
The module explores the principles and practicalities of feminist research and the conditions in which it is conducted inside and outside of universities. We will consider what makes research "feminist" in a variety of contexts, and will explore key issues such as objectivity, intersectionality, power, emotion, writing practices and who/what feminist research is (can be, should be) for.
MPPPP01 How Does the Policy Process Work? SCQF level 11, 20 credits
The aim of the module is to enhance understanding, in considerable depth, the relationship between policymaking and policy influencing bodies at multiple levels (for example, local, Scottish, UK, EU, and global). We explore topics such as: what policy is and how it is made, multilevel policymaking, policy networks and governance, power and ideas, socioeconomic factors and the role of ‘events’.
SSSP001 Social Network Analysis SCQF level 11, 20 credits
This module examines both the theory and methods of social network analysis (SNA). Students will explore social capital, the consequences of network positions and the increasing awareness of networks. A range of SNA methodologies are covered, including centrality measures, quadratic assignment procedure regression and E-I index. Students will learn various specialist software packages, including UCInet and Pajek.
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. 
ASRP026 Advanced Quantitative Methods SCQF level 11, 20 credits
This module provides training in the application of methods of quantitative data analysis that are relatively advanced in character. Themes covered include advanced issues in regression models; models for categorical outcomes; multilevel models; the analysis of longitudinal data; and the analysis of multi-process systems. 
CRMP013 Criminalisation, Social Control and Human Rights SCQF level 11, 20 credits
This module explores the relationship between human rights and the changing shape of criminal law that has come about through the emerging technologies of security post 9/11 examining the political and structural conditions which allow rights-discourses to be institutionalized and which also allow violations of rights to occur.
CRMP020 Research Methods in Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies SCQF level 11, 20 credits
The module introduces students to the specific challenges involved in conducting research within the main criminal justice agencies, examines key data sources used in criminological and socio-legal research (including the use of law library resources) and provides an understanding of the various ways in which criminological research relates to the development of policy.
EDRP002 Data Collection and Analysis SCQF level 11, 20 credits
Drawing upon specific research projects and debates, this module will introduce students to the differing ways of conceptualising the purposes of education, and the theories informing knowledge claims in research. It will enable students to engage with the different traditions of ideas informing research into education, and their strengths and weaknesses. The module therefore involves a critical examination of different approaches to and traditions in educational research and their underlying assumptions.
MPPPP04 Policymaking: Theories and Approaches SCQF level 11, 20 credits
The module provides a comprehensive analysis of policymaking theories and approaches, comparing political science with other disciplines, including economics, communication, psychology, management and social marketing.
SSSP005 Advanced Data Management SCQF level 11, 10 credits

Students will learn how to conduct analyses with complex data and how to produce high quality syntax files which facilitate replication by other researchers. A range of data management, and variable construction, techniques will be developed. Students will undertake an assignment testing their ability to produce simple transcriptions of undertaking advanced analysis of complex data. 

SSSP007 Using Big Data in Social Research SCQF level 11, 10 credits

This module concerns the use of big data as a social science methodology. Students will learn the differences between ‘big data’ and ‘big good data’ and learn to critically engage with the potential for data to provide robust evidence. Training will be provided in analysing social media data, particularly Twitter, through a range of software including R and NodeXL.

TESP012 Technologies in the 21st Century Classroom SCQF level 11, 20 credits
Provides an opportunity for students to create multimedia materials using authoring programs for language teaching and learning.

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

Example timetable

The timetable below is a typical example, but your own timetable may be different.

The normal teaching day for this programme is all day on Fridays, teaching on certain modules may take place on other days.

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 .

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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