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Programme Structure and Aims

Cardiff University Postgraduate Students


Structure of the SSRM Programme

The programme has a modular structure, made up of 180 credits.  Of these, 120 are allocated to the taught module stage – or Diploma – which is assessed by written coursework, oral presentations and examinations, and 60 to a research-based dissertation.

The programme is designed to meet the generic and subject specific requirements set out in the ESRC’s Postgraduate Training Guidelines, and is divided into the following elements:

  • Generic Methods modules: These core modules are designed to meet the generic research methods training requirements of the ESRC. They provide a thorough grounding in core social science skills including philosophy of social science, research design and the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data.

  • Specialist (pathway) modules: These compulsory modules are designed to meet the specialist requirements of the ESRC’s pathways. They provide a systematic introduction to the specific challenges and approaches found within the field of (your specific pathway). Topics covered include key theoretical approaches in (your specific pathway) and practical issues arising from the investigation of complex, interdisciplinary topics relating to (your specific pathway).

  • Optional modules (Advanced Methods and Specialist): These optional modules provide students with the chance to tailor the degree studies to their own research interests by developing additional skills in a particular methodological and/or substantive domain.

  • Dissertation (20,000 words): Given the emphasis on research methods training throughout the scheme, the dissertation is a crucial element, giving students the opportunity to apply the methodological and analytic skills developed in the taught element of the scheme to a specific topic.

The combination of modules taken by each student must accord with requirements of his/her chosen pathway.  It is essential that every student discusses his/her route through the MSc/Diploma programme with his/her supervisor or personal tutor.

The MSc will take one year to complete if on a full-time basis, (60 credits per Semester = 6 modules) and will usually take two years (minimum) or three years if part-time (30 credits each semester = 3 modules).  Part-time students are required to complete all core modules before choosing optional modules.

The Diploma will take approximately nine months to complete on a full-time basis. Diploma students are not required to complete a dissertation.


Aims of the SSRM Programme

The MSc/Diploma in Social Science Research Methods aims to provide advanced training in research methods across the full range of the social sciences.  Students are provided with a thorough theoretical and practical knowledge of how to construct effective research studies, of the variety of data collection methods available to the social scientist and of the principal methods of analysing social data.  They are also introduced to the political and ethical frameworks within which social science research is conducted; and to some of the ways in which the results of social science research are disseminated.

At the end of the year, graduates are expected to complete the programme with:

  • A firm understanding of the variety of social science research methods and their application to different research problems and contexts
  • The knowledge to provide a philosophical justification for their own and others’ research, and to make informed judgements about competing theories based on different interpretations or conflicting sources of evidence
  • The research expertise to plan and conduct high quality doctoral level research
  • The practical knowledge and skills to conduct research in accordance with ethical guidelines
  • A developed understanding of a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as an advanced understanding of specialist techniques
  • The communication skills to present their research plans and progress clearly in oral and written modes to academic and non-academic audiences
  • A first-hand understanding of the research problems and methods of related social science disciplines
  • The foundations for further developing their employer-related skills (for example, in the three years of a PhD programme)