This MA in Social Research combines methodological training with flexible sets of modules in different areas of social inquiry, and is thus suitable for those with a range of disciplinary backgrounds. It is ideal for both those wishing to train or re-train in social research skills to support a career in the public or private sector and those interested in preparing for further PhD research. Our students have gone on to a range of careers, including fast-track civil service positions, research in private companies, positions in non-governmental organisations and academic research careers.
Five different pathways are available:
- Gender and Women’s Studies
- Media and Cultural Studies
- Environment, Culture and Society
- Science, Technology, Innovation and Social Practices
The programme consists of four core modules, two optional modules and a dissertation. It is possible for pathways to be slightly amended to tailor them more closely to your needs. If you have any questions about which pathway is best suited to your interests, please contact us.
As a programme recognised by the Northwest Doctoral Training Partnership (Economic and Social Research Council), you may be eligible to apply for funding through MA or MA+PhD studentships. You have the opportunity to learn how to design, analyse and defend research through hands-on activities. Our aim is for you to become skilled in the translation of theoretically-informed research questions into research projects.
2:1 Hons degree (UK or equivalent) in a relevant social science.
We may also consider non-standard applicants, please contact us for information.
If you have studied outside of the UK, we would advise you to check our list of international qualifications before submitting your application.
English Language Requirements
We may ask you to provide a recognised English language qualification, dependent upon your nationality and where you have studied previously.
We normally require an IELTS (Academic) Test with an overall score of at least 7.0, and a minimum of 6.0 in each element of the test. We also consider other English language qualifications.
If your score is below our requirements, you may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language programmes.
Contact: Admissions Team +44 (0) 1524 592032 or email email@example.com
This MA has five different pathways available which allow students to tailor the programme to their own interests without losing the focus on research training. Below is a sample of modules which are available to students on this programme - for full details please read more about our pathways.
Contemporary Debates in Global Social Theory
This module offers you the chance to engage with the work of some key social theorists influencing sociology today – particularly their views, implicit or explicit, on the role and nature of critique and values in social science, how they theorise our social nature, and power in social life.
We will address a number of major questions – for example, are so-called ‘critical’ approaches compatible with the idea of sociology as a social science? On what grounds can we develop critiques of society? If we are products of our social circumstances, what room, if any, does that leave for individual responsibility? How can we best theorise power? How far does social theory need to be decolonised? What can sociology tell us about neoliberalism?
By examining such questions, we aim to help you form your own judgement of how adequate these sociological theories are, and how they might usefully inform research. Sub-themes of the module include universalism, discourse, structure and agency.
As the final element in your Masters programme, the MA dissertation allows you to bring together and showcase the skills and knowledge you have acquired from other modules, and demonstrate your ability to carry out a substantial independent research project.
Provided a suitable supervisor is available, you can choose your own topic to investigate. Once you have chosen your topic, the Department will provide a supervisor that best matches your research interests. You will be assessed on your capacity to define your research topic, to articulate a coherent scheme for examining that topic, to gather the necessary information, and to analyse and present the information in a way which does justice to the topic you have chosen.
As preparation for your dissertation you will take part in several MA learning skills workshops.. These sessions are designed to help you develop your skills in reading, reviewing and writing, and in presenting your work in an environment which offers both support and constructive criticism.
Making Research Count: Engaging with Quantitative Data
This module aims to develop your understanding of the ways in which social phenomena are conceptualised, defined and measured. The course normally includes a mix of lectures, seminars, and computer-based labs where you will get to play with real data. You will have the opportunity to access data, explore data sets, generate and modify variables, frequency counts, cross-tabulation, produce tables, bar charts and scattergrams, and test relationships between variables.
In this module, you have opportunities to:
- Demonstrate that social phenomena are contestable 'realities' and understand the complexities in the empirical debates
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of contrasting approaches to the analysis of variations in the scale and distribution of social phenomena in society
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how to critically analyse and evaluate quantitative evidence on social phenomena
Research Projects in Practice: From Design to Dissemination
This module gives you the opportunity to organise and undertake a group research project on a subject of your own choosing. You will work through processes of research design and strategy, developing research questions, planning and carrying out fieldwork and analysis, and presenting and evaluating research.
Working together in groups, you will produce a high-quality project report in the form of a journal article, and you will also make an oral presentation of your work. You are also encouraged to keep a research diary of the process, which provides the basis for an individual reflective essay which is submitted after the module has finished.
Although the module is has many practical elements, it also provides the opportunity for you to examine generic issues involved in doing social research and to learn about the contemporary context of research policy and funding.
Capitalism and Crisis
In this module we consider a major theme in classical and contemporary sociology – capitalism and its crisis tendencies.
Topics for debate might include:
- the nature of capitalism, its phases, varieties, and global articulation
- whether capitalism is inherently prone to crisis, and what forms of crisis are characteristic of capitalism
- the nature of the contemporary crisis in capitalism, its periodisation and temporalities, differences in its dynamics across so-called varieties of capitalism, and its broader economic, political, and socio-cultural repercussions
- the question of whether capitalism is governable
- crisis management, and crises of crisis management
Challenging Educational Inequalities
This module will consider a range of social justice issues within education relating to (but not limited to) gender, class, 'race’ and ethnicity, age, sexuality, disability, language, geography, religion, and their intersections. This will involve developing an understanding of how advantage and disadvantage are structured through policy, practice and experiences; how students from different groups experience inclusion and exclusion; how educational institutions may generate, reinforce or reproduce social inequalities; and how educational inequalities may be challenged. Education will be considered as both an issue of social justice and as a practice for social justice.
This module will provide you with the opportunity to interrogate social justice issues within society and explore how these play out through the education system, developing and enhancing your knowledge and understanding of inequalities. It will engage you in analysis of complex processes of inclusion and exclusion and equip you with the tools to critically evaluate educational structures, policy and practices to both examine and challenge inequalities.
This module engages with a socio-cultural analysis of what has been called a ‘consumer society’, a society with increasing emphasis on marketisation, commercialisation and commodification. The module approaches a variety of topics that consumer society has intensified - such as promotional culture, advertising and branding - and students will have the opportunity to work with a range of conceptual resources to produce understandings of these issues and their impact on society. This module, therefore, offers you key resources with which to understand contemporary society and social change in a way which complements their other core and optional modules.
Critical Debates in Media and Cultural Studies
This module introduces approaches to critical analysis of key forms of contemporary media and culture such as commodities, celebrities, platforms and different media forms and environments.
We will read and discuss recent and formative writings in cultural and media studies, allowing you to develop an understanding of key concepts such as subjectivity, platform, materiality, commodity, difference, value and power, and how they help us make sense of contemporary social life. You will also engage with analytical work on specific media platforms, products and practices, ranging from photographs and search engines to newspapers and reality TV.
Topics we may explore include:
concepts of culture in relation to images, commodities and brands
popular culture, audiences and media practices associated with celebrity
contemporary digital media cultures, and their circulation and consumption
embodiment, differences, politics and identities amidst media change
Critical Methods in Media and Cultural Studies
This module is designed to introduce you to contemporary methodological issues, key approaches, practical techniques, and case examples relating to the study of media and culture.
Many different methods are used in media and cultural studies, and that variety is reflected in this module. To explore research practice in this discipline, we look at textual and discourse analysis, visual analysis, ethnography and participatory approaches, but place a strong emphasis on engaging with issues of identity, differences, power and experience in the hyper-complex media and cultural environments that we live in.
To give you a taste of particular research methods and approaches, we draw on recent examples of media and cultural research done here at Lancaster, and encourage you to explore their theoretical and practical implications.
We aim to have a number of invited guest speakers on this module, and you will have the opportunity to discuss and critically evaluate different methodological approaches and learn how to draw on these approaches as a starting point for your own research. It is our aim that you acquire a good understanding of the key elements in planning and carrying out independent research projects.
This module is normally taught over the course of one week in the summer term and is designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration between social scientists and computer scientists. It will give you and opportunity to gain a critical understanding of deviance online, ‘cybercrime’ and ‘cybersecurity’ by engaging with classic and cutting-edge social research. With an emphasis on workshop discussion, you will be encouraged to develop your critical and reflective thinking around criminal and deviant activities online, through for example a consideration of gender and age power relations as they are played out in offline/online environments and through online practices. This module aims:
- To critically analyse crime and deviance online within an interdisciplinary learning environment using classic and cutting-edge social research literature
- To critically analyse sociological theories of online practices and coherently apply these theories to crime and deviance online
- To situate the emergence of, and concern with, crime and deviance online within various historical, cultural, socio-economic, socio-political and socio-technical contexts
- To develop an understanding of the complex relationships between crime and deviance online and a range of stakeholders, including ‘criminals’, internet users, the cybersecurity industry, ISP’s, and the state
*This module is part of the MSc in Cybersecurity and is a compulsory module for this programme.
Debates in Gender Research
This module introduces you to the practicalities and philosophies of doing interdisciplinary research in gender and women’s studies. You have the opportunity to learn how to interpret, understand and explore the consequences of particular research methods and will be encouraged to consider the relationship between theories and methods in research.
You will have the opportunity to reflect on the politics of knowledge, the ethics of research, and the relationship between disciplines and interdisciplinary fields such as gender and women’s studies. You will have the opportunity to learn how some key conceptual frameworks within feminism (for example, sex and gender, body politics, sexual difference, queer) have been constructed over time through both research practices and theoretical arguments.
We aim for this module to be useful as preparation for your own research later in the programme and particularly for your Masters dissertation.
Environment and Culture
Current debates over issues such as genetically modified crops, nuclear power, shale gas, loss of biodiversity or climate justice – and the protest movements and campaigns that have arisen in response – provide tangible evidence that the relationship between society and the environment is a difficult and often controversial one.
This module examines the role that sociology and social theory can play in helping us to understand that relationship better, and explores the range of approaches that have been developed in environmental sociology.
Studying the environment sociologically opens up a host of interconnected social, cultural and political issues. Whose knowledge counts? How can we handle unquantifiable risk? What role should technology play? And what about democracy, freedom, diversity and justice?
Using lectures and seminar discussion, the module will lead you through the resources of sociology and social theory to enable you to think through these questions in relation to some of the most urgent environmental issues facing societies today. For example, what might ‘liveable cities’ look like in the future? Do biotechnologies provide solutions to world hunger, or not? How can governments make democratic decisions about the disposal of nuclear waste?
Feminist Media and Cultural Studies
This module focuses on crucial feminist interventions in cultural production and cultural studies and introduces you to contemporary debates in feminist theory. You will have the opportunity to explore specific forms of activism, engagement and resistance that have identified hierarchies and challenged the ways in which these produce gendered, sexual, ethnic and racial identities and oppression.
We will examine a range of sources from popular culture, media, art, public culture and policy, enabling us to bring feminist cultural theory into dialogue with a range of media and other cultural productions and practices.
The particular focus and format of the module may change each year, allowing us to link to topical debates or events taking place in the wider community. Recently, for example, the module was run as a week-long summer school on Feminist Activism and involved film screenings, lectures, group work and discussions. It ran in parallel with a Manchester University Summer School on “Queer Arts as Activism”. The exact format of this module will be communicated at registration.
Gender, Sex and Bodies
How are gender, sex and bodies understood in contemporary sociology and feminist theory? How do feminist theorists and social scientists address questions of difference, representation and performativity in their research?
In this module you have the opportunity to engage in depth with the work of particular theorists, critically evaluate relevant empirical findings, and explore current issues of importance to feminism. Topics include e.g. medicalization and health, race and racism, sex and sexuality, bodily autonomy, and reproductive choice.
Assessments will give you scope to follow your own interests in more depth by using the reading lists provided and undertaking independent research.
Key issues and theories in social justice and education
The module will explore key issues and theories in social justice and education. We will start by considering what social justice means and how it serves different educational ideologies and explore some key theories with which to analyse these through a social justice lens. Key differences between different theories of social justice will be explored, and their implications for education examined. We will also explore how different theoretical lenses can provide new ways of viewing aspects of educational systems, and use these lenses to examine multiple perspectives. The ways in which social justice issues currently arise within different education settings will be explored, and we will consider how education can challenge and/or reinforce inequalities. We will also begin to think about issues associated with researching social justice and how theory can help focus analysis of substantive issues. We reflect on whether social justice is simply a topic of research or whether it requires particular approaches and commitments on the part of the researcher. Alongside this, we will think through academic writing practices and get to understand the expectations of the course.
Indicative topics include:
• What is meant by social justice?
• Theories of social justice.
• Promoting social justice through and in education
• Contemporary social justice issues in education
Methods in Science and Technology Studies
This module is designed to familiarise you with various ways of thinking about and analysing contemporary relations between science, technology and society. It draws upon a rich vein of theory and practice within science and technology studies (STS), an area of research that is particularly strong at Lancaster University.
You will be encouraged to ask sociologically-informed questions about the sciences and technologies that have become part of our everyday lives – including, for example, mobile phones, social media, cloud computing, genetic modification, human fertilisation techniques, air conditioning and technologies for electricity generation.
The module gives you the opportunity to to understand how the different interpretive research methodologies used in STS – such as ethnography and participant observation, surveys, and analysis of social media – enable a researcher to ask important critical questions about science, technology, the environment and society.
Through case studies chosen by students on the module you will consider how we might engage as analysts – using which methods and practices? In what kinds of role? With what kind of limitations? And with what kinds of responsibility and accountability?
Mobilities, Society & Change
‘Reality is movement’ Henri Bergson observes in Creative Evolution (1911). This module explores how the im|mobilities of people, goods, money, information, resources, policies shape the individual and collective, human and more-than-human, local, global, planetary and interplanetary realities we experience.
Mobility capital, mobility justice, mobility transformations are some of the key concepts we will explore. The module provides opportunities for you to experiment with mobile methods and how they shape the study of physical, imaginative and communicative mobilities of, for example, migration, tourism, work, and love. Decarbonising transport, the need for a digital ethics to govern the im|mobilities of data, and the multiple refugee crises across the world are examples of the global challenges that we will address. We will also consider issues of creative inspiration for activism and ‘affirmative critique’.
Theories of practice are widely discussed in contemporary social theory and introduce new possibilities for overcoming classic distinctions (individual: social, agency: structure, mind: body) in dualistic thinking in sociology. Developed and applied in many disciplines, practice theories provides critical insights into current global issues including environmental sustainability and health. Normally taught in a week-long intensive format, this module is delivered by the Practice Theory group at Lancaster and is open to visiting, international MA and PhD students. It normally blends lectures and short provocative talks with in-class exercises and student reading and writing groups to introduce you to a new take on important sociological topics such as power, time, materiality, social reproduction and variation, and method. The aim of the course is to give you opportunities to undertake theoretical and conceptual training in theories of social practice and develop an understanding of the ramifications of adopting a practice theory approach that might be applied to future investigations across a range of substantive areas from management to education, sustainability and energy to health.
This module explores key theoretical, methodological, and ethical issues in researching migration, migrants’ experience, and the effect of migration on origin and receiving societies. Through the use of case studies, you will have the opportunity to examine, in-depth, several topics in contemporary migration research, and related methodological and ethical considerations. Topics covered may include: are we living in an 'age of migration'?; how do we define 'migrant' and why does it matter?; borders; citizenship; migration as a reproductive justice issue; ethical considerations when researching migration; the use of qualitative and quantitative methods in researching migration; and more.
The Philosophies of Social Research
This module, often taught in the summer term, provides you with training in the philosophy of the social sciences. The course distinguishes debates surrounding a realist philosophy of science; different approaches to an interpretivist philosophy of social science; what counts as ‘critical’ social science’, and the relevance and application of these ideas to contemporary debates in the social sciences and pressing global, social concerns. This course will stand you in good stead, in particular, for developing an understanding of the theoretical ‘positioning’ of any, and your own, social scientific studies – a critical skill for both interpreting social scientific writing and preparing dissertations.
Information contained on the website with respect to modules is correct at the time of publication, but changes may be necessary, for example as a result of student feedback, Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies' (PSRB) requirements, staff changes, and new research. Not all optional modules are available every year.
Fees and Funding
|Location||Full Time (per year)||Part Time (per year)|
Scholarships and bursaries
At Lancaster, we believe that funding concerns should not stop any student with the talent to thrive.
We offer a range of scholarships and bursaries to help cover the cost of tuition fees and/or living expenses.
There may be extra costs related to your course for items such as books, stationery, printing, photocopying, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits. Following graduation, you may need to pay a subscription to a professional body for some chosen careers.
Specific additional costs for studying at Lancaster are listed below.
Lancaster is proud to be one of only a handful of UK universities to have a collegiate system. Every student belongs to a college, and all students pay a small which supports the running of college events and activities.
For students starting in 2022, the fee is £40 for undergraduates and research students and £15 for students on one-year courses. Fees for students starting in 2023 have not yet been set.
Computer equipment and internet access
To support your studies, you will also require access to a computer, along with reliable internet access. You will be able to access a range of software and services from a Windows, Mac, Chromebook or Linux device. For certain degree programmes, you may need a specific device, or we may provide you with a laptop and appropriate software - details of which will be available on relevant programme pages. A dedicated IT support helpdesk is available in the event of any problems.
The University provides limited financial support to assist students who do not have the required IT equipment or broadband support in place.
Fees in subsequent years
The University will not increase the Tuition Fee you are charged during the course of an academic year.
If you are studying on a programme of more than one year's duration, the tuition fees for subsequent years of your programme are likely to increase each year. The way in which continuing students' fee rates are determined varies according to an individual's 'fee status' as set out on our fees webpages.
The information on this site relates primarily to 2022/2023 entry to the University and every effort has been taken to ensure the information is correct at the time of publication.
The University will use all reasonable effort to deliver the courses as described, but the University reserves the right to make changes to advertised courses. In exceptional circumstances that are beyond the University’s reasonable control (Force Majeure Events), we may need to amend the programmes and provision advertised. In this event, the University will take reasonable steps to minimise the disruption to your studies. If a course is withdrawn or if there are any fundamental changes to your course, we will give you reasonable notice and you will be entitled to request that you are considered for an alternative course or withdraw your application. You are advised to revisit our website for up-to-date course information before you submit your application.
More information on limits to the University’s liability can be found in our legal information.
Our Students’ Charter
We believe in the importance of a strong and productive partnership between our students and staff. In order to ensure your time at Lancaster is a positive experience we have worked with the Students’ Union to articulate this relationship and the standards to which the University and its students aspire. View our Charter and other policies.