Triangle

Course overview

This degree is aimed at students who want to follow an ESRC-funded pathway onto a PhD or are interested in developing a wide range of social science research techniques. It will equip you with the theory and practical skills to carry out independent research.

You'll learn about methods and techniques used in social sciences research, such as:

  • data collection and analysis
  • the philosophical, ethical and political issues that underpin social sciences research
  • theories of research design

You'll be led by experts whose research engages with fundamental political issues including security and terrorism, political corruption, and social and global justice.

You'll graduate ready for research posts in academic, voluntary, private and third-sector settings.

Why choose this course?

Develop your skills

preparing you to undertake a PhD

Learn from experts

who are internationally recognised for their research in politics and international relations

Gain real experience

through our placement programme

Course content

You will complete 80 credits of core research methods modules, plus 40 credits of either advanced research methods or politics-specific training, and a 60-credit dissertation.

The individual dissertation project provides you with the opportunity for a sustained engagement in the development and refinement of knowledge and understanding through detailed exploration of a specific issue.

You'll also complete up to 40 credits of optional modules from the school in advanced research methods and/or any other modules, subject to approval.

Modules

Core modules

Foundations in Qualitative Methods

This module provides a conceptual overview of the various approaches and debates associated with theory and practice of qualitative research. It examines a range of contrasting perspectives on the design of research including problem identification, selection and sampling, and analysis.

Research ethics, and the role of the researcher in generating qualitative data, are key themes which run through the module. Specific consideration is given to the ways in which qualitative and quantitative approaches may be seen as complementary, and the use of mixed methods.

The module will also cover the ways in which qualitative research can be evaluated. The module will also facilitate dialogue between members of different social science disciplines, to give an understanding of how some issues or practices may be viewed differently from different disciplinary perspectives.

Fundamentals of Quantitative Analysis

This module aims to give you:

  • An understanding of the methods of statistical analysis, using topics and datasets from the empirical social science literature
  • A familiarity with STATA statistical software and data management

The course uses a range of datasets from across political science, focusing on topics such as social capital, voter turnout, cabinet duration, demonstration activity and class voting.

Philosophy of Social Science Research

The module has three parts:

  1. Science and the philosophical critique of science
  2. Epistemological debates in the social sciences - including, but not limited to, positivism and its critics, interpretative approaches including phenomenology, critical realism, social construction and the politics of knowledge and the sociology of science
  3. The funding environment - interdisciplinarity and the impact agenda
Research Design, Practice and Ethics

This module focuses on the analytical, practical and ethical organisation of social science research. 

The analytical organisation is often referred to as 'research design' and will constitute the bulk of the content of this module. Research design consists of choices necessary to transform a research question into actual research. These choices pertain to strategies and modes of case selection, observation methods, data collection and modes of analysis. 

Every research question can be elaborated in different ways (ie with different designs), none of which will be ideal in all respects as the various choices pertain to trade-offs. Each design has its own implications in terms of costs and in terms of potential threats to the validity of its eventual results. These implications will be elaborated in the module, as well as ways how to handle the resulting choice problems in actual practice.

The practical organisation of research is closely related to design choices, but focuses particularly on logistical and timing issues. Ethical organisation of the research involves awareness of ethical issues, of ethical consent procedures and of their implications for research design and practical organisation.

Dissertation

The research and writing of a substantive dissertation of 12-15,000 words within the field of political science and international relations.

Optional modules

Airpower and Modern Conflict

The invention of the aircraft fundamentally changed the ways in which wars are fought and won. Over the course of only a century airpower developed into an indispensable instrument of warfare. Today, war without airpower is an unlikely prospect and major military operations, as a rule, are launched with overwhelming air attacks.

In recent years, however, the utility of 'strategic' airpower has increasingly come under question. Whilst technological innovation continues to strengthen airpower's capabilities, the relevance of these capabilities in contemporary conflicts cannot be taken for granted.

This module critically assesses the role of air power in modern conflict within the broader framework of strategic and security studies. It will assess the evolution of air power theory since the First World War and examine the limits of its practical application with reference to specific air campaigns.

Contemporary Warfare

This module aims to explore the dynamics of conflict in the modern world. It will primarily address the increased role that non-state actors play in global security. It will introduce you to empirical analyses of numerous terrorist and insurgent groups, as well as to theoretical understandings of sub-state violence in the post-9/11 world. This module will enable you to engage with the concepts of resistance and rebellion in international relations and widen understanding of the multiple levels of global security.

Covert Action and Unacknowledged Interventions

This module covers:

  • Covert Action
  • Propaganda and Influence Operations
  • Fake News and the Digital Revolution
  • Political Action: Coups, Bribery, and Election Rigging
  • Paramilitary Action: Sponsoring Insurgencies
  • Assassination and Targeted Killing
  • Secrecy in International Relations
  • Covert Signalling and Strategy
  • Political Management of Covert Action
  • Democratic Oversight of Covert Action
  • Measuring Success: Evaluating Secret Policy Impact
Disasters, Politics and Society

Disasters are defined by the United Nations as ‘a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope with using its own resources.’ The failure successfully to reconcile human behaviour with environmental threats has, throughout time and in different places, led to multiple disasters.

This module will examine the relationship between natural hazards and human society, how and why disasters happen and how the impact of disasters can be ameliorated. With reference to cases across the globe, there will be a focus on how social life has mitigated, adapted and evolved in the face of environmental hazards.

We will examine the social, economic and technological processes that mediate the relationship between human society and the natural world. We will examine key themes such as governance, technological innovation, urbanisation and migration, gender, culture and identity, global patterns of production and consumption, health and pandemics, race and class to understand why disasters impact on different people in different ways.

Global Asia

This module examines major themes, debates and issues related to the study of politics and international relations in the specific regional context of Asia.

It will explore key features and themes in Asian politics including political systems, political economy and development, political values and ideas, as well as pan-Asian themes and international relations/global politics including intra-regional, trans-regional and international issues. It combines theoretical perspectives with historical developments and contemporary issues in Asian politics.

Grand Strategy

Grand Strategy examines how states have sought to integrate political, economic, and military goals to preserve their long-term interests. The module analyses a variety of strategies to understand what drives decision making at the highest levels of government in times of war and peace. It draws on scholarship from the fields of international relations, diplomatic history, and strategic studies to provide you with a more nuanced understanding of global politics.

Intermediate Quantitative Analysis

The objective of this module is to introduce you to specific intermediate-level issues of quantitative data analysis. In doing so, it will focus on examples from the analysis of cross-sectional survey data.

The lecture component of the module will explore the most common issues that arise when examining cross-sectional survey data. This includes issues such as: measurement error, non-response, missing data, weighting, recoding, and merging data sets. The lectures will also discuss the relative strengths of different survey modes: face-to-face, telephone and Internet. Finally, the lectures will discuss logistic regression.

In the laboratory component, you will learn to address the most common issues and the use of logistic regression, using a range of the most popular survey data sets. Through assignments, you will have the opportunity to develop and test hypotheses and explanations using major survey data sets. The module should provide you with the skills necessary to take cross-sectional survey data sets, and conduct the analysis necessary to conduct a full scale research project. The module will also provide you with the intermediate-level quantitative skills necessary to take more advanced quantitative modules, in survey analysis or otherwise.

IPE in the Era of Globalisation and Regionalisation

The study of international political economy is essentially interdisciplinary, based on the premise that the political and economic domains are inextricably intertwined in the international system.

The module will introduce you to the main approaches to international political economy, provide a brief overview of the post-war international political economy, before the main focus is turned towards globalisation and the related structural changes in the global economy. This will include a theoretical engagement with the concepts of globalisation, regionalisation and regionalism as well as an analysis of empirical changes in the areas of international trade, finance, production and development with a particular emphasis on the current global economic crisis.

The module will further address the question of the relationship between globalisation and the individual instances of regional integration including the EU, NAFTA and APEC, before it looks at recent formations of resistance to globalisation expressed in demonstrations against G8 meetings (for example, Heligendamm 2007) as well as developments around the European and World Social Forums.

Justice Beyond Borders: Theories of International and Intergenerational Justice

The module introduces and explores the concept of distributive justice on an international and intergenerational basis. Standard accounts of distributive justice typically operate upon the assumption that the relevant principles are framed by, and apply within the borders of the nation-state.

This module examines how justice has traditionally been conceptualised, and challenges the idea of the nation-state as providing limits to the proper operation of principles of justice. Justice between nations, and between generations, as well as between humans and non-humans, forms the focus of this module.

The programme for dealing with these themes includes:

  • international theories of justice, with particular reference to faminie relief and humanitarian intervention
  • intergenerational justice and personal identity
  • 'biocentric' theories of justice
  • animal rights
  • direct political action
Multi-Level Modelling for Social Research

This module provides an intermediate level induction in modern multi-level modelling for social science research. 

You will not only be introduced to these methods, but you will also critically evaluate them in relation to other analytical options, and the course provides, in addition to substantive and methodological instruction, practical training in conducting these kinds of analysis.

The Politics of Celebrity, Sex and 'Alternative' Lifestyles in China

This module will introduce you to developments in Chinese society, media and popular culture. Through the vehicle of 'alternative' lifestyles it will examine the political, social and economic contexts that have given rise to expanded opportunities, and concomitant responses from the state, for personal and political expression.

The module will provide detailed studies of Chinese celebrity, sex, internet culture, self-development, and numerous subcultures through a lens of class, gender, urbanisation and generation change.

Research Methods in International Relations

This module covers:

  1. Methods and methodology – the logic of qualitative and quantitative research
  2. Theory, metatheory and methodology – how they relate to each other
  3. Quantitative data collection – surveys and polls
  4. Quantitative data analysis – basic statistical analysis
  5. Qualitative data collection – interviews and documents
  6. Qualitative data analysis - process tracing, thematic analysis, discourse analysis
  7. Mixed methodology – pros and cons
  8. Primary and secondary sources – how to use the library
  9. Research questions, design and ethics – practical considerations of research 
  10. Academic skills – how to write a literature review and how to plan a dissertation
Structural Equation Modelling

This module focuses on the use of structural equation models (SEM), in empirical social research. 

You will cover the methodological background of SEM, practical considerations in actual applications, empirical examples from different disciplines, and hands-on training (using the STATA software). The module is also relevant for those using other software such as AMOS, LISREL or MPlus.

Terrorism and Insurgencies

This module is designed to acquaint you with two of the most important aspects of contemporary international security: terrorism and insurgencies.

Both threats have become more acute in recent years and much intellectual, military and economic capital has been used up in efforts to contain them. In taking this module, you will begin to understand the nature of the threats posed by terrorists and insurgents. You will understand how such threats come about and why individuals are drawn towards exercising the use of force against certain governments, their representatives, and the citizens of those governments. 

You will also understand the nature and scope of counter-insurgency practices. You will discuss what works and what does not and the controversies encountered in implementing certain measures. By the end of the module, you will be conversant with, and have an appreciation of, factors which affect the security of many people in today's world.

The Theory and Practice of Diplomacy

This module focuses on the changing nature of diplomatic practice, together with the range of conceptual tools that seek to explain this international activity. Its focus is contemporary.

It provides a political analysis of new developments such as the public diplomacy, the decline of resident embassies and foreign ministries, and the role of regional/multinational organisations and summitry. It also encourages you to consider future theoretical and practical developments in this field.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Wednesday 13 October 2021.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Discussion group

Modules are taught by the school and the Nottingham ERSC Doctoral Training Centre, and are delivered as seminars. Seminars may include small-group discussions and presentations, based on preliminary reading.

All modules, whatever the format of the teaching, involve discussion of key issues and problems, and analysis of case study material.

How you will be assessed

  • Coursework
  • Dissertation
  • Examinations

You will be assessed through the programme by a combination of coursework, examinations and dissertation.

Contact time and study hours

You will typically have one weekly two-hour seminar for each module, over a 10-week teaching semester. Most students take three or four modules each semester. Depending on its credit weighting, each module represents 100-200 hours of work (of which approximately 20 hours will be taught).

In addition to the taught seminars, you will also have the opportunity for individual discussions with your personal tutor and/or the programme director, as well as your dissertation supervisor.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2022 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject in the arts, humanities, or social sciences

Applying

Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply

Fees

All listed fees are per year of study.

Qualification MA
Home / UK £9,000
International £21,000

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you will pay international tuition fees in most cases. If you are resident in the UK and have 'settled' or 'pre-settled' status under the EU Settlement Scheme, you will be entitled to 'home' fee status.

Irish students will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our information for applicants from the EU.

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles which could cost up to £120.

Please note that these figures are approximate and subject to change.

Funding

There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding

Careers

We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

This course is particularly suitable if you are interested in pursuing PhD study in the social sciences. It may also be useful if you are looking to pursue a career in a statistical or quantitative discipline, such as analysis or planning roles.

Career progression

90.7% of postgraduates from the School of Politics and International Relations secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £26,593.*

* HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020, using methodology set by The Guardian. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

We offer a range of local, national and international placement opportunities, which may be paid or voluntary, part-time alongside your studies or longer placements during University vacations.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates

Related courses

This content was last updated on Wednesday 13 October 2021. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.