Social Science Research Methodology MPhil/PhD


Fact file

PhD/MPhil Social Science Research Methodology
PhD: 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time; MPhil: 2 years full-time, 4 years part-time
Entry requirements
Masters degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject, with an average mark of 60% or above
7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element) If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
Other requirements

Research overview

A PhD is the most advanced form of postgraduate study. It is awarded on the successful completion of a programme of supervised research and is assessed by an oral examination and final thesis.

A MPhil requires research skills and training similar to a PhD yet its scope and complexity are less than that required for a doctorate. The MPhil is assessed by the submission of a thesis.

These programmes offer you the opportunity to acquire first-class methodological expertise, and, if desired, to apply this expertise to substantive research into a topic of your choice. You will normally need to take four clinics from the Method and Data Institute's (MDI) programme in your first two years (clinics are short intensive courses that teach the theory and practice of a particular research method).

Students without sufficient background in research methods may also be required to take additional taught modules in their first year, as decided by the Director of Postgraduate Studies in consultation with the student's supervisors. Normally, these will be chosen from the modules on research design, philosophy of social sciences, qualitative methods and quantitative methods offered by the MA Research Methods (MARM) consortium that jointly delivers MA training.

You will usually be supervised jointly by the MDI and one of the University's other schools or institutes appropriate to your research area.

Current research interests within MDI are outlined below. Although these are our main areas of research, expertise in other areas and disciplines can be provided through joint supervision from other schools or institutes.

Research interests

Methodological research

Focusing on studies of measurement and operationalisation, complex data structures, research design, multivariate analysis and textual analysis.

Comparative social research

The MDi is involved in a number of large scale, EU-wide collaborative research projects about citizens, political parties, media, social movements and political institutions. These projects offer many opportunities for PhD research in international networks.

Political and social attitudes and behaviour

The MDI is linked to a number of large-scale projects that collect data about parties and voters in various contexts, each of which provides many opportunities for subsequent PhD research. Examples are the British Election Studies, European Election Studies, European Survey, the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems and the World Values Study.

Systematic analysis of text

The MDI develops and applies automated methods of content analysis to political text such as speeches and manifestos to determine topic, content, and the ideological positions of actors. Current projects focus on integrating methods from different disciplines, particularly discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, and statistical machine learning, into a cohesive framework for systematic social science text analysis. These methods offer rich possibilities for PhD research into political party dynamics, mass communication, and strategic role of political rhetoric in international contexts.

View our how to apply page for details of entry requirements and what to include with your application.



School facilities

In addition to the IT facilities provided by the University, the School of Politics and International Relations offers all full-time postgraduate research students registered with the school their own workspace in rooms designated for use by research students. Students are provided with computer, printing and photocopying facilities and are given a generous printing and photocopying allowance.

Library facilities

The Hallward Library stocks a large number of politics and international relations related publications and journals. Our library facilities open long hours and include areas for group work, individual and silent study.

Graduate School

Representing the needs of postgraduate students across the University, the Graduate School provides research training and development for postgraduates and early career researchers.

You will have access to a dedicated space on University Park, which includes computer stations, Wi-Fi, study and social areas, and kitchen facilities.


Research support


The school runs a weekly colloquium for postgraduate research students giving students the opportunity to present their work in front of other research students and staff with similar research interests to their own.

Research seminars

The school runs research seminars for staff and postgraduate research students. Postgraduate research students are encouraged to become members of one or more of the school's research centres. The research centres offer a full programme of workshops, reading groups, talks and conferences.

Teaching experience

In view of a possible future career in academia, postgraduate research students are encouraged to undertake some undergraduate teaching in their second and/or third year of postgraduate research. The University's Graduate School runs training sessions related to teaching - students who wish to teach are requested to attend a number of these during their first year of postgraduate research study.

Student Services

Student Services provide a range of support and information to enhance your student experience. They are part of a comprehensive network of University services that includes academic and disability support, counselling, financial support and childcare services.

International Office

The International Office ensures EU and international students have all the information they need to live and study at Nottingham. It offers a welcome programme just before the start of the academic year.

Centre for English Language Education

Accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK, the University's Centre for English Language Education provides high-quality preparation and English language support, as well as a social programme for its students.

Students' Union

The Students' Union is an important source of support with their own Student Advice Centre and dedicated postgraduate officer.

Researcher Development Programme

Working closely with academic schools, the Graduate School's dedicated training team contribute to faculty specific and doctoral training programmes. They deliver core training in line with the standards set out by the UK's major research funders through their researcher development programme.

As well as helping you to develop your research skills, this offers you opportunities to enhance your communication skills, career prospects, time management and entrepreneurship, as well as meet and work alongside researchers from other disciplines.


Find a supervisor

We encourage you to get in touch with a member of academic staff about your research proposal before submitting an application. They may be able to help you with your proposal and offer support to find funding opportunities in your area. Details of research supervisors at the University can be found on our research A to Z.



There are many ways to fund your research study including studentship opportunities. Funding information is available on the school website and can also be found on the Graduate School website.

Midlands Graduate School

Nottingham is part of the Midlands Graduate School ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership, which offers funding opportunities for postgraduate students each year.

International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of research scholarships for outstanding international and EU students.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your research course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.



Career destinations for our graduates include economists, management consultants, researchers, statisticians and university lecturers. Companies and organisations our graduates have gone to work for include Channel 4, the European Union, GCHQ, Reuters and the Thailand National Police Department.

Employability and average starting salary

90% of postgraduates from the School of Politics and International Relations who were available for employment secured work or further study within six months of graduation. £22,429 was the average starting salary, with the highest being £29,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career and professional development

Whether you are looking to enhance your career prospects or develop your knowledge, a postgraduate degree from the University of Nottingham can help take you where you want to be.

The University's award-winning Careers and Employability Service offers specialist support and guidance while you study and for life after you graduate. They will help you explore and plan your next career move, through regular events, employer-led skills sessions, placement opportunities and one-to-one discussions.


Get in touch

+44 (0)115 951 5559 
Social Science videos

Social Science videos

Teaching Excellence Framework Gold logo
The Methods and Data Institute
West Wing
Law and Social Sciences Building
The University of Nottingham
University Park

Student Recruitment Enquiries Centre

The University of Nottingham
King's Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

t: +44 (0) 115 951 5559
f: +44 (0) 115 951 5812
w: Frequently asked questions
Make an enquiry