Social Science Research (Political Science and International Relations) MA


Fact file

MA Social Science Research (Political Science and International Relations)
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Entry requirements
Entrants will normally be expected to hold at least an upper second class honours Bachelor’s degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject in the Arts, Humanities, or Social Sciences.
Other requirements
7.0 with no less than 6.0 in any element

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


Providing broad-based training in social science research, this course will equip you with the skills to manage a successful research career and contribute to wider society in a number of ways.
Read full overview

You will develop the following skills and the ability to apply them to practical research contexts:

  • Comprehension of the principles of research design and strategy, including an understanding of how to formulate research questions for empirical investigation
  • Appreciation of alternative approaches to research
  • Understanding of a broad range of research methods (including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods) and the use of appropriate software for their application
  • Advanced research skills and techniques relevant to your field of study
  • Research management techniques, including data management, and conducting and disseminating research in a way that is consistent with both professional practice and the normal principles of research ethics
  • Understanding of the significance of alternative epistemological positions that provide the context for theory construction, research design, and the selection of appropriate analytical techniques
  • Solid grounding in the basics of probability and a critical understanding of the scientific method and the nature of reflexivity
  • Application of good ethical practice across the entire research process

Primarily aimed at students following an ESRC-funded pathway onto a PhD, this course may also be suitable if you are intending to apply for +3 ESRC funding (that is, to cover a PhD) or are interested in developing a wide range of social science research skills.

Academic English preparation and support

If you require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education, which is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

Students who successfully complete the presessional course to the required level can progress to postgraduate study without retaking IELTS or equivalent. You could be eligible for a joint offer, which means you will only need to apply for your visa once.

Key facts

  • Ranked in the UK top 15 for research power in the latest Research Excellence Framework
  • Top 100 worldwide for politics and international relations in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018
  • Committed to excellence in teaching, having won 13 Higher Education Academy awards
  • Expert academics who contribute to public debate through national and international media, including such publications as The Independent, The LA Times and Le Monde

Course details

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.




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

The objective of this module is to further your familiarity with the practice of quantitative data analysis in the social sciences at an intermediate level. The lecture component of the module will explore a variety of the most commonly used statistical methods; in the laboratory component, you will learn to apply these techniques to the analysis of social science data.

Through assignments, you will have the opportunity to develop and test your own hypotheses and explanations on major research data sets. The module should provide a sound grasp of the possibilities, methods, and dangers inherent in quantitative social science research.

Philosophy of Social Science Research

The course 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.


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



Plus up to 40 credits from the school in advanced research methods and/or any other modules, subject to approval.

The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



This course forms the '1' component of a 1+3 ESRC-funded scholarship with the Midlands Graduate School. It will equip you with the research methods training needed to apply for +3 study on the political science and international relations pathway.

Funding information is available on the school website and can also be found on the Graduate School website.

Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans of up to £10,609 for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



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.


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.


If you wish to continue your studies after completing this course, we offer a range of research opportunities with PhD supervision in most subject areas.

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.

Our 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.

Explore it - Virtual Nottingham

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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