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Postgraduate study

Social Research Methods (Criminology) MSc

This programme aims to provide you with an advanced training in social research methods which can be applied to practical and disciplinary contexts. It aims to train you in research methods to a level which meets core expectations of the Economic and Social Research Council postgraduate programme and the Doctoral Training Alliance.


Course overview

The criminology pathway of our MSc Social Research Methods course specifically aims to combine research skills training with an analytical understanding of issues in relation to crime, harm, victimisation and offending; providing you with expertise both in core criminological knowledge and skills and advanced-level social research methods training.

This course is suitable for you if you are looking to improve or develop your ability to research and evaluate policy and practice ethically and professionally, and if you are wishing to conduct research in an academic setting or pursue a career as a social researcher.

Study this course and you may be eligible for a £2,500 Sir Keith Skeoch postgraduate scholarship.

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Course details

Course structure

Core modules

Analysing Data

You gain a thorough grounding in quantitative and qualitative data analysis techniques. You will be introduced to the UK Data Service and explore the range of data available. The module will focus on quantitative analysis using SPSS as a tool to conduct exploratory and inferential statistical analysis. You will learn key assumptions associated with making appropriate analysis decisions, and will also be introduced to key qualitative data analysis techniques and relevant software. This module will also consider visualising and representing data and developing interpretations of findings.

Criminological Theory

If you are unfamiliar with criminology, you can explore the historical ideas to explain crime and deviance. You take a socio-historical perspective, charting the development of criminological science from pre-modern assumptions based on religious ideas, through the first real attempts to produce rational explanations for criminal offending, into the 20th-century and through to the rise of postmodernism. You use a political-economic framework that examines the different theories with the defining ideas of their respective time periods.

Foundations of Social Research

This module will introduce you to the relationship between philosophy, theory and social research.You will examine major debates in epistemology and consider how this relates to decisions research design and analysis. You will also learn how to conceptualise and design social research, paying particular attention to the rationale for using research methodologies. You will learn how to define and formulate research problems and questions. Issues such as decisions around sampling strategy, sampling error and implications for research findings will also be considered. You will also examine concepts used to evaluate social research and understand competing arguments for how these are defined. Throughout the module, you consider debates in relation to ethics, politics and risk in social research whilst addressing the balance of theory and practice.

Methods of Data Collection

This module aims to give you a thorough grounding in both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection. Embedded in relation to theory, practice and ethics, you will examine core research methods used in social research in addition to new and developing techniques for collecting data. You also examine the advantages and disadvantages of different research methods and consider this in relation to identifying the most suitable method of data collection for different types of research questions.

Studies in Criminology and Social Policy

You examine methodological and empirically innovative or significant research methods and studies in criminology and social policy. You explore a broad range of research design and methods to expand your understanding and awareness of approaches to social research. You contextualise theory and method to research studies in criminology and social policy.


and one optional module

Contemporary Criminological Theory

The principal aim of this module is to introduce you to explanations of crime suited to the current times in which we live. It will build on the criticisms levelled at 20th-century theoretical frameworks and move forward to familiarise you with the latest 21st-century frameworks currently in use and/or under development. The module will place these emerging frameworks in the contexts of today's mutating crime and criminal markets alongside current transformations in contemporary political economy, culture, social theory, psychoanalysis and philosophy.

Drug Use in Contemporary Society

This module focuses upon sociological and criminological knowledge regarding drug use and drug users in contemporary society. It also covers historical and cross-cultural analysis of drug use, drug markets and drug and alcohol issues. Module content will adjust to keep pace with changes in the field of drug use, research, and legislation and will make use of research informed teaching in this field. The module will be of use both to those studying for purely academic purposes and those working in the drugs/alcohol field.

Policing and Security

You examine policing within the wider issue of security in modern society. You look at extant sociology of the police and on other theoretical bodies of knowledge from fields such as political economy, political sociology, state theory and organisational theory to interrogate the development, role and practices of the public police and its relationship with private policing. You should have some knowledge of extant police sociology. You investigate UK and national themes such as the position of the police within the contemporary security industrial complex, militarisation, surveillance and dataveillance, transnationalisation. You develop a robust theoretical understanding of police and policing and engage extensively and intensively with a diverse body of literature, concepts and theories.

Victims and Offenders

You explore a variety of crimes from the perspective of victims and offenders, including violence against women in international, national and local policy agendas. You cover domestic violence, honour crimes, sexual violence, sexual harassment, trafficking in women and exploitation in the sex industry, female genital mutilation, stalking and homicide. You also explore crimes against older people, critically analysing perceptions of older people and their involvement in crime, as offenders and victims. You focus on violent and serious crime, developing discussions around the debates focused on victims and offenders. You focus on criminal justice and policy initiatives, crime prevention strategies and community responses to the 'problem of crime' to develop an understanding of theoretical perspectives, implications for policy and the influence of community responses to arrange of crimes.


Modules offered may vary.


How you learn

You learn by: attending lectures and seminars; discussing key readings; through group and individual activities and exercises; through debate and discussion with staff and other students; through informal and formal feedback on assignments; and through one-to-one teaching with members of academic staff.

The programme draws heavily on learning strategies which encourage and promote independent learning and critical thinking. Taught sessions will be delivered as workshop-style classes which place emphasis on group and individual activities. The programme is designed to continually address the connections between theory and research practice. Therefore, experiential learning is a core element of programme provision and you will be expected to actively participate in class and preparation activities. This will include making use of practical methods for finding and retrieving information, examining methods of data collection and conducting analysis of data.

How you are assessed

You are assessed through a wide variety of methods including qualitative and quantitative research and analysis exercises, written reports, essays, CV development and an original piece of research which is written up as an article or report (dissertation).


Entry requirements

Applicants should normally have a good second-class honours degree in a relevant field. However, those who have relevant professional qualifications and/or relevant experience will also be considered.

For general information please see our overview of entry requirements

International applicants can find out what qualifications they need by visiting Your Country



Career opportunities

Graduates are equipped to work within local government, education, health, the cultural sector, or anywhere where policies and practices are evaluated and inform future development. Graduates also work in employment arenas where it is important to submit well-crafted and conceptualised bids and proposals for projects. It is an appropriate course for those wanting to progress their current careers by increasing their research skills.

Opportunities also exist in the criminal justice system (including the police, prison, probation and youth offending services). This programme is also ideal if you're interested in working (or already work) in social services and related voluntary agencies. Some of our MSc students continue to doctoral studies and/or work at colleges and universities.


Information for international applicants


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2024/25 entry

Fee for UK applicants
£6,710 a year

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Fee for international applicants
£17,000 a year

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