Staff member? Login here


Course overview

(MA) Master of Arts
University of Essex
University of Essex
Colchester Campus
Full-time or part-time
MA L30012

A 2:1, or international equivalent in a social science, humanities or other discipline which must include at least two humanities or social science modules (this can include the research project/dissertation).

Applications from students with a 2:2 or equivalent or a non-social sciences degree will be considered dependent on any relevant professional or voluntary experience, previous modules studied and/or personal statement.

For MA Migration Studies only, you may be required to attend an interview/Skype interview as part of the application process.

If English is not your first language, we require IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 6.0

External Examiners

Prof Jacqui Gabb
The Open University
Professor of Sociology and Intimacy

External Examiners provide an independent overview of our courses, offering their expertise and help towards our continual improvement of course content, teaching, learning, and assessment. External Examiners are normally academics from other higher education institutions, but may be from the industry, business or the profession as appropriate for the course. They comment on how well courses align with national standards, and on how well the teaching, learning and assessment methods allow students to develop and demonstrate the relevant knowledge and skills needed to achieve their awards. External Examiners who are responsible for awards are key members of Boards of Examiners. These boards make decisions about student progression within their course and about whether students can receive their final award.

eNROL, the module enrolment system, is now open until Monday 21 October 2019 8:59AM, for students wishing to make changes to their module options.


Core You must take this module You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options You can choose which module to study
Compulsory You must take this module There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Compulsory with Options You can choose which module to study
Optional You can choose which module to study

Year 1 - 2019/20

Exit Award Status
Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits PG Diploma PG Certificate
01 SC981-7-FY Dissertation Core 60 Optional
02 SC905-7-AU Sociological Research Design Core 20 Compulsory Compulsory
03 SC901-7-SP Topics in Contemporary Social Theory Core 20 Compulsory Compulsory
04 Sociology option from list Optional 20 Optional Optional
05 Sociology option from list Optional 20 Optional Optional
06 Sociology option from list Optional 20 Optional Optional
07 Sociology option from list Optional 20 Optional Optional

Exit awards

A module is given one of the following statuses: 'core' – meaning it must be taken and passed; 'compulsory' – meaning it must be taken; or 'optional' – meaning that students can choose the module from a designated list. The rules of assessment may allow for limited condonement of fails in 'compulsory' or 'optional' modules, but 'core' modules cannot be failed. The status of the module may be different in any exit awards which are available for the course. Exam Boards will consider students' eligibility for an exit award if they fail the main award or do not complete their studies.

Programme aims

To provide students with knowledge of current debates and theoretical perspectives in Sociology

To enable students to critically evaluate current theoretical work in Sociology

To develop students' capacity for independent, critical and creative thinking with respect to the production of original sociological research

To enable students to integrate philosophical and theoretical concepts with methodological perspectives, empirical data and analysis

To enable students to develop knowledge and skills to design and conduct independent research

To provide the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills through independent, self-directed learning

To enable students to enhance their intellectual capabilities, sociological, and generic skills in preparation for further academic and/or the professional work Postgraduate Diplomas are identical to those for MA Schemes with the exception of the Learning Outcomes of the Dissertation.

Diploma Students do not write a dissertation.

Learning outcomes and learning, teaching and assessment methods

On successful completion of the programme a graduate should demonstrate knowledge and skills as follows:

A: Knowledge and understanding

A1 Advanced knowledge of current debates and isses in Sociology
A2 Advanced knowledge of the range of different ontological, epistemological and theoretical positions within the field
A3 An advanced understanding of the relationship between theoretical concepts and empirical research
A4 An advanced comprehension of basic principles of research design and strategy and the ethical and political dimensions of research
A5 An advanced understanding of the differing epistemological foundations of research and the necessity of reflexivity in research design and execution
A6 The ability to design and execute independent and original research
A7 An advanced appreciation of the centrality of research questions and hypotheses in structuring sociological enquiry
Learning Methods: The course is designed to provide an understanding of contemporary sociological theories and the philosophical positions underpinning them (A1, A2 and A5).

It also aims to give an understanding of methodological approaches to research in the field (A3, A4 and A5).

These aims are delivered in Contemporary Debates (SC901), and in the core module, Sociological Research Design (SC905).

A specialised knowledge of a particular method of research will be provided by a constrained methods option in which students are asked to choose from four methods modules.

The core module (SC901) is designed to provide students with the knowledge and understanding outlined in A1 and A2.

Both SC901 and the second compulsory module (SC905) provide the outcomes A3 and A5, and together with the constrained methods option, they also provide the outcome A7.

SC905 and the constrained methods option provide the outcome A6.

The outcome A4 is provided by SC905.Modules are delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars, and student learning also takes place through the work undertaken in preparing for essay work and other forms of assignment.

SC901 is based on a lecture of one hour and a separate one hour seminar.

A broad but detailed range of philosophical and theoretical positions are outlined in the lectures in a clear and structured manner, mapping the field of contemporary social and sociological theory and the major positions in the philosophy of the social sciences.

Students are required to write two essays for the module, one for each term.

SC905 is designed to develop students advanced understanding of epistemological traditions and the process and logic of research design, and to provide students with the capabilities to develop their own research project through the dissertation.

The latter is enhanced in a more specialised manner through the constrained methods option.

The range of options modules within the Sociology Department allows students to study substantive bodies of knowledge germane to their own particular interests and also familiarises them with the issue specific nature of many conceptual and methodological issues.
Assessment Methods: Outcomes A1 to A7 are assessed through coursework.

Coursework includes oral presentations and assignments (SC905) as well as essays.
In addition, the assessed work for all MA students includes a dissertation, which assesses at least 6 of the stated aims, and all 7 in the case of dissertations involving a research project that engages with empirical evidence.

B: Intellectual and cognitive skills

B1 An advanced ability to search, summarise, and critically review literature on debates and issues in Sociology
B2 An ability to identify, analyse and compare the strengths and weaknesses of competing theories and concepts in the field of Sociology
B3 An ability to interpret and synthesise evidence from a range of sources
B4 An ability to construct an original analytical argument
B5 An ability to formulate a researchable sociological question
B6 An ability to conceptualise and conduct a feasible small-scale research project
Learning Methods: Students develop the above intellectual skills primarily through their assessed work for modules, although lectures and classes provide a means of teachers demonstrating these skills through example.

Preparation for classes and assignments in SC901 involves the reading, interpretation and evaluation of sociological texts, and the understanding and analysis of concepts, theories and philosophical foundations (B1, B2 and B4).

Within the classes themselves students exercise and develop their abilities to identify, analyse and compare theories and concepts (B2, B4, B5).

They also learn to apply abstract theories and concepts to substantive issues through illustrative case studies (B3 and aspects of B6).

They do all this both through discussion and through regular set tasks that are carried out both individually and in small groups.

In SC905 and in the constrained methods options learning with respect to B3, B5 and B6 is enhanced by hands on exercises.

Preparation for classes involves the reading, interpretation and evaluation of sociological texts and the collection and analysis of empirical data to hone methodological and conceptual skills relevant to B5 and B6.

Class tutors provide feedback on all student work through comment and discussion.
In addition, tutors are also available to see students outside the classroom during office hours, appointments, and increasingly more often by email.

The preparation of essays and other assignments develops students abilities in the listed intellectual and skills independently.
Students are provided with feedback on all assessed work and this is crucial to their intellectual development.

The dissertation enables students to master a particular sociological question, as well as developing their understanding and skills in how to conduct an independent research project.

Additionally, MA students, along with PhD students and staff, are encouraged to attend the two day annual residential Graduate Conference, which is held in February off campus.

Addressing a different topical theme each year, it provides a stimulating forum for intellectual debate and discussion.
Assessment Methods: Outcomes B1 through B4 are judged and evaluated by essays in the substantive modules.

B4 is also evaluated in SC905 and the constrained methods option, as are B5 and B6, through both practical skills based assignments and essays.

All six outcomes will be assessed once more in the MA dissertation.

Demonstration of advanced intellectual skills is a key criterion in awarding distinctions for essays and dissertations.

C: Practical skills

C1 An advanced ability to identify and retrieve relevant sociological literature on theoretical and substantive sociological issues using library and online searches
C2 A practical ability to summarise and evaluate sociological arguments
C3 Both a broad and a more specialised understanding of principles of research design, and an understanding of the merits of different methods
C4 An ability to define a specific research question and write an advanced sociological research proposal
C5 An ability to choose and apply an appropriate method of research
C6 A capacity for self-direction and originality in the planning, management, co-ordination and presentation of an independent, small-scale sociological research project, making judgements about the best use of time and data
Learning Methods: Throughout the degree practical skills are developed through preparation for classes, preparing essays, presentations and for participation in class exercises and discussions.

Specifically, outcomes C1 and C2 are developed in SC901, SC 905 and in sociology options modules through preparation for essays, presentations and practical exercises.

The broader aspects of C3 are developed in SC905 whilst the more specialised aspect emerges from the constrained methods option.

The remaining outcomes are also developed in SC905 and the constrained methods option, as well as in the dissertation.

The dissertation also provides the opportunity for students to synthesise all six practical skills within the remit of one final, independent piece of research.

Students receive detailed feedback on all their coursework, presentations and practical exercises.

Students who have a particular interest in extending or deepening their practical sociological skills may do so by choosing from a range of further methods modules (such as SC504, SC523, SC520, SC620), in addition to the constrained option already chosen, when deciding on their optional modules.
Assessment Methods: Skills C1 and C2 are specifically assessed in two SC905 assignments, but also form part of almost every piece of assessed coursework.

The full range of skills contained within C3 through C6 are all assessed in the marking of the MA dissertation, whilst C3, C4 and C5 are also assessed in SC905.

D: Key skills

D1 An advanced ability in presenting ideas and evidence to others orally, in a clear and concise manner and an advanced ability to present ideas and evidence to others in writing, in a clear and concise manner
D2 An advanced ability to collect and present materials using information technology
D4 Clear capacity for self-direction and originality in tackling and solving a range of different types of problem
D6 An essential understanding of how to plan, set appropriate time schedules and assess the feasibility of projects; a keen awareness of the need to reflect on their own work and to respond constructively to the comments of others
Learning Methods: Key skills are taught and learned throughout the scheme through a range of strategies, such as requiring students to give oral presentations (D1 SC905) and through small group and class discussions (D1 SC901), through giving them specific assignments such as carrying out bibliographic and web searches (D2 SC905), through specific writing assignments and essays (D1, D2, D4, D6), and through class and essay preparation.

MA students are also required to make a 20 minute presentation of their proposed dissertation research on the MA Dissertation Day which is held in Week 35 of the Summer Term.

There is explicit and sustained encouragement to reflect on feedback on written work both in coursework and in the process of dissertation writing (D6).

Issues of dissemination are discussed in SC905.
Students learn to manage their own research projects through the support and advice of supervisors, and a limited number but clear set of departmental essay deadlines encourage students to learn to plan ahead in managing their coursework load.

Students are given feedback on all their coursework and both during and after the completion of their dissertation research.

They are encouraged to reflect on their own work and improve on it.

Students also have the opportunity to develop skills in working in groups through their participation in the classes for every module.
Assessment Methods: All the listed key skills are assessed throughout the degree through continuous assessed coursework.

More specifically, oral communication skills (D1) and IT skills (D2) are assessed on SC905, and written skills (D1) by most coursework and the dissertation.

The MA dissertation is an overall assessment of communication, research management, and problem solving skills.


The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

Should you have any questions about programme specifications, please contact Course Records, Quality and Academic Development; email: