Survey Methods for Social Research

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Course overview
(MSc) Master of Science
Survey Methods for Social Research
University of Essex
University of Essex
Colchester Campus
Full-time, part-time or by credit accumulation

Professional accreditation


Admission criteria

A degree with an overall 2:1, or international equivalent, in a social science, humanities, statistics or maths. Your degree must also include at least two quantitative or research methods modules (this can also 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.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) code

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 6.0

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.

Course qualifiers


Rules of assessment

Rules of assessment are the rules, principles and frameworks which the University uses to calculate your course progression and final results.

Additional notes


External examiners

Prof Paul Stretesky

Professor of Criminology

The University of Northumbria at Newcastle

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 27 January 2020 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.
You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
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.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Optional You can choose which module to study.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.

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 SC504-7-AU Introduction to Quantitative Analysis Compulsory 20 Optional Optional
03 SC968-7-SP Advanced Quantitative Analysis: Models for Cause and Effect Compulsory 20 Optional Optional
04 SC970-7-AU Introduction to Survey Design and Management Core 20 Core Compulsory
05 SC971-7-AU Survey Sampling, Non-Response and Inference Core 20 Core Compulsory
06 SC974-7-SP Survey Measurement and Question Design Core 20 Core Optional
07 SC972-7-SP or 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 an advanced understanding of the distinct character of the survey research process and its roles in social science research.

To provide students with an introduction to key theories and scholarly research pertaining to contemporary survey methodology.

To provide students with the necessary skills for the main research methods used to analyse social surveys.

To expose students to aspects of practical survey conduct and management.

To train students in the design and conduct of original research based on social survey data.

To provide students with the knowledge and skills to enable them to proceed to professional practice and further independent, self directed research.

Postgraduate Diplomas are identical to those for MSc Courses 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: An understanding of the distinct character of the survey research process and its relevance for social science research

A2: An advanced comprehension of basic principles of research design and strategy, such as how to formulate researchable problems and to evaluate alternative approaches to research

A3: A critical understanding of the relationship between theory and empirical research

A4: A practical knowledge of a wide range of survey designs and skills, especially those collecting longitudinal and panel data

A5: A practical knowledge of relevant methods of analysis of such surveys

A6: An appreciation of the centrality of research questions and hypotheses in social scientific enquiry RC

A7: A practical understanding of how to address the ethical and political dimensions of research RC

A8: A practical understanding of key aspects of survey processes and management

A9: A practical awareness of multidisciplinary approaches to the analysis of longitudinal and panel data.

A10: An ability to do a piece of independent original research

Learning methods

The course provides specialist training in social research and survey methodology with an emphasis on longitudinal data designs.

It involves two core modules in survey methods, SC970 and SC971, one foundation module in quantitative methods and a more advanced core module in longitudinal methods, SC504, SC968.

A practical survey work experience module is another compulsory component of the course.

An option can be taken from a range of substantive and methodological modules taken from other Sociology Masters courses or elsewhere in the University.

An empirical dissertation is also required.
By appropriate choice of options, students may choose to either strengthen their research design skills e.g.
Learning the process and logic of research design in SC905, or widen their portfolio to also encompass qualitative research.

Learning how to conduct interviews and undertake qualitative analysis in SC520 or learning how to carry out fieldwork in SC523 or to learn about a substantive area of social scientific interest.

Lectures are used to present material, ideas, data and methods, in a clear and structured manner using examples.

In each module the issues and methods covered in lectures are explored further through hands-on practice or assignments for which students have to prepare.

In the Practicum, SC972, students undertake a real piece of practical work under the guidance of a supervisor drawn from staff on the Understanding Society Longitudinal Study.
Students also attend a Survey Skills workshop that is run under the auspices of the Survey Resources Network, directed at Essex jointly with NatCen.

Students also have the opportunity for a related fieldwork trip.

Both the in house Practicum and external workshop are assessed with credit for participation as well as a written reflective report of activities undertaken and are organised according to best practice as embodied in the University Guidelines for Work Based and Placement Learning, including a risk assessment for field trips, currently under development.

Classes, and preparation for classes, provide the opportunity for students to develop their knowledge and understanding of the content of the modules.

In addition student learning takes place through the work they do preparing essays, reports, presentations and data analysis exercises.

Assessment methods

Learning outcomes A1 to A9 are assessed by a mixture of coursework, practical work, presentation and examination.

Modules are assessed through coursework, where coursework includes oral presentations, assignments, essays and practical work.

SC968 is assessed by means of a two hour examination with the option of a term paper.

The mark for this module is either the average of the marks from the examination and the term paper, or the examination mark alone, whichever is the higher.

In addition, the assessed work for the degree course includes a dissertation, which specifically assesses outcome A10.

B: Intellectual and cognitive skills

B1: An advanced ability to search, summarise, and critically review methodological and other social scientific literature

B2: critical sensibility in comparatively reviewing competing theories and explanations ML

B3: The ability to solve practical research problems creatively and effectively

B4: An advanced ability to formulate researchable social scientific questions

B5: A practical capability to analyse quantitative social survey data, especially that derived from longitudinal and panel surveys

B6: An advanced ability to evaluate, interpret and present empirical evidence

Learning methods

Students enhance the intellectual skills listed primarily through the work they do for their modules, although lectures provide a means of teachers demonstrating these skills through example.

Learning is enhanced by hands on exercises.

Student preparation involves the reading, interpretation and evaluation of social scientific texts and research papers and the analysis of empirical data to hone methodological skills.

Class teachers provide feedback on student work through comment and discussion.

In addition, teachers engage students outside the classroom during office hours, appointments, and increasingly more often by email.

Similarly the preparation of essays and other assignments also develops the intellectual skills that are listed.

Students are provided with feedback on assessed work and this is crucial to their intellectual development.

The dissertation is used to demonstrate a students mastery of a particular type of longitudinal or panel survey, as well as their analytical ability and understanding of the complete research process.

The Practicum and dissertation develop the ability to solve practical research problems in a given time frame.

Additionally, Masters students, along with PhD students and staff, are encouraged to attend the two-day Annual 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 and B2 are judged and evaluated in SC970 and SC971.

Outcomes B4, B5 and B6 are assessed in SC504, SC968, SC972 and the dissertation.

B3 is assessed in particular in SC972.

Further assessment is provided in the optional modules.

All the outcomes B1 to B6 are assessed in the dissertation.

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

C: Practical skills

C1: An advanced ability to retrieve relevant literature using library and online searches

C2: A practical ability to summarise, evaluate and review social scientific arguments and findings

C3: Competence in at least one major quantitative software package for analysis

C4: A practical ability to apply statistical techniques, from basic to advanced, to social scientific data

C5: A hands on ability to use data from a variety of sources

C6: A capacity for self direction and working under supervision in the planning, management and presentation of research, making judgements about the best use of time and data

Learning methods

For learning the practical skills of computer assisted data analysis, the software package Stata is used in SC968 and SC504 to provide an introduction to the basics of quantitative data analysis plus more advanced and specialist skills.

SC970 and SC971 make use of other software packages for specialist survey applications.
These skills are taught in lab based sessions and reinforced or supplemented depending on the optional modules taken.

For example, SC520 covers qualitative data analysis using MAXQDA, with both modules relying on practical engagement in class.

All the half modules teaching practical skills emphasise the inter relationships between data collection and analysis.

Assessment methods

Skills C1 and C2 are specifically assessed in the dissertation, but also form part of the assessment of almost every assessed module assignment.

C3 and C4 are assessed in SC504 and SC968.
C5 is assessed in SC968 and SC972 and C6 in the marking of the dissertation and of the Practicum, SC972.

D: Key skills

D1: An advanced ability in presenting ideas and evidence to others orally 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

D3: A capacity to carry out medium to advanced statistical calculations and estimation

D4: A good self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems

D6: An essential understanding of how to plan, set appropriate time scale and assess feasibility of projects and a keen awareness of the need to reflect on their own work and respond constructively to the comments of others

Learning methods

Key skills are taught and learned throughout the scheme through a range of strategies.

These include requiring students to give oral presentations, giving them specific assignments such as carrying bibliographic and web searches, specific writing assignments, essays and term papers, and through class discussion and class, essay and term paper preparation.

Students learn to manage their own research projects through the support and advice of supervisors and to work on a practical survey problem in the Practicum.

They are given feedback on all their coursework and on their dissertation research and 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

Key skills are assessed throughout the degree through continuous assessed coursework, term papers and examinations.

D1 is assessed by an in class presentation in SC968 and SC972, while D2 is assessed in coursework assignments and in the dissertation.

D3 is assessed in the dissertation, and D4 in the panel data and survey methods modules.

The dissertation and Practicum provide means for an overall assessment of communication, D1, problem solving skills, D5, research management, D6, and responding to and working with constructive comments, D7.


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