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Course content

This programme provides an introduction to the principles and values of social work and an understanding of the organisation and delivery of social welfare and related services in the UK. It also provides you with a grounding in the social research methods necessary to conduct applied types of research that are a fundamental part of social work practice and evaluation.

Course Structure

You will take a range of taught modules primarily in the first two terms of the academic year. Starting from the first term, you will undertake a module on research design which enables students to develop a research proposal for their dissertation. Part-time candidates take an equal balance of credits in each year. 

In previous years, typical modules offered were:

Core Modules

Perspectives on Social Research (15 credits)

  • Introduction to social scientific research
  • Establishing cause and interpreting meaning in social sciences
  • Essentials of quantitative and qualitative research in the social sciences.

Statistical Exploration and Reasoning (15 credits)

  • Spreadsheets and data analysis
  • Populations, sample data and sampling distributions
  • Point estimates and confidence intervals
  • Significance tests, cress-tabulations, and Chi-Square tests
  • Correlation and linear regression.

Research Design and Process (15 credits)

  • Formulating research questions
  • Evaluating and developing a research proposal
  • Reviewing relevant literature
  • Experimental vs. observational studies
  • Sampling and selecting respondents
  • Measurement. 

Qualitative Research Methods in Social Science (15 credits)

  • Introduction to theory and research practice in qualitative methods
  • Ethnography and grounded theory
  • Group discussions
  • Data analysis and management processes.

Quantitative Research Methods in Social Science (15 credits)

  • Sampling and sample design, questionnaire design
  • Numerical taxonomy and cluster analysis in practice
  • Methods for representing complex systems.

Social Work Context and Practice (30 credits)

  • Contemporary social work and social welfare in a diverse society
  • Construction of social problems
  • Ethical frameworks for social practice
  • Contemporary social work theories and practice.

Policy Related and Evaluation Research (15 credits)

  • Relationship between theory and empirical research in evaluation
  • Defining and measuring outcomes
  • Case study analysis
  • Poster presentation and participatory evaluation.

Dissertation (60 credits)

  • 15,000 word dissertation based on a supervised research project.

Course Learning and Teaching

These MA Research Methods programmes are full-time, starting in early October and continuing over 12 months following university terms. 

The main teaching methods include lectures, seminars, and computer practical sessions. Lectures introduce the key concepts, theories, current debates and other issues critical for understanding the topics. Seminars are opportunities for you to discuss any questions arising from the readings, to share experience of conducting research, to present your own work for comments. Modules that teach the use of computer software packages have practical sessions in computer rooms so that you can carry out hands-on exercises under supervision and further assistance 

Modules are usually assessed through essays. Statistics modules may require you to complete specific analyses with more structured instructions. Some module conveners may allow you to submit formative assignments in order for you to obtain a sense of how well you understand the subject. Some modules’ assessment may contain a proportion of presentations and group projects. 

Further academic support is available. You will have the opportunity to learn from your dissertation supervisors at individual tutoring meetings, dissertation workshops, and forums. Every member of teaching staff has two hours of office hours each week where you can access additional support for your modules, assignments and so forth. In addition, both the University and the School host seminars for external speakers that are open to all students.

You will have access to a variety of learning resources, including learning spaces in libraries and teaching rooms, readings and textbooks, computers, databases, etc. 


Visit the Social Research Methods (Social Work) - MA page on the Durham University website for more details!

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