This new and distinctive MRes aims to develop a systematic understanding and critical appreciation of alternative approaches, methodologies and paradigms of social science research. It will develop fully trained and competent social science researchers, who are able to understand and use research techniques appropriate to their subject area as well as being conversant with approaches used by other social scientists.
The programme has a substantial theoretical and quantitative core but also delivers complementary qualitative training. This will provide an essential foundation for any working researcher, whether they are going on to do a PhD or otherwise engaged in research. The training will enable students to think through how they can use their knowledge and skills of advanced quantitative methods in different contexts and apply them to a variety of problems; and, progressively, to identify their own needs for training.
The MRes joins a suite of interdisciplinary training programmes that are part of the Economics and Social Research Council South West Doctoral Training Partnership. It is a joint initiative between the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Exeter. The course is delivered collaboratively; each semester one core unit is taught intensively, with time spent at each location. This collaborative delivery means that the expertise of academics at each institution can be made available to students from all three universities, enhancing the training capacity of each.
1. Research Design Methods and Skills (15 credits, mandatory): delivered over intensive sessions at each institution (Bath, Bristol, Exeter).
The main topics to be covered include: ontology and epistemology in social research; varieties of approaches to research design from different backgrounds; question design and formulation; criteria for evaluating research and strategies to enhance research quality; critical evaluation of different methodologies; preparing research proposals and communicating research.
2. Mathematics and Programming Skills for Social Scientists (15 credits, mandatory): delivered over intensive sessions at each institution.
The main topics covered are programming statistical and graphical techniques using R; dynamic programming and coding using Python; multi-level modelling theory and application using MLwiN.
3. Introduction to Qualitative Research in the Social Sciences (20 credits, mandatory): delivered at the home institution.
This unit aims to provide a philosophical appreciation of the underpinnings of qualitative research methods, to develop a critical understanding of the potential of various qualitative methodologies and key epistemological and methodological problems raised in qualitative methodologies.
4. Optional units
An appropriate range of optional units is provided at each institution to ensure students can take a full suite at their home institution should they wish to. Optional units may include substantive subject units of interest, or further methods units. At Bristol these may include: Big Data and Society; Spatial Data Analysis; Spatial Regression Modelling and GIS in R; and Explanation, Causation and Longitudinal Analysis. Students can also take options from across the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, or from Bath and Exeter, subject to timetabling constraints.
5. Dissertation (60 credits, mandatory): An extended research project of between 10,000 and 15,000 words.