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Social Science Research (PGDip)

PgDip|Postgraduate Taught

Social Science Research

Entry year
Entry requirements
1 year (Full Time)
2 years (Part Time)
Places available
30 (Full Time)
30 (Part Time)
This course is now closed to applications for September 2021. If you are interested in September 2022 entry, please register your interest.
  • Overview

    This programme provides practical, career-orientated training in social science research methods, including research design, data collection and data analysis relating to both qualitative and quantitative modes of inquiry.

    You will have the opportunity to specialise in particular methodologies and to learn more about the application of these methodologies to illuminate important issues and debates in contemporary society.

    The PGDip in Social Science Research is designed to develop critical understanding of contemporary issues for both those interested in developing academic and research oriented careers and those who are interested in improving their research skills and critical understanding foras well as practical employment-orientated careers.

    Closing date for applications: Friday 29 July 2022 at 4pm.

    Social Science Research highlights

    The PGDip in Social Research is designed to develop critical understanding of contemporary issues as well as practical employment-orientated research skills and the ability to work independently.

    World Class Facilities

    • Queen’s Q-Step Centre: Queen's is one of 15 Q-Step Centres in the UK, established to provide a step-change in the social sciences with regards quantitative research training. This means that we are well placed to deliver a high level of training to our postgraduate students.
    • ESRC doctoral research partnership: The programme delivers training for QUB students as part of the ESRC NINE Doctoral Training Partnership.

    Internationally Renowned Experts

    • We are an international teaching team and are committed to research-led teaching, with modules reflecting our diverse range of expertise.

    Student Experience

    • We are a research-intensive School and our programmes are all informed by latest developments and debates in the social sciences.
    • Key features include: - Advanced social research methods training, including both quantitative and qualitative methods. - You will have the opportunity to specialise in particular methods and topics and become familiar with commonly used software, e.g., SPSS and NVivo. - Opportunity to specialise in particular methods and topics. - You can also avail of additional training courses and opportunities for networking offered by The Graduate School.
    • Transferable Skills: advanced social research methods training, including both quantitative and qualitative methods. You will have the opportunity to specialise in particular methods and topics and become familiar with commonly used software, e.g., SPSS, Stata and NVivo.
    • Student Choice: we have a wide and varied range of modules, reflecting staff expertise in research methodologies and substantive areas.
    • Flexibility: the programme is usually delivered in evenings and also full day/half day intensive sessions, including weekends. The programme can be taken full-time or part-time (2-3 years options are available). Students can exit with a Postgraduate Certificate on successful completion of 60 CATS or transfer onto the MRes programme, in order to complete the dissertation (60 CATS).
    The PG Diploma in Social Research at Queen’s University is an excellent programme to gain knowledge and experience on methods of data collection, analysis and critique in the social sciences. It provides students with ideal skills to pursue an academic career and to those who wish to upskill their professional expertise or enter the labour market with competency on data gathering and data analysis.
  • Course content

    Course Structure

    The programme is designed to provide a fundamental grounding in both quantitative and qualitative research skills, along with the opportunity to specialise in new methods and in practical applications of research techniques.

    The Postgraduate Diploma is awarded to students who successfully complete taught modules amounting to 120 CATS.

    The modules are delivered via a mixture of traditional lecture, seminar, workshop and computer lab class. Students are expected to undertake a substantial amount of independent study at this level.

    Course DetailsThe programme is designed to provide a fundamental grounding in both quantitative and qualitative research skills, along with the opportunity to specialise in more advanced training in quantitative research, qualitative research or in practical applications of research techniques.


    Semester 1

    Approaches to Social Research (20 CATS)
    This module offers an introduction to the different styles of social science research as well as guidance and illustrations of how to operationalize research questions and assess them empirically. Students will be shown how to conduct systematic literature searches and how to manage ethical issues with different empirical research projects. The module will also explore the connection between social science research and policy concerns. It is designed as preparation for undertaking postgraduate research and dissertation work.

    Theory and Debates in Social Research (20 CATS)
    This module aims to deepen students' understanding of key debates in social theory and research, providing advanced level teaching for those building upon basic knowledge and undertaking postgraduate research. It is designed to demonstrate and explore how social theory is utilised, critiqued and developed through the pursuit of social science research.

    The Sources and Construction of Qualitative Data (10 CATS)
    The purpose of this module is to illuminate the theoretical underpinnings of qualitative research. The module will discuss the impact of various theories on the nature and conduct of qualitative research particularly around questions of epistemology and ontology. It will discuss methods of data collection such as individual and collective interviewing in qualitative research, and explore the issues connected with the relationship between theory and methods.

    The Sources and Construction of Quantitative Data (10 CATS)
    The aim of the module is to provide a comprehensive overview of the theory and practice of measurement and constructing quantitative data in the social sciences. Through lectures and practical exercises, this module will provide students with relevant knowledge of secondary data sources and large datasets, their respective uses and usefulness, and their relevance for the study of contemporary social issues

    Semester 2

    Qualitative Data Analysis (10 CATS)
    The module will provide students with an overview of different approaches to qualitative data analysis. It will include introductory training to this skill that includes such techniques as thematic analysis and discourse analysis, as well as computer assisted qualitative data analysis. It will provide the knowledge necessary for the informed use of the qualitative data analysis software package NVivo. The module gives students a base level introduction to the analytical and technical skills in qualitative data analysis appropriate to the production of a Master's dissertation and/or use of CAQDAS software for social science research purposes.

    Quantitative Data Analysis: Foundational (10 CATS)
    This module provides an introduction to the basics of quantitative data analysis. The module will begin with a brief review of basic univariate and bivariate statistical procedures as well as cover data manipulation techniques. The module is taught through a series of seminars and practical workshops. These two strands are interwoven within each teaching session. Please note that students may be granted an exemption from this module if they have already successfully completed a module that has the equivalent learning outcomes.

    Quantitative Data Analysis: Intermediate (10 CATS)
    This module advances students' confidence and knowledge in the use of SPSS. The module focuses on multivariate regression models, including the appropriate use and awareness of statistical assumptions underlying regression and the testing and refinement of such models.

    Dissertation (60 CATS)
    A dissertation of no more than 15,000 words on a topic relevant to social science research methods training. The thesis will involve either carrying out and reporting on a small social science research project which includes a full and considered description and discussion of the research methods employed or the discussion of a research issue or technique to a level appropriate for publication.


    We offer a range of specialist modules which reflect the teaching team’s diverse research interests, from the social logic of emotional life to conflict and change in divided societies, and specialist methods such as social science research online and visual research method. Optional modules generally run during the Spring semester and are offered subject to sufficient student demand and staff availability. Students will be able to choose a number of optional modules (depending on whether they are required to complete Quantitative Data Analysis: Foundational). Please note that it is unlikely that all the following modules will be available for 2020/21. Please check with the Programme Director for queries about specific modules.

    Advanced Qualitative Research Methods (not available in 2022/2023)
    Building upon the core qualitative training, this module will explore one or more techniques of more advanced qualitative analysis. This may include such methods as ethnographic observation, interviewing, focus groups or biographical methods.

    Social Science Research Online
    The internet is a valuable tool in social science research - not just as a source of information but as a medium for recruiting research subjects and conducting research. This module looks at using the internet to find information, to identify populations and to conduct social research using methods such as online interviewing and online participant-observation.

    Advanced Quantitative Research Methods (not available in 2022/2023)
    Building upon the core quantitative training, this module will explore one or more techniques of more advanced quantitative analysis. Students will have the opportunity to further develop their knowledge and understanding of quantitative research methods and its application in addressing key research questions, drawing on recent survey data.

    Conflict and Change in Northern Ireland: New Sociological Research
    The objectives of this module are to introduce advanced students to key issues in contemporary research on conflict and change in divided societies, using Northern Ireland as a case study. It will examine critical sociological debates about identity, ethnicity, inequality, and conflict management, and interrogate their usefulness in a Northern Irish context. Emphasis will be placed on how Northern Ireland may conform to, or challenge, contemporary debates in theoretical and comparative sociology.

    Researching Emotions and Social Life
    This course aims to examine research on the social logic of emotional life. Emotions are considered not as personal or 'inner' psychological phenomena, but as sociological processes. The course focuses on studies which illustrate, in varying ways, how emotions are elicited through, and in turn shape, social relations, as they provide evaluative responses to the operation of power and status. The course will consider a range of classic and contemporary, structuralist and interactional perspectives informing studies of specific emotions, including shame, anger and love.

    Visual Research Methods
    This course aims to engage and inspire participants to reflect on the relevance in applying visual research methods to a range of research situations.  The rationale for using visual methods will be explored with particular emphasis on photography and photo elicitation in order to illustrate the rich potential of visual methodologies in aiding understandings of everyday life.

    Exploring Technology in Contemporary Society
    The module aims to provide students with some critical concepts to explore the role that technology such as algorithms play in various social domains and make sense of the new structures of power and order, their promise of security and the risks they involve. Thinking critically of how data are collected, used and how outputs are produced by new technologies will encourage students to look at issues such as biases, inequalities, and injustices engrained within the development and deployment technologies. We will also look at the complexities involved in investigating, analysing and assessing how technologies such as algorithms operate for a social scientist, and the challenge of interdisciplinary research.

    People teaching you

    Programme Director


    Teaching Times

    The programme is usually delivered in evenings and full day/half day sessions, including weekends. It may include online delivery to facilitate access to students who work or have other commitments.

    Career Prospects

    Research skills are highly transferable and marketable, and needed across a range of sectors – academic, government, charities and business. PGDip students receive excellent advanced training in both quantitative and qualitative research skills as well as gain experience of independent project management through the dissertation. Graduates can use their qualification to develop a career in any aspect of social research.

    Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability, while innovative leadership and executive programmes help our students gain key leadership positions both nationally and internationally.

    Employment after the Course
    Many students undertake the PG Diploma while already in employment. The PG Diploma allows students to successfully further their career in social research.

    Employment Links
    Social science research skills are useful in a range of sectors - academia, government, charities and business.

    Learning and Teaching

    Learning opportunities available with this course are outlined below:

    Learning and Teaching Methods

    The modules are delivered via a mixture of traditional lecture, seminar, workshops and computer lab class. Some lectures may involve online teaching. Students are expected to undertake independent study.


    Assessments associated with this course are outlined below:

    An overall mark of 50% is required to pass each module. PG Diploma students must obtain 120 credits at Master's level.

    Modules have a broad range of methods of assessment, from traditional essay through to short research reports involving original analysis of data. Some modules also offer not only summative assessment but also the valuable opportunity for formative assessment, i.e., for feedback on their work which does not contribute towards the final module mark, but which will enable the student to better perform in their final assessment.


    The School is situated across a suite of three buildings in Belfast's Queen's Quarter. We provide student and staff common rooms, computer suites and designated study spaces.

    Explore the teaching and social spaces in our School through our 360 Virtual Tour:

    The Graduate School

  • Entry Requirements

    Entrance requirements

    Normally a 2.1 Honours degree or above or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in a social science or related discipline.

    Applicants holding a 2.1 Honours degree in a non-related discipline may be considered if they have at least two years of professional experience in a relevant context.

    Closing date for applications: Friday 29th July 2022 at 4pm.

    Late applications may be considered.

    Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal prior to the deadline stated on course finder. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

    International Students

    Our country/region pages include information on entry requirements, tuition fees, scholarships, student profiles, upcoming events and contacts for your country/region. Use the dropdown list below for specific information for your country/region.

    English Language Requirements

    Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last 2 years.

    International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

    For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

    • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
    • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

    INTO - English Language Course(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)

  • Fees and Funding

    Tuition Fees

    Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,433
    Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,433
    England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £4,980
    EU Other 3 12,133
    International £12,133

    1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled status, will be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB will be charged the GB fee.

    2 EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI are eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements.

    3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

    All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2022-23, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

    More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

    Additional course costs

    All Students

    Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.

    Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £75 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges.

    Students undertaking a period of work placement or study abroad, as either a compulsory or optional part of their programme, should be aware that they will have to fund additional travel and living costs.

    If a programme includes a major project or dissertation, there may be costs associated with transport, accommodation and/or materials. The amount will depend on the project chosen. There may also be additional costs for printing and binding.

    Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen.

    There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

    Social Science Research costs

    There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

    How do I fund my study?

    The Department for the Economy will provide a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 per NI / EU student for postgraduate study. Tuition fee loan information.

    A postgraduate loans system in the UK offers government-backed student loans of up to £10,609 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. Criteria, eligibility, repayment and application information are available on the UK government website.

    More information on funding options and financial assistance.

    International Scholarships

    Information on scholarships for international students, is available at

  • Apply

    How to Apply

    Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

    Apply now

    When to Apply

    The deadline for applications is normally 30th June 2021. In the event that any programme receives a high volume of applications, the university reserves the right to close the application portal earlier than 30th June deadline. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Entry Portal (DAP) against the programme application page.

    Terms and Conditions

    The terms and conditions that apply when you accept an offer of a place at the University on a taught programme of study.
    Queen's University Belfast Terms and Conditions.

    Download a prospectus