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MA in Sociology (Applied Social Research)

The MA in Sociology (Applied Social Research) is a postgraduate degree programme, as a one-year full-time course or a two-year part-time course.
The course focus is on sociological reseach methods, and the intention is to produce graduates skilled in a variety of up-to-date research methodologies, ready to embark on research careers in the private, public, voluntary or academic spheres. Modules on qualitative and quantitative methods form the core of the course, along with modules on substantive issues of contemporary relevance. Computer-aided analysis of qualitative data, and statistical analysis of large-scale survey datasets will be central to the respective modules. Faculty have extensive research experience in a variety of areas, including the media, social exclusion, stratification and inequality, the restructuring of work, feminist methodologies, community development, education, marriage and divorce, the sociology of health and illness, etc.
A research dissertation is a key element of the course, providing an opportunity for students to exercise and deepen their research skills.

The course is designed for those seeking careers in social research in government agencies, voluntary-sector organisations, private enterprises and academia.

Programme

Full Time Study

The duration of the full-time programme is one year. Students are required to take three modules in the first semester, Qualitative and Quantitative Methods, and Researching Social Exclusion. In addition, there is a workshop on dissertation proposal writing (modules are worth nine credits, workshops three). In the second semester students will take one or both of Quantitative Methods II or Qualitative Methods II, and select from Researching Social Change, Researching Health and Illness, Researching Irish Media Audiences, Sociological Debates and Feminism(s), Diaspora and Multiculturalism, to make a total of three modules. A workshop on dissertation writing is also held.
A research project leading to a dissertation of 15,000 words will be carried out, starting late in the Autumn Semester and finishing by late summer (30 credits).

Part Time Study

The duration of the part-time programme is two years. In the Autumn Semester Qualitative Research Methods I, Quantitative Research Methods I, and Researching Social Exclusion are offered: two must be taken in the first year, of which one must be a methods module. In the Spring Semester, Researching Social Change, Researching Health and Illness, Researching Irish Media Audiences, Sociological Debates and Feminism(s), Diaspora and Multiculturalism are offered as substantive modules, with Quantitative Research Methods II and Qualitative Research Methods II as methods modules. In the first year, two of these modules must be taken, with the proviso that where a module builds on an earlier module the earlier must have been taken.
In the second year, two more modules must be taken. One of these modules must be the second introductory methods module if not taken already. The second module can be chosen from any other module not already taken, with the proviso that at least one of the advanced methodology modules must be taken in either the first or second year. Modules count for nine credits each. Workshops on the dissertation proposal and on dissertation preperation are offered in the Autumn and Spring Semesters, and must be taken in the first year (workshops are worth three credits).
A research project leading to a dissertation of 15,000 words will be carried out (30 credits), work on which may begin as early as the first summer, to be completed by the end of the second summer.
Applicants who wish to discuss detailed elements of the programme should contact the Course Director, Mary O’Donoghue, Department of Sociology.

Entrance Requirements

Normally, a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree in sociology or a cognate area. Applicants with approved equivalent qualifications or substantial relevant professional experience may also be considered for admission.

Modules

Autumn Semester
SO5031: Qualitative Research Methods I
The qualitative paradigm; major traditions of inquiry; the role of literature and previous research in inductive research; differences between sampling in qualitative and quantitative research; research procedures/data collection methods; methods of data analysis; ethical considerations in qualitative research; writing qualitative reports and research proposals
SO5041: Quantitative Research Methods I
This course provides the basic grounding in quantitative methods needed by all social researchers, focusing both on its theoretical and methodological implications, and on the practical skills required, especially methods for the collection, processing, statistical analysis and presentation of data, including the use of standard software such as spreadsheets and SPSS.
SO5051: Researching Social Exclusion
The concept of exclusion; its social, cultural, political and ideological underpinnings; the dynamics and the processes involved; the implications of exclusion; the structural, cultural and ideological issues underlying this phenomenon and its reproduction.
SO5061: Researching Social Change
Defining social change; the concept of progress and social engineering; contingency reflexivity, risk society and postmodernism; periodisation of change; world trends; socio-economic theory and structural change; changing aspects of Irish society; institutional change in Western Europe; identity formation and cultural change; problematising the concept of class in theories of change; citizenship in a changing world; power and contestation.

Spring Semester
SO5032: Quantitative research Methods II
This course takes students with a basic grounding in quantitative methods and introduces them to the tools and data required for professional survey analysis, with special focus on multivariate methods appropriate for social science research, and extensive hands-on experience of real survey data, with a longitudinal and comparative focus.
SO5042: Qualitative research methods II
The aim of this course is to build on students understanding of qualitative methods and to develop the capacity to engage in critical and rigorous conceptualisation and writing practices. Designed to complement the introductory course, an emphasis is placed on how developing theoretical understandings. Students will be enabled to engage with issues around the philosophical, epistemological and ethical implications of methodological decisions in qualitative research.
SO5052: Researching Social exclusion II
Comparative perspectives and comparative empirical studies on social exclusion and society’s response to it; the critical evaluation of such concepts as redistribution, social justice, empowerment, participation, and partnership; the codification of social exclusion in public and policy discourse; the ideologies, dynamics and structures of intervention agencies and occupations using case studies.
SO5061: Researching Social Change
Defining social change; the concept of progress and social engineering; contingency reflexivity, risk society and postmodernism; periodisation of change; world trends; socio-economic theory and structural change; changing aspects of Irish society; institutional change in Western Europe; identity formation and cultural change; problematising the concept of class in theories of change; citizenship in a changing world; power and contestation.
SO5092: Sociological Debates
Idea of society and roots of sociological theory; modernity and social change; Marxism and the historical materialist approach, Weber and the rise of interpretive sociology; Durkheim and debates on positivism; First, second and third- wave Feminist theory; Symbolic interactionism and ethnomethodology; Agency, structure and structuration theory; Risk and reflexive modernity; Postmodernism and the death of the subject/ metanarrative; Risk society and globalisation; Individualisation, secularisation and theories of post-secular society
SO5072: Researching Health and Illness
Theoretical origins and development of the sociology of health and illness; sociological approaches and empirical themes; the shifting boundaries between health/disease; the role of modern medicine, the cultural imperative of health, the new public health paradigm, health inequalities, challenges to paternalistic medicine, professional power and vocational uncertainty; the impact of medical technologies on social and political environments: the emergence and significance of social bioethics; exploring the limitations and possibilities of social research in the field of health and illness: ethical, political, methodological and substantive issues.
SO5002: Researching Irish Media Audiences
Using a wide range of examples from both ’old’ and ’new’ media, the module examines Irish media audiences in an age of media globalization and’g-localization’. There will be a strong focus in the module on how meaning, in a media context, is generated in everyday life. Students will engage with the key theoretical and methodological approaches to mass media audiences. The
module will draw upon a wide range of illustrative materials from Irish print, broadcast and newer media genres At the conclusion of the module students will have undertaken two substantial pieces of audience based research -- one quantitative and one qualitative.

Contact
Course Director
Mary O’Donoghue
Department of Sociology
mary.odonoghue@ul.ie