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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

MA Anthropological Research Methods and Intensive Language

Duration: 2 year full-time or 4 years part-time. The expectation in the UK is of continuous study across the year, with break periods used to read and to prepare coursework.

Overview

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Minimum Entry Requirements: Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in Social Anthropology or a taught Masters degree in social anthropology. This Masters is designed for students wishing to pursue a PhD in Social Anthropology. Exceptionally this course may be taken as a conversion MA. Students who would like to take this path must demonstrate a solid grounding in the discipline as well as the regional and language expertise necessary for continuing onto a PhD.

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

Who is this programme for?:

This Masters is designed for students wishing to pursue a PhD in social anthropology. The programme might also be taken as a stand-alone MA for those wanting training in anthropological research methods for professional development or practical application.

It can also be taken with an intensive language pathway over two years, therefore making this programme unique in Europe.

It is intended for students with a good first degree (minimum of a 2.1) in social anthropology or a taught Masters degree in social anthropology.  Students who would like to take this path must demonstrate a solid grounding in the discipline as well as the regional and language expertise necessary for continuing onto a PhD.

Exceptionally this course may be taken as a conversion MA. Students wishing to take this path must demonstrate a solid grounding in the discipline as well as the regional and language expertise necessary for continuing onto a PhD.

The MA in Anthropological Research Methods (MA Res) may be taken either as a free standing MA or as the first part of a PhD [e.g. as a 1 + 3 research training programme]. In the latter case, the MA Res therefore serves as a shortcut into the PhD. It is designed to train students in research skills, including language training, to the level prescribed by the ESRC’s research training guidelines.

Most students would be expected to progress to PhD registration at the end of the degree.

The Japanese pathway is available for students who have an intermediate level of Japanese. Students will be required to take a placement exam in the week before classes begin in order to determine if their level is suitable. Please contact Professor Drew Gerstle (ag4@soas.ac.uk) for further information.

The Korean pathway is designed for beginner learners of Korean. Students with prior knowledge of Korean are advised to contact the programme convenor, Dr Anders Karlsson (ak49@soas.ac.uk). Students will take four course units in the Korean language, one of them at a Korean university during the summer after year 1.

The Arabic pathway is designed for beginner learners of Arabic. Students will take four units of Arabic, one of them at the Qasid Institute in Jordan or another partner institution during the summer after year 1.  Programme convenor: Dr Mustafa Shah (ms99@soas.ac.uk)

Structure

Aims and Outcomes

The MA is designed to train students in research skills to the level prescribed by the ESRC’s research training guidelines. It is intended for students with a good first degree (minimum of a 2.1) in social anthropology and/or a taught Masters degree in social anthropology. Most students would be expected to progress to PhD registration at the end of the degree. By the end of the program students will:

  • To prepare students for a PhD in social anthropology.
  • To train students in research skills to the level prescribed by the ESRC’s research training guidelines.
  • To enable students to understand key issues in anthropological method and theory, and to understand the epistemological issues involved in using different methods.
  • To enable students to achieve practical competence in a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods and tools.
  • To provide students with the theoretical, practical and linguistic training necessary for conducting field research.
  • To provide students with a near proficient ability in a language.


Knowledge

  1. How to assess data and evidence critically from manuscripts and digital sources, solve problems of conflicting sources and conflicting interpretations, locate materials, use research sources (particularly research library catalogues) and other relevant traditional sources.
  2. The Research Methods course focuses on teaching the various research methods associated with anthropological fieldwork including: participant observation, historical research, qualitative interviewing, quantitative data collection, Rapid Participatory Assessment, how to design questionnaires and, especially, on how to formulate a research question and design a project and consider the ethical issues involved. The Statistics course works on how to compile statistics, and how to critically assess statistics.
  3. The Research Training course, which is assessed by the Masters dissertation, works on students’ writing skills with an emphasis on thinking of the history of the discipline, writing to schedule, writing to requested word count, how to formulate a research question based on the material gathered, as well as how to do a presentation, how to comment on presentations and how to apply for funding.  Term three looks at the strategies for working on the Masters’ dissertation and how to be upgraded at the start of the MPhil year.
  4. Students can choose an option (or two half units) which they and their supervisor think necessary to hone their expertise in either a region or subject area. This should result in a good grounding in the history and contemporary sociocultural and political issues of the chosen country or region of study, and familiarity with the scholarly literature on these topics.
  5. Many students work on their language skills with a language option in this MA. Students are expected to achieve proficiency in an African or Asian language sufficient for the purposes of anthropological field research: ability to conduct conversations and interviews, and to read and synthesise information from written sources in that language.

Intellectual (thinking) skills

  1. Students should become precise and cautious in their assessment of evidence, and to understand through practice what documents can and cannot tell us.
  2. Students should question interpretations, however authoritative, and reassess evidence for themselves.  They should be able to design a research project, set a timetable, understand the principles of fieldwork, and consider questions of ethics.
  3. Students should learn to read each other’s work for both its strengths and weaknesses, develop their skills as public speakers, learn how to compose short abstracts of their project (for funding applications), be able to think critically and yet be open to being critiqued themselves.

Subject-based practical skills

The programme aims to help students with the following practical skills:

  1. Retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources in both English and, to a less advanced level, their chosen language of fieldwork.
  2. In the two year intensive language pathway, to  acquire/develop skills in a language to Effective Operational Proficiency level, i.e., being able to  communicate in written and spoken medium in contemporary language.
  3. Present seminar papers.
  4. Listen to and discuss ideas introduced during seminars.
  5. Practice research techniques in a variety of specialized research libraries and institutes.
  6. Be prepared to conduct fieldwork for a PhD in anthropology.

Transferable skills

The programme will encourage students to:

  1. Write good essays and dissertations.
  2. Communicate effectively in writing.
  3. Structure and communicate ideas effectively both orally and in writing.
  4. Understand unconventional ideas.
  5. Present (non–assessed) material orally.
  6. Function as a student and researcher in a radically different environment.
  7. Be able to apply for funding to do a PhD.
  8. Be prepared to enter an Anthropology PhD programme and to be upgraded from MPhil to PhD in the shortest possible time.

Programme Specification

Teaching & Learning

Year abroad

Yes (Summer of Year 1)

Teaching & Learning

The student must successfully complete the following core course:

Research Methods in Anthropology (15 PAN C011)
This full unit course is composed of  Ethnographic Research Methods (15 PAN H002, a 0.5 unit course) and Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Social Research (15 PPO H035, a 0.5 unit course, offered by the Department of Politics and International Studies).  

MA Anthropological Research Methods students and first year MPhil/PhD are also required to attend the Research Training Seminar which provides training in the use of bibliographic/online resources, ethical and legal issues, communication and team-working skills, career development, etc. The focus of the Research Training Seminar is the development and presentation of the thesis topic which takes the form of a PhD-level research proposal.

The MA dissertation is submitted no later than mid-September of the student’s final year of registration.

A typical program of study would involve enrolling and passing three full units (this includes the two half units on research methods) and submitting a dissertation.

In the two-year language pathway, students take 2 intensive language units and Research Methods in Anthropology (1 unit) in their first year.  During the summer, they will participate in a summer school abroad.  Upon their return, they will take one intensive language unit in their second year and two optional anthropology units.  In the intensive-language pathway, the same rules apply as for the usual MA.

Students can choose to study any African or Asian language that is normally available to students taking one of the taught masters programs.

The two-year Intensive Language pathway is directed at students who want to engage with a country in a professional as well as academic way, as the intensive language course will enable them to reach a near proficient knowledge of the language.

A Student's Perspective

SOAS is a brilliant place to study social anthropology. The broad range of ethnic backgrounds means I can constantly be in touch with many of the issues and topics raised in my study.

Atika Malik