[skip to content]

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

MA Anthropological Research Methods

Duration: 1 year full-time or 2/3 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

Minimum Entry Requirements: Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) 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 the regional and language expertise necessary for continuing onto a PhD.

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

The MA in Anthropological Research Methods (MaRes) 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 program]. In either case, the student completes a program of research training that includes the Ethnographic Research Methods, Statistical Analysis and the Research Training Seminar as well as a language option. All MaRes students are assigned a supervisor at the start of the year, who will help the student choose other relevant course options. Candidates must also submit a number of research related assignments which, taken together with the dissertation, are equivalent to approximately 30,000 words of assessed work. All students write an MA dissertation, but for students progressing on to a PhD, the MA dissertation will take the form of a research report that will constitute the first part of the upgrade document for the PhD programme.

The MaRes is recognised by the ESRC.

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:

  • Have achieved practical competence in a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods and tools;
  • Have the ability to understand key issues of method and theory, and to understand the epistemological issues involved in using different methods.

In addition to key issues of research design, students will be introduced to a range of specific research methods and tools including:

  • Interviewing, collection and analysis of oral sources, analysis and use of documents, participatory research methods, issues of triangulation research validity and reliability, writing and analysing field notes, and ethnographic writing.
  • Social statistics techniques relevant for fieldwork and ethnographic data analysis (including chi-square tests, the T-test, F-test, and the rank correlation test).

Discipline specific training in anthropology includes:

  • Ethnographic methods and participant observation;
  • Ethical and legal issues in anthropological research;
  • The logistics of long-term fieldwork;
  • Familiarisation with appropriate regional and theoretical literatures;
  • Writing-up (in the field and producing ethnography) and communicating research results; and
  • Language training.

The Training Programme

In addition to optional courses that may be taken (see below), the student must successfully complete the following core course:

This full unit course is composed of Ethnographic Research Methods (15 PAN H002, a 0.5 unit course) and Introduction to Statistics - A Graduate Programme at Three Levels (a 0.5 unit course convened at UCL).

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. 

Dissertation

MA/MPhil Students meet regularly with their supervisor to produce a systematic review of the secondary and regional literature that forms an integral part of their dissertation/research proposal. The dissertation, Dissertation in Anthropology and Sociology (15 PAN C998), is approximately 15,000 words and demonstrates the extent to which students have achieved the key learning outcomes during the first year of research training. The dissertation takes the form of an extended research proposal that includes:

  • A review of the relevant theoretical and ethnographic literature;
  • An outline of the specific questions to be addressed, methods to be employed, and the expected contribution of the study to anthropology;
  • A discussion of the practical, political and ethical issues likely to affect the research; and
  • A presentation of the schedule for the proposed research together with an estimated budget.

The MA dissertation is submitted no later than mid-September of the student’s final year of registration. Two soft-bound copies of the dissertation, typed or word-processed, should be submitted to the Faculty of Arts and Humanities Office by 4 pm on the appropriate day.

Exemption from Training

Only those students who have clearly demonstrated their knowledge of research methods by completing a comparable program of study in qualitative and quantitative methods will be considered for a possible exemption from the taught courses. All students, regardless of prior training, are required to participate in the Research Training Seminar.

Structure of Study

Learn a language as part of this programme

Degree programmes at SOAS - including this one - can include language courses in more than forty African and Asian languages. It is SOAS students’ command of an African or Asian language which sets SOAS apart from other universities.

A typical program of study would involve enrolling and passing (an asterisk * indicates a required component of the degree) three full units (this includes the two half units on research methods) and submitting a dissertation.

Term 1
Generic Training
  • Language Training
    AND/OR
  • Special Course Option
Anthropological Training
Term 2
Generic Training
  • Language Training
    AND/OR
  • Special Course Option
Anthropological Training
  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Research Training Seminar
  • Work with Supervisor
Term 3
  • Research Training Seminar: presentations to subject group
  • Work with Supervisor
  • Submission of dissertation/research proposal

Language Training

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

Option Courses

Programme Specification

Teaching & Learning

Year abroad

 No

Teaching & Learning

This MA is designed to be a shortcut into the PhD in that two of its components (the Research Methods Course and the Research Training Seminar, which supports the writing of the dissertation) are part of the taught elements of the MPhil year. Students on this course are also assigned a supervisor with whom they meet fortnightly as do the MPhil students. The other two elements of the course are unique to each student: and might include doing one of the core courses from the other Masters degrees (Social Anthropology, Anthropology of Development, Medical Anthropology, Anthropology of Media, Migration and Diaspora, or Anthropology of Food), as well as any options that will build analytical skills and regional knowledge, including language training. The MaRes can also be used to build regional expertise or to fill gaps in particular areas such as migration or development theory.

The dissertation for the MaRes will normally be assessed by two readers in October of the following year (that is, after the September 15th due date).  Students who proceed onto the MPhil course from the MA will then have the first term of the MPhil year to write a supplementary document that reviews the dissertation and provides a full and detailed Fieldwork Proposal. This, along with research report material from the original MA dissertation, is examined in a viva voce as early as November of the first term of the MPhil year by the same examiners who have read the dissertation. Successful students can then be upgraded to the PhD in term 1 and leave for fieldwork in term 2 of the first year of the MPhil/PhD programme. This programme is currently recognised by the ESRC and therefore interested students who are eligible for ESRC funding can apply under the 1+3 rubric. (ESRC)

Destinations

Students of the Masters in Anthropological Research Methods develop a wide range of transferable skills such as research, analysis, oral and written communication skills.  

The communication skills of anthropologists transfer well to areas such as information and technology, the media and tourism. Other recent SOAS career choices have included commerce and banking, government service, the police and prison service, social services and health service administration. Opportunities for graduates with trained awareness of the socio-cultural norms of minority communities also arise in education, local government, libraries and museums.

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

SOAS creates a unique atmosphere that I have never tasted before. I truly love the SOAS community, or what I termed anthropologically as ‘SOAS-ism’.

Hang Wang