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Department of Development Studies

MSc Research for International Development

Duration: One calendar year (full-time) Two (part-time, daytime only) We recommend that part-time students have between two and a half and three days free in the week to pursue their course of study.

Overview

Minimum Entry Requirements: Normally minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in the social sciences, including some economics and/or political economy, and preferably a demonstrable interest in research and research methods. Work and other experience may be taken into account. Each student must attend the Preliminary Mathematics and Statistics module, and attend its exam. The preliminary module runs in September prior to the start of teaching in term one.

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

Who is this programme for?:

The degree has been developed to meet the needs of both development practitioners and researchers on international development, including those wishing to pursue an MPhil/PhD in International Development. The programme will suit students with a variety of backgrounds in social sciences, including politics, sociology, economics, and so on. It would also meet the needs of people working, or hoping to work in international agencies, humanitarian organisations, and NGOs. Students with a strong interest in research and research methods will thrive on the MSc distinctive focus on training in research methods.

“Getting to grips with development these days requires the ability to understand grand theory as well as a slew of expert subfields, each with their conceptual languages and real-world power structures.
Pursuing research means justifying one or two of them, or reasoning your way into starting afresh. Whatever happens the battlefield must be surveyed and negotiated and SOAS is an excellent place for this adventure.”
Barbara Harriss-White, Emeritus Professor of Development Studies,
Oxford University

The MSc Research for International Development is a newly established interdisciplinary Taught Masters programme at SOAS, offered jointly by the departments of Economics and Development Studies. This cutting-edge degree is funded and supported by the UK’s ESRC (The Economic and Social Research Council) as part of the Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre.

The programme’s unique twenty-week core module Battlefield of Methods: Approaches to International Development equips students with the theoretical background and analytical skills to inquire into the relationship between theory and method in the domain of international development. The module provides students with knowledge about the plurality of methodological approaches in key areas of international development research, and the policy choices and strategies associated with these. The module offers students the opportunity to engage with a selection of methods used in international development research.

"Developmental research is a combination of science and art, resting on sound theoretical knowledge, a capability of handling a variety of methodologies and something that is just as important, a "feel" for the subject. There is no one perfect methodology or set of tools; a good social scientist must appreciate the strengths and limitations of each on offer. Uniquely, this module will equip future developmental explorers with the sophisticated tools. They will have to bring the "feel" themselves."
Guy Standing, Professor of Economic Security University of Bath, UK

Further training in a variety of research methods is the focus of the other two core modules: Research Methods in Political Economy I and II. RMI covers the necessary statistical methods for social sciences including survey design and regression analysis. It aims to a) introduce students to statistical inference; b) encourage the clear and coherent expression of statistical results; and c) promote the critical reading of statistics within the development literature. RMII addresses sources and methods for the social sciences in the context of the political economy of development.

This programme gives students advanced interdisciplinary training in research methods and topics in Research for International Development. While the programme structure emphasises research methods, students will also have the opportunity to choose from a large number of substantive optional modules. The interdisciplinary nature of the programme is by virtue of both the core modules and options available for study being drawn from two departments within SOAS: Economics and Development Studies. Students will therefore benefit from studying with experts in a variety of fields of international development, and from the wide regional expertise in developing countries and development issues. 

Structure

The course is taken over 1 year (full time) or 2-3 years (part-time). There are three core modules: a year-long core module in research methods entitled ‘Battlefields of Method’, and two half-year modules in research methods - Research Methods in International Development and Statistical Research Techniques in International Development.

Optional modules
Students will choose a maximum of four optional modules (60 credits in total) from those offered between the Department of Development Studies and the Department of Economics. (Please note that economics modules can only be taken with the permission of the specific module convenor and will depend on specific background in economics.)

Students should be aware that not all optional modules may run in a given year. 

Core Courses
Non-Assessed Courses

All MSc students in Development Studies are eligible to attend the one-term , non-assessed module, Economics for Beginners,which introduces students to basic concepts in microeconomics, macroeconomics, development economics, and statistics and econometrics.

Optional Courses
Development Studies Department
Economics Department
Centre for Gender Studies

Programme Specification

Disclaimer

Teaching & Learning

Materials

SOAS Library
SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.

Teaching & Learning

Modules are taught in lectures and tutorial groups. Degrees are awarded on the basis of assessed coursework, examinations and the dissertation. Modules are generally assessed on the basis of a final examination (70%) and essay or project based coursework (30%). MSc degrees are taught over a period of twelve months of full-time study within a structured programme. In the case of part-time study, the degrees will be taught over two or three years.

Lectures

Most modules involve a 1 or 2 hour lecture as a key component with linked tutorial classes.

Tutorials

At Masters level there is particular emphasis on tutorial work. Students make full-scale presentations and are expected to write papers that often require significant independent work.

Dissertation

Students are required to complete a 13,000-word dissertation in ‘Research Methods for International Development’.

Preliminary Mathematics and Statistics Course

Our MSc programmes attract students with a wide range of backgrounds including many who have worked for a few years before coming to SOAS. Our popular quantitative modules are designed to be accessible to all of our students including those with a relatively small quantitative component in their first degree. Our well-received quantitative modules focus on applying basic methods used in empirical research. They equip students to carry out their own high quality empirical work and critically evaluate research, with relatively little emphasis on advanced econometric theory and mathematical proofs. Our quantitative methods teaching begins with a three-week preliminary module in mathematics, statistics and computing. Each student must attend this module, and sit its exam. The preliminary module runs in September prior to the start of teaching in term one. The objective of the module is to review the basic quantitative skills assumed once formal teaching commences. This module is compulsory. Further details on the Preliminary Mathematics and Statistics Course.

Destinations

A postgraduate degree in Research for International Development from SOAS provides graduates with a portfolio of widely transferable skills sought by employers, including analytical skills, the ability to think  laterally and employ critical reasoning, and knowing how to present materials and ideas effectively both orally and in writing. Equally graduates are able to continue in the field of research, continuing their studies either at SOAS or other institutions. 

An MSc in Research for International Development is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.

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

A Student's Perspective

The Department of Development Studies here is a microcosm for all that is special about SOAS. The critical political economy perspective taken to the many vexed questions of development will give you a way of seeing the world that challenges mainstream thinking.

Jo Tomkinson