“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,
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 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.
Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings
Start of programme: September intake only
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
Our teaching and learning approach is designed to support and encourage students in their own process of self-learning, and to develop their own ideas, responses and critique of international development practice and policy. We do this through a mixture of lectures, and more student-centred learning approaches (including tutorials and seminars). Teaching combines innovative use of audio-visual materials, practical exercises, group discussions, and weekly guided reading and discussions, as well as conventional lecturing.
In addition to the taught part of the masters programme, all students will write a 10,000 word dissertation. Students develop their research topic under the guidance and supervision of an academic member of the Department. Students are encouraged to explore a particular body of theory or an academic debate relevant to their programme through a focus on a particular region.
All Masters programmes consist of 180 credits, made up of taught modules of 30 or 15 credits, taught over 10 or 20 weeks, and a dissertation of 60 credits. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.
As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework, revising for examinations and so on. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary.
More information is on the page for each module.
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.
Pre Entry Reading
Kuhn, T. S. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Fine, B., D. Johnston, A. Santos and E. Van Waeyenberge (2015). “Nudging or Fudging: The World Development Report 2015”, Development and Change, 47(4): 640–663.
Oya, C. (2013), ‘Methodological reflections on land 'grab' databases and the land 'grab' literature “rush”’. Journal of Peasant Studies, 40(3): 503-520.
Rizzo, M., Kilama, B., and Wuyts, M. 2015. ‘The Invisibility of Wage Employment in Statistics on the Informal Economy in Africa: Causes and Consequences’. The Journal of Development Studies 51: pp. 149-161.
Sayer, A. 1984. Method in social science: A realist approach. London: Hutchinson.
Schmidt, Anna 2007 ‘I Know What You’re Doing’, Reflexivity and Methods In Refugee Studies’ in Refugee Survey Quarterly, Vol. 26, Issue 3
Sumner, A. and M.Tribe. 2008. International Development Studies. Theories and Methods in Research Practice. London: Sage.
Vlassenroot, K (2006) ‘War and Social Research. The limits of empirical methodologies in war-torn environments’, Civilisations 54, pp 191-198.
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
It had always been my dream to work in the humanitarian sector but having left school at 16, I lacked the necessary academic background to do so. As it is possible to argue that every humanitarian crisis is intrinsically linked to a contexts underlying development, I wanted to study a degree in International Development to enable me to look at crises holistically.