Systematic Reviews for Social Policy and Practice MSc
The Systematic Reviews for Social Policy and Practice MSc equips students to work with the increasing number of national and international organisations committed to evidence-informed policy and practice. Students learn alongside early career and experienced researchers, policymakers and practitioners from a diverse set of policy sectors and disciplines.
The programme will enable you to plan and appraise a systematic review of research in any policy area, to develop a critical appreciation of the full diversity of review approaches and types of research use, and equip you with understanding and skills to help ensure perspectives from the public, practitioners, policymakers and researchers are all considered in research and policy development.
Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.
The programme consists of five core modules (90 credits), one to two optional modules (30 credits), and a dissertation (60 credits).
- Systematic Review Design and Planning (15 credits)
- Systematic Reviews for Complex Policy Issues (15 credits)
- Research Engagement, Participation and Impact (15 credits)
- Evidence for Policy and Practice (15 credits)
- Social Theory and the Study of Contemporary Social Problems (30 credits)
Students must take 30 credits and can select from the following modules
- Systematic Reviews: meta-analysis, qualitative synthesis and mixed methods synthesis
There are many possible ways of combining (synthesising) the results of studies in a systematic review. Students learn about, and use, both established and emerging methods that they can then employ in their own research, including: statistical meta-analysis, thematic synthesis, realist synthesis, qualitative comparative analysis, and mixed methods synthesis. Students also learn about the role of study quality assessment during synthesis, and how to interpret synthesis results. To participate, students need to have taken an introductory course on systematic reviewing or bring their own working knowledge of synthesising study findings. Students attend from a range of public policy sectors and disciplines.
Students participate in workshops in a classroom at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) or at a distance via Moodle our virtual learning environment. Workshops will be recorded and made available on Moodle. All students will be expected to engage in additional individual and group activities online.
- Introduction to Data Analysis
- Introduction to Regression Analysis
This module is an introduction to regression analysis. It will be a pre-requisite for all advanced quantitative modules in Term 2.
The module starts with an introduction to Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression and the assumption behind them and moves through topics on OLS violations, transforming variables, non-linear effects, dummy variables and interactions and finished with a range of limited dependent variable models.
Each lecture will be mirrored by a practical workshop seminar where students will put the analytical techniques introduced in the lectures to use. Students will analyse a large datasets using a statistical computer package (STATA) and will be encouraged to develop good practice in presenting and interpreting the statistics they produce. By the end of the course students will be able to carry out an independent piece of research using regression techniques and will present this work in class. Students should also be able to analyse critically the use of statistics in social research and to feel comfortable with using different regression techniques to answer questions about social phenomena.
- Introduction to Qualitative Methods
This module is a compulsory module for students on the Social Research Methods MSc. It introduces students to different qualitative approaches in the social sciences. Topics covered include: The Nature of Qualitative Research, Qualitative Research Design, Qualitative research computer and social media software, Interviews, Narrative methods, Focus groups, Observation, Ethnography, Participatory and Action Research, E-research.On this module students will:
- survey different approaches to qualitative research design, data collection/generation and analysis
- develop skills in computer aided qualitative analysis using NVIVO
- undertake a small piece of qualitative analysis themselves.
On completion of the module students should be able to demonstrate their ability to:
- understand how methods and theory are linked in qualitative research
- demonstrate an understanding of qualitative data interpretation, presentation and ethical awareness
- apply different approaches to qualitative interviews and data collection/generation
- exercise reflexivity and ability to interrogate the qualitative research process and findings
- analyse qualitative data using the software NVIVO
- critically appraise and demonstrate rigour in qualitative research.
- Survey Design
This module is an introduction to survey methods and is a core module for all students. The module aims to familiarise students with:
- key principles of survey design and sampling
- questionnaire design and evaluation
- data collection modes
- non-response and dealing with missing data
- ethnical issues in survey research
- using data for secondary analysis.
- Introduction to Longitudinal Data Analysis
- Using Stata Efficiently and Effectively
This module teaches students how to use the statistics programme Stata efficiently and effectively. It will begin by providing a revision of data analysis documentation using the Stata do-file editor. The course will then move on to show students how they can access Stata results post-estimation, and move the results to other formats, such as Excel or .csv files. It will illustrate how loops, local and global macros can be used in Stata to perform repetitive tasks efficiently and effectively. The course will then cover the State program command, providing students with a basic introduction to Stata .ado file writing. The final weeks will illustrate how Stata can be used to produce replicable graphs in Excel.
- Impact Evaluation Methods
This interdisciplinary module introduces students to Impact Evaluation Methods and their use in the social sciences. The course will emphasise the application of quasi-experimental evaluation methods in the 'real world', and its potential impact upon government policy. Students will learn about key elements of quasi-experimental methods, and be able to critically evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
The course has a high practical element, with students regularly analysing data. Topics to be covered include propensity score matching, regression discontinuity designs, difference-in-difference, instrumental variables and cost-benefit analyses. Upon completing the course, students will be able to design an effective quasi-experimental impact evaluation, and understand how the results can influence public policy.
- Advanced Quantitative Methods
This course builds on Term 1s Data Analysis and Introduction to Regression Analysis, covering standard regression and simple non-linear models in a more detailed manner. We will quickly move on to discuss issues with simple methods such as omitted variable bias and classical and non-classical measurement error. We will then cover advanced topics and how these deal with some of the issues faced, including panel data, hierarchical (multi-level) models, probit, ordinal, multinomial and selection models and quantile regressions. This course will use the statistical analysis program STATA throughout.
- Advanced Qualitative Methods
This module aims to enable a deeper understanding of qualitative approaches and qualitative methods in the social sciences introduced in Term 1. Students will review a selection of approaches to qualitative research design, data collection/generation and analysis with the aim of enabling an appreciation of the challenges of triangulation within qualitative methods and between qualitative and quantitative methods.
Learning in this module will provide students with skills needed to undertake advanced qualitative analysis and by the end of the course students should be able to analyse critically the use of different qualitative methodologies in social research and feel comfortable with carrying out this type of research on their own.
Advanced themes will vary year to year but indicative areas include: Narrative Research; Ethnography, Visual and other sensory methods; Discourse and Conversational analysis; Social media research. Each year the module will cover two themes.
- Randomised Control Trials in the Social Sciences
- International Comparisons in the Social Sciences
This course will teach students how to conduct quantitative cross-national comparisons in the social sciences. It will particularly focus upon datasets produced by the OECD, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Students will learn about why cross-national comparisons are interesting and important, the challenges and pitfalls that researchers face when comparing social science phenomena across countries, and how such comparisons can be conducted using standard statistical software (e.g. Stata).
- Understanding the Policy Process: Theories and Issues
This course aims to develop understanding of the policy process and skills in policy analysis. Students will be introduced to a selection of important policy theories and their use for studying the making of social policy. Although much of the material refers to the UK policy context, the focus of the course is international and students attend with an interest in a range of social policy sectors and disciplines.
After taking this course students should:
- have a critical insight into the policy process and how and why change may occur, including the influence of social research at different stages
- know about a selection of important policy theories and recognise their main strengths and weaknesses
- be aware of key issues and challenges related to the study of the policy process
- be able to apply these insights to a case study that demonstrates understanding of how and why specific policies were developed.
- Understanding Research
The aim of this module is to provide a general introduction to social research, advancing students' ability to recognise, describe and appraise different types, principles and practices of research in education and the social sciences. As well as critically reading research, participants gain first-hand experience in and reflect critically on doing research. The following topics will be considered:
- purposes of research
- theory and research
- research ethics
- research questions
- research designs
- data collection methods
- qualitative data analysis
- quantitative data analysis
- selection and representation in research
- academic literature
- judging the quality of research.
- Other relevant modules available from the IOE (mainly at 30 credits)
Some optional modules have pre-requisites and not all are available for study at a distance
All students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a 10,000 to 12,000-word dissertation on one of the following:
a) A systematic review in a social policy area of your own choice, including a critical discussion of that review.
b) A critical apraisal of the active involvement of stakeholders in research, or in evidence-informed policy development in an area of your choice.
Teaching and Learning
This programme can be studied completely online and at a distance or by taking face-to-face seminars or workshops on campus with online learning. It is assessed by coursework assignments and a 10-12,000-word dissertation.
Note on fees: The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Current Students website.
Normally a minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard is required.
English Language Requirements
If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.
The English language level for this programme is: Good
Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.
Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.
International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below.
Select your country:
Applicants may be eligible to apply for funding from the Economic and Social Research Council via the UCL, Bloomsbury and East London Doctoral Training Partnership. The MSc provides Master's-level postgraduate training which can constitute the first year of ESRC 1+3 postgraduate PhD studentships.
Scholarships relevant to this department are displayed below.
- Overseas students
For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.
Graduates of this programme are currently working across a broad range of areas, for example one is a project director in mobile technology for learning, while another is a social research manager advising national government. Another graduate works as a senior editor of systematic research reviews. Others have gone on to doctoral studies.
Students completing the programme are equipped with enhanced critical thinking skills and, in particular, skills for research design and appraisal, spanning a full range of research purposes and problems.
Why study this degree at UCL?
This multidisciplinary programme is unique in the way that students study methods for reviews of both qualitative and quantitative data, and a full range of research designs.
The programme can be taken entirely at a distance, or on campus, and attracts students from across the globe, many of whom are already working for research-focused or policy-making organisations.
You will learn from research-active tutors based at the IOE’s EPPI-Centre, which is recognised worldwide for its development of methods for diverse kinds of systematic review, for the production of policy-relevant research, and for research into perspectives and participation.
Department: Social Science
Research Excellence Framework (REF)
The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.
The following REF score was awarded to the department: Social Science
78% rated 4* (world-leading) or 3* (internationally excellent)
Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.
Application and next steps
Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.
Who can apply?
The programme is suited to experienced and recent graduates alike. The programme will provide you with the skills and knowledge to pursue, or further, a career in the field of social science research and evidence-informed policy and practice. Students bring interest in varied sectors, including health, education and social/international development.
- All applicants
- 27 July 2018
For more information see our Applications page.Apply now
What are we looking for?
When we assess your application we would like to learn:
- why you want to study Systematic Reviews for Social Policy and Practice at graduate level
- why you want to study Systematic Reviews for Social Policy and Practice at UCL
- what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
- how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this challenging programme
- where you would like to go professionally with your degree
Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.