Research Methods in Psychology MSc

This MSc equips students with the advanced training in research methods that will prepare them for a career involving psychological research. Training is provided in all relevant skills, including reviewing literature, developing hypotheses, writing research proposals, designing and carrying out empirical studies, conducting advanced statistical analyses, and presenting results.


What will I learn?

Students acquire a wide range of practical research skills. They gain knowledge of the nature and limitations of the scientific method and the main alternatives. In addition they develop knowledge of a range of general historical, theoretical, and philosophical issues underlying the discipline of psychology, including the philosophy of science.

Why should I study this degree at UCL?

The Division of Psychology & Language Sciences undertakes world-leading research and teaching in mind, behaviour, and language.

Our work attracts staff and students from around the world. Together they create an outstanding and vibrant environment, taking advantage of cutting-edge resources such as a behavioural neuroscience laboratory, a centre for brain imaging, and extensive laboratories for research in speech and language, perception, and cognition.

Opportunities for graduate students to work with world-renowned researchers exist in all areas of investigation, from basic processes to applied research. The division offers a supportive environment including numerous specialist seminars, workshops, and guest lectures.


Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. The programme consists of six core modules (90 credits), three optional modules (30 credits), and a research dissertation (60 credits).

Core Modules

  • Principles of Cognition
  • Statistics
  • Computer Programming
  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Keys Skills Portfolio
  • Group Project
  • Either Qualitative Data Analysis or Designing and Analysing fMRI Experiments


  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology


All students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation of 10,000–12,000 words.

Teaching and Learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of seminars and small-group lectures and practicals. Assessment is through reports of empirical projects carried out individually and in groups, essays, examination, computing project, literature review, web page, PowerPoint presentation, and poster presentation. The main group project is assessed through a 6,000–10,000 word report.

Obligatory Modules

PSYCGR10: Statistics

This course provides a review of descriptive and non-parametric statistics. Followed by a detailed study of: analysis of variance, including planned and post-hoc comparisons, factorial designs and repeated measures; analysis of covariance; multiple regression; canonical correlation; multivariate analysis of variance; and, factor analysis and clustering techniques. The statistics package used is SPSS. This course is assessed by three online Moodle exams in Term 1.

PSYCGR11: Empirical Projects

This is the central component of the programme. It involves practical applications of the skills acquired in the other components of the course.

  • Over the first two terms, students design, execute, analyse, and report two group projects, working in small groups of three-five students. These are supported by tutorials in which students present their hypotheses and designs for critical group discussion prior to carrying out the studies. 
  • The first group project is a course requirement, but doesn't contribute marks. Each group colletively analyses the data and writes up the report. The report is then peer-reviewed and, if necessary, revised in the light of that review. The second group project is individually analysed and written up.  The report is then marked in the usual way to give the final mark for the module.
  • Over the rest of the year, students conduct their main research project.  The main Project can be carried out at institutions outside the department by arrangement, and under departmental academic supervision.

PSYCGD02: Principles of Cognition

This module outlines general theoretical principles that underlie cognitive processes across many domains, ranging from perception and memory, to reasoning and decision making. The focus will be on general, quantitative regularities, and the degree to which theories focusing on specific cognitive scientific topics can be constrained by such principles. There will be particular emphasis on understanding cognitive principles that are relevant to theories of decision making. The course will also deal with the issue of which mental processes are subject to general theoretical principles, and which must be understood one-by-one.  

PSYCGR13: Special Research Methods (Options)

In this course, specialists from a variety of fields in psychology discuss the methods used in their own research area. These methodological seminars are grounded by showing their application to a particular theory or issue in psychology.  Each option comprises five 1½ hour seminars, which include some practical work and demonstrations. Students select two options geared to their own research interests, and write an essay for each.

Within the PSYCGR13: Special Research Methods (Options) module, students choose two from four available lecture series and complete a written assessment on both.

Options available may depending on demand, currently offered options are:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental Psychology

PSYCGR14: Core Skills Portfolio

These seminars give students grounding in the skills necessary to complete the programme. These skills include: a critical awareness of different research methodologies; research evaluation strategies; meta-analysis; writing research proposals and reports; communication and presentation skills; ethical and legal issues; library use and literature search. These skills are developed through workshop-style seminars, the conduct of practical tasks, and constructive peer evaluation. Students' skills are assessed by their application in project work, and by the compilation of a portfolio of work, which includes: a web page, copies of a powerpoint presentation and a poster.  The module ends with a conference in the summer in which students present some of their research (attendance at the conference is a course requirement, but the presentation is not assessed).

PSYCGR15: Computer Programming

This is an introductory computing course which assumes no prior computing experience, and is intended to provide students with programming skills using Matlab. The objective is for students to acquire the formal structure of a high-level programming language, and emphasis is placed on the manipulation of data in the context of psychological experimentation. The course is assessed by the production of a computer programme.

PSYCGR98: Research Project

Optional Modules

PSYCGR16: Qualitative Data Analysis

This course introduces the main data-sources and analysis methods used in qualitative research. In addition to covering the key conceptual issues, a computer package for qualitative analysis is taught, as are further methods for data analysis. Students emerge with the skill of using a textual data analysis package. The strengths and limitations of various techniques are evaluated, with an eye to issues such as reliability and validity. The specific criteria used for evaluation of qualitative work are examined, as is its scientific status. The course combines lectures and practical work, and is assessed by a qualitative analysis.

PSYCGC20: Designing and Analysing fMRI Experiments

This module provides a comprehensive introduction to designing fMRI experiments and a basic introduction to analysing and interpreting the results.  In parallel with the lectures, students will complete a mini-fMRI project of their own design that will involve designing and implementing the experiment, collecting approximately two hours of scanning data, analysing the results and presenting the in a short Journal of Neuroscience style paper.  Each week will offer a 1.5 hour lecture and a 1 hour session aimed at reinforcing the lecture material via hands-on experience with real fMRI data.  The module is aimed at anyone planning to use fMRI in their own research.

PLEASE NOTE: Places on this module are very limited.  Not all students on this MSc will be able to take this module.  Places are allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis during Induction Week.  If you are unable to take the fMRI module, you will take the Qualitative Design Analysis module instead.

Full time students attend university for around three days per week in the first and second term. Part time students, completing the programme over two years attend university for two days per week in the first and second term of each year.  No formal teaching is scheduled in the third term, as this is intended for project work.


Programme Director: Dr Hugo Spiers

Teaching staff (NB: staff may occasionally be absent for a term or more on research or other leave)

In addition, we can call on the support of visiting lecturers, Teaching Fellows and Postgraduate Teaching Assistants.

Application and Entry

Start of Programme

  • September intake only

Application deadline for entry in 2014/15

  • 1 August 2014

Entry requirements

Normally a minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in Psychology or Neuroscience from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Additional relevant experience or qualifications are taken into account.

International equivalencies

Select your country for equivalent alternative requirements

English language proficiency level: Good

How to apply

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.

The deadline for applications is 31 July 2015.

Who can apply?

The programme is suitable for students with a background in Psychology or related subject who wish to gain the skills necessary for a research career in this field. The programme has ESRC accreditation, which means that it can form the first year of an ESRC 1+3 studentship.

What are we looking for?

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Research Methods in Psychology at graduate level
  • why you want to study Research Methods in Psychology at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
  • how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this rigorous 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.

Fees and Funding

Tuition fees (2015/16)

  • UK/EU Full-time: £8,755
  • UK/EU Part-time: £4,375
  • Overseas Full-time: £22,350
  • Overseas Part-time: £11,125


ESRC 1+3 studentships are available for this programme. You must specify on your application if you wish to be considered for this award. The current MPhil/PhD application deadline is 31 January.

Scholarships available for this department

MRes Speech, Language and Cognition Awards

To reward academic merit.

Sully Scholarship

For current students in their final year of a research programme in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences. This award is based on academic merit. Students must contact the Division of Psychology & Language Sciences for application information.

Full details of funding opportunities can be found on the UCL Scholarships website:



The programme aims to equip students with the advanced training in research methods that will prepare them for a career involving psychological research with humans and non-humans.

Top career destinations for this programme

  • Imperial College London, Research Associate, 2012
  • Hertfordshire NHS Foundation, Assistant Clinical Psychologist, 2012
  • NHS, Assistant Psychologist, 2012
  • Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Trainee Child Psychologist, 2012
  • University of Hong Kong, Research Assistant, 2012


By the end of this training, students will have acquired a wide range of practical research skills. They will have gained a knowledge of the nature and limitations of the scientific method and the main alternatives. In addition they will have knowledge of a range of general historical, theoretical, and philosophical issues underlying the discipline of psychology, including the philosophy of science.

The programme aims to equip students with the advanced training in research methods that will prepare them for a career involving psychological research with human and nonhumans.

First destinations of recent graduates include:

  • Hackney NHS: Psychologist
  • South London and Maudsley NHS Trust: Research Assistant
  • University of Exeter: PhD Psychology
  • Tavistock Clinic: Assistant Psychologist
  • UCL: PhD Psychology
  • St Vincent Hospital: Research Psychologist
  • Institute of Psychiatry: Research Worker
  • SW London & St George's Mental Health NHS Trust: Assistant Psychologist


Next steps


Miss Hannah Spikesley

T: +44 (0)20 7679 8798


Division of Psychology & Language Sciences

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