Course Overview

This new postgraduate programme builds on the rich tradition of 50 years of the teaching of Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway, offering students the opportunity to critically explore social and political forces that impact on contemporary issues. The MA (Politics and Sociology) provides the theoretical and empirical skills that graduates of Politics and Sociology require for the analyses of why our societies are the way that they are and if they can be improved.

The programme comprises of core taught modules in Politics and Sociology and a thesis  of 20,000 words which will be supervised by a member of academic staff in the School, providing one to one support and expertise in the student’s chosen field of enquiry

 Graduate attributes/learning outcomes for the programme

Students of the programme will acquire essential graduate employment skills, including written and oral communication skills, group work skills, critical thinking skills and problem solving skills.

 On successful completion of this programme students will be able to:

  1. Apply knowledge of contemporary and classical political and social theory to issues in contemporary society.
  2. Think critically about a range of political and social issues and problems.
  3. Design and conduct advanced political and social research on a range of political and social problems.
  4. Organise and present their work effectively.
  5. Work effectively in a group setting. 

Scholarships available
Find out about our Postgraduate Scholarships here.

Applications and Selections

Applications are made online via the NUI Galway Postgraduate Applications System

Reference for Graduate/Postgraduate Applicant

An interview may, in addition, form part of the application process.

Who Teaches this Course

Mark Haugaard is the founder editor of the Journal of Political Power (Routledge), and a book series, Social and Political Power (Manchester University Press). He is interested in sociological theory and normative political theory. In particular, the four dimensions of political power, authority, domination, empowerment, freedom and democratic theory. The best overview introduction to his work is (2012) ‘Rethinking the Four Dimensions of Power’, Journal of Political Power 5(1): 35-54. 

Allyn Fives is a lecturer in political theory. He is interested in value conflict, and monist and pluralist responses to conflict, and has explored these issues as they are dealt with in the work of Judith Shklar and Isaiah Berlin and also by considering real world problems such as political obligation, paternalism, toleration, ordinary crime, and political extremism. He is currently completing a book on Shklar’s liberalism of fear, and is co-editor of a forthcoming special issue of Res Publica. His published books are Evaluating Parental Power (Manchester), Political Morality (Palgrave), and Political and Philosophical Debates in Welfare (Palgrave), along with the edited collection Philosophy and Political Engagement (edited with Keith Breen, Palgrave).

Niamh Reilly is Established Professor of Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway. She has published widely on topics in human rights; feminist, political and social theory; religion and the public sphere; transnational social movements and the UN; and women, peace and security. Her books include: Women's Human Rights: Seeking Gender Justice in a Globalizing Age (Polity Press); Demanding Accountability: The Global Campaign and Vienna Tribunal for Women's Human Rights (UNIFEM) (with Charlotte Bunch); and two edited volumes, Religion, Gender and the Public Sphere (Routledge) (with S Scriver) and International Human Rights of Women (Springer, Major Reference Works). Niamh's current research interests focus on the relationship between theory and practice, the role of ideas in emancipatory projects, and inclusive approaches to the history of ideas.

Niall Ó Dochartaigh is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He has published extensively on the Northern Ireland conflict and on mediation, peace negotiations and territorial conflict. Recent publications include the co-edited books Political Violence in Context (ECPR Press) and Dynamics of Political Change in Ireland: Making and Breaking a Divided Island (Routledge). He has organised or co-organised numerous seminars, conference sections, panels, workshops and conferences on peace, conflict and political violence. He recently completed a monograph on Negotiation and Political Violence in Northern Ireland. He was a founding convener of the Standing Group on Political Violence of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) and the Specialist Group on Peace and Conflict of the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI). More information at

Su-ming Khoo is a Lecturer in Political Science and Sociology, and Cluster Leader of the Whitaker Institute: Environment, Development and Sustainability and Ryan Institute: Socio-Economic Impact Research Clusters at NUI Galway. She holds a PhD in Sociology and Social Policy. Her research interests include international human rights, global public goods and ethical perspectives on international development including: human development and capabilities approaches, postcolonial, feminist and ecological perspectives and strong sustainability. Su-ming is engaged in inter and transdisciplinary research and public scholarship. She researches and teaches international public advocacy and activism, focusing on human development and capabilities, the role of higher education, decolonial approaches to research and teaching and global ethics in higher education curriculum. She is a member of the International Sociological Association (ISA) Research Committees on Social Movements, Social Transformations and Sociology of Development, Sociology of Health, Human Rights and Environmental Sociology; a member of the Human Development and Capability Association’s (HDCA) Ethics, Foundational Issues and Human Rights Thematic Groups, and the Academic Network on Global Education & Learning (ANGEL). Recent publications here.

Brian McGrath is a Lecturer and former Programme Director of the MA in Community Development 2000-16. He holds a Bachelor of Social Science from UCC, MA (Community Development) from NUI Galway and PhD (Land Economy) from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He is currently Chair of the School’s Teaching & Learning Committee. His research interests span the following areas: sociology of community and development; the sociology & politics of welfare and wellbeing; and more recently the interdisciplinary study of human-nonhuman-nature relations. His research has been published in: Journal of Youth Studies, Journal of Rural Studies, Sociologia Ruralis, Community Development Journal, Child & Family Social Work and Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology.

Dr. Niamh Reilly
M.A., Ph.D.
Established Professor of Political Science and Sociology
Aras Moyola
School of Political Science and Sociology
View Profile

Requirements and Assessment

Key Facts

Entry Requirements

A primary degree or its equivalent, with Second Class Honours Grade 2 overall. Applicants should also have achieved an upper Second Class Honours degree (2.1) or equivalent, GPAs of at least 3.0 of 4.0 or equivalent for international students, in a relevant subject such as Sociology, Politics, Public and Social Policy, Geography, History, Economics or Law. An interview may, in addition, form part of the application process.

Additional Requirements


1 year, full-time

Next start date

September 2020

A Level Grades ()

Average intake


Closing Date

1 June 2020

NFQ level

Mode of study


ECTS weighting



Course code


Course Outline

Programme Content and Structure

The MA (Politics and Sociology) is a 90-ECTS programme which is comprised of 60 ECTS of core taught modules and 30 ECTS allocated to a dissertation.

Students who do not wish to continue to MA level can exit the programme with a Postgraduate Diploma (Politics and Sociology) on successfully completing the 60 ECTS of taught modules.




Core or Optional

Social Theory




Conflict, Power and Peace




Research Methods




Political Theory




Philosophy of Social Science




Welfare, Social Change and Irish Society





All year



Curriculum Information

Curriculum information relates to the current academic year (in most cases).
Course and module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Glossary of Terms

You must earn a defined number of credits (aka ECTS) to complete each year of your course. You do this by taking all of its required modules as well as the correct number of optional modules to obtain that year's total number of credits.
An examinable portion of a subject or course, for which you attend lectures and/or tutorials and carry out assignments. E.g. Algebra and Calculus could be modules within the subject Mathematics. Each module has a unique module code eg. MA140.
A module you may choose to study.
A module that you must study if you choose this course (or subject).
Most courses have 2 semesters (aka terms) per year.

Year 1 (90 Credits)

Required SP6111: Philosophy of Social Science

Semester 2 | Credits: 10

This course is an introduction to the philosophical foundations for research methods in social science. The departure point is the standard positivistic epistemic foundations of science, including Popper and Kuhn. Moving to social science, we explore the particular epistemic foundations of sociology and political science. This includes social constructionism and the making of meaning, which open the doors to hermeneutics, critical realism, critical theory, pragmatism, and discourse theory.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of philosophical positions, social ontology, paradigms, and the framing of research
  2. Design a research question in a clear and testable manner.
  3. Choose the appropriate epistemic frame for a research question.
  4. Relate a research question and frame to an appropriate methodology.
  5. Construct a coherent argument using social science frameworks.
  • Continuous Assessment (80%)
  • Department-based Assessment (20%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
Reading List
  1. "Philosophy of the social sciences" by Patrick Baert
    ISBN: 9780745622477.
    Publisher: Cambridge, UK ; Polity, 2005.
  2. "The foundations of social research" by Michael Crotty
    ISBN: 9780761961062.
    Publisher: London ; Sage Publications, 1998.
  3. "Varieties of social explanation" by Daniel Little
    ISBN: 0813305659.
    Publisher: Westview Press
The above information outlines module SP6111: "Philosophy of Social Science " and is valid from 2018 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required SP6112: Political Theory

Semester 2 | Credits: 10

This module explores the issue of political obligation. It examines the debate within political theory on the following question: for what reason should we ever ascribe political obligations to people? It also applies these philosophical debates to practical issues, including taxation, conscription, state violence, exile, conflicting obligations, and justified reistance.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Critique current debates in political theory on 'political obligation'
  2. Critically analyse philosophical arguments on different social/political issues
  3. Present a written/aural argument based on independent research that is correctly referenced and and cogently argued.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
Reading List
  1. "The legitimation of power" by David Beetham
    ISBN: 9780230279728.
    Publisher: Macmillan
  2. "Public and Private Morality" by Stuart Hampshire
    ISBN: 051293529.
    Publisher: Cambridge
  3. "Political obligation, second edition" by John Horton
    ISBN: 9780230576513.
    Publisher: Palgrave
  4. "On the people's terms" by Philip Pettit
    ISBN: 9780521182126.
    Publisher: Cambridge
  5. "Authority" by J Raz
    ISBN: 0814774156.
    Publisher: Oxford
  6. "Political thought & political thinkers" by Judith N. Shklar
    ISBN: 0226753468.
    Publisher: University of Chicago
The above information outlines module SP6112: "Political Theory " and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required SP6114: Welfare, Social Change & Irish Society

Semester 2 | Credits: 10

This module examines key concepts and themes of welfare and well-being, with particular focus on Irish societal change. It critically explores a range of common conceptual themes on 'welfare' and examines the role of the state, family and civil society/community within welfare. It discusses Irish social change and policy developments in key areas of children/youth, family life, ageing and community level changes such as (im)migration.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Critically analyse core sociological concepts underpinning welfare policy.
  2. Understand the development and role of the state, family and civil society/community in responding to welfare issues both conceptually and in an Irish context
  3. Assess the processes affecting welfare needs in Irish society
  4. Interpret the evidence and significance of core welfare issues relevant to different stages of the life course.
  5. Describe key policies and challenges in responding to welfare issues.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
Reading List
  1. "Welfare: Key Concepts" by Daly, M.
    ISBN: 9780745644714.
    Publisher: Polity Press
  2. "Understanding Human Need: Social issues, policy and practice" by Dean, H.
    ISBN: 9781847421.
    Publisher: Bristol Policy Press
  3. "nderstanding theories and concepts in social policy" by R Lister
    ISBN: 9781861347930.
    Publisher: Policy Press
  4. "Family Rhythms: The changing texture of family life in Ireland," by Gray, J. Geraghty, R. and D. Ralph
    ISBN: 9780719091520.
    Publisher: Manchester University Press
  5. "Social Policy: Theory and practice," by Spicker, P
    ISBN: 9781447316107.
    Publisher: Policy Press
  6. "Contemporary Ireland: A Sociological Map," by O'Sullivan, S
    ISBN: 9781904558873.
    Publisher: UCD Press
  7. "Understanding inequality, poverty and wealth: policies and prospects" by Ridge, T. and Wright, S.
    ISBN: 9781861349149.
    Publisher: Policy Press
The above information outlines module SP6114: "Welfare, Social Change & Irish Society" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required SP6116: Social Theory

Semester 1 | Credits: 10

This module considers key works in social theory through the lens of 'living social theory'.It revisits the classical social theory of Comte, Marx, Durkheim and Weber by locating key elements of classical social thought in conversation with selected American (Parsons, Mills, Burawoy) and European (Habermas, Bourdieu, Foucault and Bauman) contemporary theorists.It encourages reflection on the challenges to the social theory canon from feminist, critical race and decolonial social theory
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of key works and authors in social theory
  2. Critically compare and contrast elements of classical and contemporary social theory
  3. Critically reflect on the basic premises, assumptions and implications of particular social theories via a comparison of theorists and their works.
  4. Construct critical arguments about the nature and relevance of social theory to the contemporary lifeworld and events
  5. Complete an independent written piece of work that is competently presented, and correctly referenced.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
Reading List
  1. "Contested Knowledge: Social Theory Today" by Seidman, Steven
    ISBN: 9781119167587.
    Publisher: John Wiley
  2. "Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics" by Ritzer, G.; Stepnisky
    ISBN: 9780078026782.
The above information outlines module SP6116: "Social Theory " and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required SP6113: Research Methods of Social Science

Semester 1 | Credits: 10

This module provides methodological and practical grounding in social science research.It equips the students with the principles, skills and techniques of social science research. Students learn to design, conduct and review a piece of research by critically evaluating methodologies of social science. The aim of the course is to introduce students to key aspects of quantitative and qualitative methodologies and associated research methods which will benefit the preparation for their dissertation.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Identify research questions and design appropriate research strategies for specific political and/or social issues
  2. Assess the applicability of qualitative and/or quantitative methods to specific research questions.
  3. Arrange and construct the research process from posing a research question to analysing the collected data
  4. Review and critically evaluate social science research methods and methodologies.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
Reading List
  1. "Social Research Methods" by Alan Bryman
    ISBN: 9780199588053.
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
  2. "SPSS survival manual" by Julie Pallant.
    ISBN: 9780335262588.
    Publisher: Boston, Mass; McGraw Hill
  3. "Introducing research methodology" by Uwe Flick.
    ISBN: 9781446294246.
    Publisher: Thousand Oaks, Calif; Sage
  4. "Doing a Successful Research Project" by Martin Brett Davies
    ISBN: 9781403993793.
    Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  5. "Designing surveys" by Johnny Blair, Abt SRBI, Inc., Ronald F. Czaja, North Carolina State University, Edward A. Blair, University of Houston.
    ISBN: 9781412997348.
    Publisher: Thousand Oaks, Calif; Sage
  6. "The SAGE handbook of qualitative research" by editors, Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln
    ISBN: 9780761927570.
    Publisher: Sage Publications
  7. "Analyzing social science data" by David de Vaus
    ISBN: 9780761959380.
    Publisher: SAGE
  8. "Doing a literature review" by Chris Hart
    ISBN: 9780761959755.
    Publisher: SAGE
    ISBN: 9781446209127.
    Publisher: Thousand Oaks; Sage Publications
  10. "Social research" by Sotirios Sarantakos.
    ISBN: 9780230295322.
    Publisher: Basingstoke; Palgrave Macmillan
The above information outlines module SP6113: "Research Methods of Social Science " and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required SP6115: Comparative Politics

Semester 1 | Credits: 10

This course provides an introduction to issues, themes and topics in contemporary politics from a comparative perspective. It begins by introducing different traditions in comparative political analysis, comparing methodological approaches and identifying the central questions that have been addressed. Among the key areas covered are political systems and activism as well as the causes of violent conflict and efforts to resolve these through peace processes and novel forms of government
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Critique the comparative approach to politics and the methods used
  2. Critically analyse comparative scholarship on politics
  3. Apply theoretical approaches to new case studies and current issues
  4. Actively engage in informed discussion of the central course themes
  5. Make a well-informed, well-researched and focused presentation on issues related to Comparative Politics.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
Reading List
  1. "The Oxford Handbook of Comparitive Politics" by n/a
    ISBN: 9780199566020.
    Publisher: OUP
  2. "The Nature and Development of the Modern State" by Gill, Graeme
    ISBN: 9781137460660.
    Publisher: algrave Mcmillan Hay
  3. "The SAGE handbook of conflict resolution" by Bercovitch, J, IW Zartman, and V Kremenyuk
    ISBN: 9781412921923.
    Publisher: Sage
  4. "Contemporary Conflict Resolution: The prevention, management and transformation of deadly conflicts" by Ramsbotham, O, T Woodhouse, and H Miall
    ISBN: 978074563213.
    Publisher: Polity
  5. "The New War on the Poor: the Production of Insecurity in Latin America" by John Gledhill
    ISBN: 9781783603039.
    Publisher: Zed Books
  6. "Foundations of Comparative Politics" by Newton, Kenneth & Van Deth, Jan W
    ISBN: 9781107582859.
    Publisher: CUP
  7. "Violence, Coercion and State-making in Twentieth Century Mexico: the Other Half of the Centaur" by Pansters, Wil G,
    ISBN: 9780804781589.
    Publisher: Standford University Press
The above information outlines module SP6115: "Comparative Politics" and is valid from 2018 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required SP6117: Module Dissertation (Politics and Sociology)

Semester 2 | Credits: 30

The dissertation module shall enable the student to acquire the knowledge, comprehension, abilities and perspectives needed for conducting independent research. The module will allow the student to work under supervision while developing their writing, research, analytical skills and completing a research dissertation. The overall goal is for the student to display the knowledge and capability for independent work at postgraduate level.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Identify a critical research problem and translate this into a well-designed, applied and academic project of investigation and understanding.
  2. Acquire a thorough understanding of the chosen subject area and the wider theoretical, policy and practice literature within which the subject is framed
  3. Demonstrate an ability to organise, collate, critically assess and interpret data.
  4. Demonstrate a capacity to effectively communicate new knowledge in a social scientific manner.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
Reading List
  1. "Planning your Dissertation" by K Williams
    ISBN: 9781137327949.
    Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  2. "Succeeding with your Masters Dissertation: A Step by Step Handbook" by J Biggam
    ISBN: 9780335264483.
    Publisher: Open University Press
  3. "How to Write Successful Essays, Dissertations and Exams" by C Mounsey
    ISBN: 9780199670741.
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
  4. "Literature Review" by Diana Ridley
    ISBN: 9781446201435.
    Publisher: Sage
The above information outlines module SP6117: "Module Dissertation (Politics and Sociology) " and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Why Choose This Course?

Career Opportunities

This programme will be of interest to students who wish to pursue careers in the public sector, non-governmental organisations, or research, or pursue PhD studies. Students can undertakee doctoral studies in political theory, social theory, politics, sociology, research methodologies and policy studies. They will acquire valuable written and oral communication skills, as well as skills in group work, critical thinking and problem-solving, furnishing them with essential graduate employment opportunities.

Who’s Suited to This Course

Learning Outcomes


Work Placement

Study Abroad

Related Student Organisations

Course Fees

Fees: EU

€6,600 p.a. 2020/21

Fees: Tuition

€6,376 p.a. 2020/21

Fees: Student levy

€224 p.a. 2020/21

Fees: Non EU

€15,550 p.a. 2020/21

Find out More

Dr Allyn Fives
Programme Director
School of Political Science and Sociology
T: + 353 91 495 732

Quick Links




Alanna-Janelle Dotzauer |   VP, Government Relations, Strategies 360, Seattle

The National University of Ireland, Galway’s School of Political Science and Sociology is internationally recognised for its research and was a desirable place to complete my postgraduate degree. As a student of the MA in Political Science and Sociology, I had the opportunity to learn from top academics in my field of study. The programme allowed me to delve deeper into practical and theoretical topics that I had only a superficial understanding of previously. My experience was both challenging and rewarding and helped me to gain new critical thinking and writing skills. As an Irish American in Galway, I was able to experience Irish culture and gain international perspective and credentials. In just one year’s time, I completed a master’s degree, which has accelerated my professional career and enhanced my world view.

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  • Postgraduate Prospectus 2020

    Postgraduate Prospectus 2020 PDF (20.6 MB)