UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND, JOHANNESBURG

Research-related MA programmes

The Department of Psychology offers three research-related MA degrees:

  1. MA in Psychology by Research (Dissertation)
  2. MA in the field of Psychology by Coursework and Research Report
  3. MA in the field of Social and Psychological Research by Coursework and Research Report

Our degrees offer a good fit for people who:

  • Are curious about the people and the social world
  • Love reading, critical thinking and problem solving
  • Want to contribute to the development of new knowledge and deepening understanding
  • Question the way the world is and are committed to working for social justice
  • Want a flexible career, involving opportunities for travel and participation in global academic communities  

A career in research offers a wide array of employment opportunities in the academic, public and private sectors. With a focus on teaching advanced research skills as well as content, graduates are well equipped to pursue a research career. However, please note that only one of our degrees (MA in the field of Social and Psychological Research by Coursework and Research Report) leads to registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as a Research Psychologist.

Information about the programmes and modules is available below, and in the downloadable Application Booklet.

Supervision of research projects may be provided by any member of staff in the Department of Psychology and it is a good idea to look at staff profiles on the web to explore synergies with your research interests. Links to staff profiles can be found here.

Please note that the application deadline for January 2016 enrollment is 30 September 2015  (see section on application procedures below).

 

MA in Psychology by Research (Dissertation)

The MA by dissertation only is the most flexible form of advanced study as it enables students to focus entirely on completing a research dissertation, under the supervision of a staff member in the Department, on a topic of interest to the student and staff member. This degree is thus usually selected by students who enjoy working independently and wish to pursue their interest in a particular topic. There is a wide range of expertise and interests among staff in the Department of Psychology, and prospective applicants are encouraged to read about staff members’ research interests in advance of applying. The MA by Dissertation is also an excellent route to follow for students who wish to continue on to PhD studies, offering a possible fast-track to a PhD by upgrade for exceptional quality MA projects. While this route may also lead to work in organisations or in the public sector, it is particularly appropriate for those wishing to pursue an academic career or specialist research work in a particular field.

The MA by Dissertation may be done either as a full-time or part-time degree. Students are expected to complete the degree within one year full-time, or two years part-time.

Requirements:

  1. An Honours degree (or equivalent) in Psychology, achieved with a minimum pass of 70%
  2. Demonstrated potential to succeed in the programme, based on responses to questions on the application form and favourable performance in a selection interview
  3. Favourable referee reports
  4. Equity considerations
  5. The availability of a member of staff able to supervise in the area of interest*

*PLEASE NOTE that prospective applicants should contact the Course Coordinator, Prof. Jill Bradbury (jill.bradbury@wits.ac.za), prior to submitting an application, in order to establish whether a suitable potential supervisor is available.

 

MA in the field of Psychology by Coursework and Research Report

This degree focuses on developing advanced conceptual and research expertise in a particular field of Psychology, with two primary clusters of cognate courses on offer: A) Psychosocial Studies and B) Cognitive Science. Students may also substitute one methods module from the MA in Social and Psychological Research programme for one of these modules.

This degree enables students to develop advanced theoretical knowledge and generate independent research in a particular field of interest. This is a good base for future work in the NGO or government sectors, CSI programmes in the corporate world, academia and research institutes.

The MA in Psychology by Coursework and Research Report may be done as a full-time or part-time degree. Students are expected to complete the degree in one year if registered full-time, and in two years if doing the course part-time. 

Requirements:

  1. An Honours degree in Psychology (or a related discipline), achieved with a minimum average mark of 65%
  2. Demonstrated potential to succeed in the programme, based on responses to questions on the application form and favourable performance in a selection interview
  3. Favourable referee reports
  4. Equity considerations

Coursework modules:

Three coursework modules must be completed (together accounting for 50% of the toal credit for the degree, with the Research Report accounting for the remaining 50%). The available modules are organized around two distinct clusters:

Cluster A: Psychosocial Studies

This area of study explores critical theory and empirical research focused on the interplay between what are typically understood as external social and internal psychic formations, thereby questioning the traditional division of the personal and the social, undermining notions of separate and distinct inner realities (the psyche) and outer realities (the social and/or political) and arguing instead for a psychosocial zone. This approach recognises that social and psychological processes of life are always simultaneously and actively engaged, effecting ongoing mutual (re)construction. The academics who teach on this programme share an interest in analyzing, thinking about and challenging current unequal and unjust social relations, and imagining possibilities for healthy, creative and interesting individual and collective life. We are interested in questions such as:

  • What is the role of Psychology in theorising and engaging subjectivities and politics?
  • How do we conceptualise individual rights and subjectivities within the context of the postcolonial state?
  • How do personal and collective identities shift and change and what are the global and local dynamics at play in these processes?
  • How do large-scale social processes and structural issues such politics and economics impact on who we are and what it is possible to become?
  • What are the possibilities for individual agency and action and how can psychological interventions contribute to these possibilities? 

There are three courses on offer in this cluster in 2016:

  • PSYC7031 – Gender in Psychology (Dr. Peace Kiguwa)
  • PSYC7052 – A Psychology of Childhood (Prof. Jill Bradbury) 
  • PSYC7053 – The Critical Psychology of Race, Racialisation and Racism (Prof. Garth Stevens)

Cluster B: Cognitive Science

Cognitive Science is a growing field of study which has its roots in many different disciplines that explore the relationships between mind, brain and behaviour. Disciplines such as neurology, neuropsychology and neurophysiology focus on the anatomy of brain structures and their influence on behaviour, whereas disciplines such as cognitive and developmental psychology, linguistics and philosophy focus on the functions of the brain and the mind. Recent advances in brain imaging techniques have prompted much research into the structures and functions of the brain and their effects on behaviour so that these are now being studied in a more integrated manner by Cognitive Scientists.

In 2016, there will be two courses on offer in the MA programme that address questions within this broad field:
  • PSYC7037 – Cognitive Neuropsychology (Prof. Kate Cockcroft)
  • PSYC7033 – Select Topic in Language and Thought (Prof. Kate Cockcroft, Prof. Jill Bradbury and Dr. Michael Pitman)

In these modules, selected areas of human behaviour will be studied from an integrated perspective that unites several disciplines and methods.

A minimum of two courses must be chosen from the above lists but students may choose to substitute the third module with one of the following methods modules from the MA in Social and Psychological Research programme:

  • PSYC7025 - Multivariate Research Design and Analysis (Prof. Gillian Finchilescu, Prof. Peter Fridjhon and Prof. Andrew Thatcher)
  • PSYC7027 - Qualitative Methods (Prof. Kevin Whitehead)
NOTE: The modules listed above may not all be offered every year, and a module may be cancelled if an insufficient number of students elect to take it.

 

MA in the field of Social and Psychological Research by Coursework and Research Report

This degree focuses on developing practical research expertise in quantitative, qualitative and applied research methods. The degree equips students to be multi-skilled social science researchers, and can serve as a basis for an academic career. This is the only degree offered by the Department that leads to registration as a Research Psychologist with the HPCSA (and only if followed by an accredited one year internship). However, the degree is also suitable for students from related social science disciplines who wish to pursue research careers, but are not eligible for registration with the HPCSA.

The MA in Social and Psychological Research by Coursework and Research Report may be done as a full-time or part-time degree. Students are expected to complete the degree in one year if doing the course full-time, and in two years if doing the course part-time.

Requirements:

  1. An Honours degree in Psychology (or a related discipline), achieved with a minimum average mark of 65%
  2. Demonstrated potential to succeed in the programme, based on responses to questions on the application form and favourable performance in a selection interview
  3. Favourable referee reports
  4. Equity considerations

Coursework modules:

Three coursework modules must be completed (together accounting for 50% of the total credit for the degree, with the Research Report accounting for the remaining 50%). There are no elective modules for this programme, with all students being required to complete all of the following three modules:

  • PSYC7025 - Multivariate Research Design and Analysis (Prof. Gillian Finchilescu, Prof. Peter Fridjhon and Prof. Andrew Thatcher)
  • PSYC7027 - Qualitative Methods (Prof. Kevin Whitehead)
  • PSYC7032 - Research in Context (Prof Brett Bowman)

 

Applications

In order to apply for one of these programmes, the following must be submitted by 30 September 2015:

These documents can be submitted (electronically, as hard copies, or by fax) to:

Ms. Lauryne Lokothwayo
Discipline of Psychology
University of the Witwatersrand
Private Bag 3
Wits 2050
South Africa

Telephone number: 011 717 4541
Fax number: 011 717 4559
Email: Lauryne.Lokothwayo@wits.ac.za

PLEASE NOTE that applicants who have obtained their previous degrees from a non-South African university need to apply to SAQA for accreditation before submitting an application.

 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

  • Can I apply for more than one of the research-related degrees? Yes. You are strongly encouraged to apply for multiple programmes if you believe you would be a suitable candidate for more than one.
  • What are the chances of me getting in? It depends on the strength of the applicant pool – typically anywhere from 20% to 50% of applicants are offered places. The minimum requirement for entry is an average of 65% for Honours but competition for places is high. We also take equity criteria into consideration.
  • Can I apply for these programmes even if I do not have an Honours degree in psychology? Yes, an Honours degree is required and you cannot begin your MA studies without an Honours degree but it does not have to be in psychology. Students who have an honours degree in another social science or arts discipline (e.g. politics, literary studies, sociology, anthropology, performing arts, media studies, linguistics, philosophy) are invited to apply. Please also note that if your Honours degree is not in psychology, you may a restricted choice of courses in that some courses may be closer to your interests and knowledge-base than others. You may also be required to do some background psychology reading.
  • Can I do these degrees part-time? Yes, this means that you will take two years rather than one year to complete the degree. In such cases all the coursework modules should be completed in the first year and the research report in the second year. Please note that all seminars for the coursework modules are offered during office hours (NOT in the evenings) and attendance is compulsory. 
  • Can I work while studying full time? Yes, but as a guideline, you should not work more than approximately six hours per week.
  • I hate statistics, how much stats are you required to these degrees? For the MA in Social and Psychological Research (SPR), stats are an important part of the course but a number of other methodological and theoretical approaches are also included. The other programmes do not require statistics but if you love statistics, you could could use quantitative methods in your research project.
  • How much contact time is required for the programmes? Approximately 3-4 hours per module each week.
  • They sound like light programmes? While contact time is relatively low (compared to other professional psychology programmes), there is a lot of preparatory reading work (at least 10 hours per week for each module) as well as the independent research report for which there are several tight submission deadlines and presentations during the year and which therefore entails a consistent programme of work and many, many hours of independent reading and writing every week.
  • How do I find out about internship sites? Organisations usually send calls for applications from August onwards; we also facilitate presentations for students by potential internship sites/employers.
  • Can I register with the HPCSA by studying through any of the three programmes? No, only the SPR programme potentially leads to HPCSA registration as a Research Psychologist. Please also note that students wishing to register with the HPCSA MUST have an Honours degree in psychology.
  • Do I need to register with the HPCSA to find employment? No, although there a few organisations that give preference to registered psychologists, most employers are interested in your knowledge and skills, and your ability to apply them to their research questions.
  • If I want to register with the HPCSA, do I have to do an internship at an accredited site? No, you can design your own “tailored” internship as long as it is supervised by a registered Research Psychologist.
  • Is there funding available for these programmes? Yes, but you must apply for funding independently and in parallel your academic application, as the deadlines occur prior to completion of our selection process, so you cannot wait to hear whether you have been selected before applying for funding! Successful applicants are likely to qualify for the Postgraduate Merit Award (PMA). Details of this and other sources of funding are available from the Wits Financial Aid and Scholarships Office Web Site (Deadline for all funding applications: 30 SEPTEMBER 2015, for 2016 study!)
  • What support will I receive as a student in one of these programmes? You will get to work with leading scholars who have excellent national and international networks so you can begin to participate in interesting, advanced research forums. The student cohorts work very closely together and the seminars provide space for active debate and collaborative learning.

 

If you cannot find the answer to your question here, you may email the co-ordinators:

Prof. Brett Bowman (Brett.Bowman@wits.ac.za; MA in Social and Psychological Research)

Prof. Jill Bradbury (Jill.Bradbury@wits.ac.za; MA by Dissertation and MA in Psychology).

Before sending an email query, please make sure that you have carefully read all information provided here first!