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Psychology 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 applicant guide booklet; Click Here

Please note the application closing dates below:

MA in Psychology by Dissertation (2 Intakes);

  • 31 May 2024 (July 2024 Intake)
  • 13 September 2024 (January 2025 Intake)
MA in Psychology by Coursework and Research Report;
  • Closing Date: 13 September 2024 (January 2025 Intake only)
MA in Social and Psychological Research by Coursework and Research Report;
  •  Closing Date: 13 September 2024 (January 2025 Intake only)

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. 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 Click Here to download the staff research interest document  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 the field of Cognitive Neuroscience. 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 required to complete three coursework modules and a research report. Students are expected to complete the degree in one year if registered full-time, and in two years if doing the course part-time.

Please note; the coursework modules are run during the day, there are no evening classes.

Requirements:

  1. An Honours degree in Psychology (or a related discipline), achieved with a minimum average 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%). The available modules are listed below under the cognitive science stream on offer:

Cognitive Science

Cognitive Science is a growing field of study with 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. Within this cluster, selected areas of human behaviour will be studied from an integrated perspective that unites several disciplines and methods.

The available modules in this cluster are:

  • PSYC7055A – Advanced Cognitive Neuroscience (Prof. Kate Cockcroft)
  • PSYC7054A – Language and Thought (Dr Nkululeko Nkomo)

The above modules are compulsory and students need to choose the third module from one of the following methods modules from the MA in Social and Psychological Research programme:

  • PSYC7025A – Multivariate Research Design and Analysis (Dr Nicky Israel and Mr Ian Siemers)
  • PSYC7027A – Qualitative Research Methods (Ms Daniela Rafaely)

Descriptions of the modules:

Cognitive Science

PSYC7055A – Advanced Cognitive Neuroscience

Lecturer:  Prof. Kate Cockcroft

Cognitive Neuroscience has its roots in many different disciplines that study various aspects of the structure and functioning of the brain and the nervous system. Disciplines such as neurology, neuropsychology and neurophysiology focus on the anatomy of brain structures and their influence on behaviour, while disciplines such as cognitive psychology, cognitive neuropsychology, and cognitive science focus on the functions of the brain and the mind. Other associated disciplines include philosophy, linguistics, computer science, mathematics, evolutionary psychology, and behavioural genetics. Recent advances in brain imaging techniques have contributed greatly to the development of the field in terms of providing an empirical understanding of the structures and functions of the brain, their effects on behaviour, as well as serving to validate or modify existing theories of cognition.

In this course, selected areas of human behaviour will be studied from an integrated cognitive neuroscience perspective.

PSYC7054A –Language and Thought

Lecturers: Dr Nkululeko Nkomo

This course will focus on language and thought from three different perspectives. Section one will engage with evolutionary and comparative perspectives on language origins and claims about the distinctiveness of language and human psychology. Section Two will focus on Vygotsky’s sociohistorical theory of human consciousness, exploring the critical role of language in transforming cognition, enabling both the development and intergenerational transmission of human culture and imaginative thought and creative agentic action. In Section Three, advanced language functions, such as reading, and writing will be considered. Their interaction with thinking and their broader educational applications will also be addressed.

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, mixed, and applied research methods. The degree equips students to be multi-skilled social science researchers, equipped to work in a range of research environments including science councils, government and policy research units, NGOs and advocacy organisations, independent research consulting, and market research or other corporate environments. The degree can also serve as a basis for future PhD studies leading to a career in academia. 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 required to complete three coursework modules, all of which are compulsory, and a research report. 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:

  • PSYC7025A – Multivariate Research Design and Analysis
  • PSYC7027A – Qualitative Research Methods
  • PSYC7032A – Research in Context

Descriptions of the modules:

PSYC7025A – Multivariate Research Design and Analysis

Lecturer: Dr Nicky Israel and Mr Ian Siemers

The module consists of two components. The first component takes place in lectures and involves the critical evaluation of research articles. The aim of this component of the module is to give students the ability to dissect a typical article published in their domain of social research and determine what useful knowledge can be gleaned from it. This is a critical skill; both as regards the academic requirements of other courses as well as for evaluating the relevance of articles to potential future areas of employment. This component of the module will examine key areas of research theory, e.g., Research Design, Psychometrics and Statistical Analysis, in the context of research articles. As much as this theory is important, the emphasis is on the application of the broad principles in common sense ways to applied research. Ultimately students need to be able to assess the value of an article by considering all of its elements. The second component of the module aims to provide a practical hands-on introduction to common difficulties arising from data analysis. As such, the module does not focus on statistical procedures but on the processes, which are necessary to make data analysis possible. This component is taught as a combination of lectures and tutorials using SPSS software.

PSYC7027A – Qualitative Research Methods

Lecturer: Ms Daniela Rafaely

This module aims to introduce students to qualitative methodology by 1) addressing some of the major epistemological and conceptual issues within qualitative (and, by implication, quantitative) research within the social sciences, and 2) providing an overview of a range of qualitative methods and some practical application in gathering and analysing data. Students will collect various forms of qualitative data under a theme that is agreed by the group as of general interest, which is an appropriate topic to be addressed qualitatively, and for which data will be readily obtainable from available media and an easily accessible research population e.g., everyday life on campus; family relationships; social identities. The data that students have collected will then be subjected to in-class analysis using a range of techniques, which will serve as a basis for students’ completion of an exam-equivalent final paper.

PSYC7032A – Research in Context

Lecturer: Prof. Brett Bowman

The aim of this module is to provide students with skills and techniques used in social science research. The course will be directed towards providing students with an understanding of how to approach research in the role of a research consultant. The module is taught in the form of discussion -based lectures by lecturers involved in applied social science research. However, the main feature of the course is students’ interaction as research consultants with an actual client, who will provide a brief for the research they wish to be conducted during one of the opening sessions of the course. Students will then be required to respond to the client’s request for proposals, and to produce a research paper in accordance with the proposal they present to the client and the client’s feedback on the proposal.

Staff Research Interests

All members of staff in the Department of Psychology can potentially serve as research supervisors for students in the above programmes, subject to their availability in any given year. Descriptions of staff members’ research interests are available Click Here to download

Application Process:

In order to apply, the following must be submitted by the closing dates stipulated below;

  • Complete the online University/Student Enrolment Centre (SENC) Form: Click Here
  • For more information about the program, application process and selections; Click Here to download the Applicant Information Booklet
  • Download and complete the Department Application Form: Click Here
  • Two reports are needed, Click Here to download the Referee Report Form
  • Complete the Online Equity Questionnaire: Click Here
  • For more information about Fees and Funding: Click Here

PLEASE NOTE: The forms stipulated on the above points need to be accompanied by the other materials listed below;

  • Official academic transcripts (or certified copies thereof)
  • SAQA Certificate if applicant may have obtained their previous degrees from a non-South African university need to apply to SAQA for accreditation before submitting an application.
  • A copy of your Honours research project (or a similar piece of extended academic writing at the Honours level)

These documents must be submitted (electronically via e-mail) to:

Ms Lauryne Lokothwayo lauryne.lokothwayo@wits.ac.za

For inquiries contact:
Ms Lauryne Lokothwayo
Telephone number: 011 717 4541
 

Closing Dates:

MA in Psychology by Dissertation (2 Intakes);

  • 31 May 2024 (July 2024 Intake)
  • 13 September 2024 (January 2025 Intake)
MA in Psychology by Coursework and Research Report;
  • Closing Date: 13 September 2024 (January 2025 Intake only)
MA in Social and Psychological Research by Coursework and Research Report;
  •  Closing Date: 13 September 2024 (January 2025 Intake only)

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 modules? Approximately 3-4 hours per module each week.
  • This sounds like a light amount of work? 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, along with information about how to apply for funding are available from the: Wits Financial Aid and Scholarships Office Web Site (be sure to check the deadlines!).
  • 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 programme coordinators:
Dr Nkululeko Nkomo (MA by Dissertation): nkululeko.nkomo@wits.ac.za  
Prof. Kate Cockcroft  (MA in Psychology by Coursework and Research Report): kate.cockcroft@wits.ac.za 
Dr Mpho Mathebula (MA in Social and Psychological Research): mpho.mathebula@wits.ac.za 

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

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