I chose the Research Master Social Sciences for its uniqueness in being a programme with a strong research focus as well as an interdisciplinary approach. I liked the possibility of choosing both a thematic and a method specialization, but also the high degree of freedom in exploring outside the tracks that the programme allows.
Considering my experience so far, I really believe that this programme can be tailored to anyone’s need and interests. Moreover, I really appreciate that there is a great contact with the academic staff working at the AISSR, who is always eager to listen to the questions that the students raise as well as the topics they want to work on. To this extent, I am very satisfied. It has to be said, however, that this is a very intensive program and sometimes can become quite challenging. This is something prospective students should take into consideration: it is a full-time programme, which sometimes is very similar to what I imagine in a PhD trajectory. It is an advantage if it suits your level of ambition, but students should realise that this master's programme is really structured differently than the other master's programmes within the social sciences: it has quite a lot of requirements and students need to work very fast paced and consistently. The focus is very much on developing your own personal research interests, which is a great opportunity but also a somewhat heavy responsibility.
My ambition is to build a career in research. Applying for a PhD programme at the end of the Research Master seems to be the best way to prepare for this. Luckily I still have some time to find out which specific programme I want to do and at which university, but at least my plan is to go into research.
If you aspire to a career as a professional researcher, I would definitely recommend this programme for several reasons. For instance, the curriculum has a rich offer of methodological courses. You not only learn to apply various advanced statistical methods and different software packages, but also to understand the logic underlying different statistical approaches. As such, at the end of the programme you have a methodological toolkit ready to apply to your own research interests.
Second, the close contact with the teaching staff and the other motivated students make for a stimulating atmosphere. Courses were generally taught in small groups, with a lot of personal attention. The teachers, themselves experienced researchers, encourage you to develop your own research interests. They were also very approachable. Especially during my Master’s thesis, there was ample opportunity to discuss my proceedings with my supervisor, which really helped me to lift my research project to a higher level.
Third, the Master’s thesis is a good way to gain experience with all phases of the research process, as you conduct your own research project from beginning to end. Since the aim is to produce a publishable article, you are stimulated to live up to academic standards throughout the whole process. My thesis was a quantitative study of political trust, and how political trust as an attitude is structured among lower and higher educated citizens. The Research Master's programme provided enough time and freedom to explore this topic in-depth and to put into practice several statistical methods I had learned, while at the same time the close contact with my supervisor helped to stay on track.
Finally, the programme also offers the opportunity to gain professional experience through a research internship. I did my internship in a research project at the Political Science department of the University of Amsterdam. As a Research Master's student, I was entrusted with several responsibilities, from doing the statistical analyses to writing articles and presenting at a conference. Thanks to this fruitful internship, I was able to co-author several academic publications even before my graduation.
I chose the Research Master Social Sciences because I aimed to develop the research skills necessary for an academic career. The Research Master has certainly lived up to my expectations. All in all, it has provided me with research experience, professional experience and a thorough methodological grounding. Now that I am starting my own research project, the experience and knowledge I have built up in the Research Master are of great value. I would therefore definitely recommend this Research Master to anyone who aims to continue in social scientific research.
Alex van Venrooij is the Programme Director of the Research Master's Social Sciences.
He is especially interested in the study of categories in markets and fields. How do categories influence success within markets and fields? How do categories emerge, change and disappear over time? In his work on the field of popular music he has pursued several of these questions. He has done research on how the categorization of artists in within “genres” affects their success in the mainstream market.
To meet fellow students and take part in social and study-related activities, you can become a member of a study association, join events organised by SBS International or Amsterdam United or visit the UvA's Sports Centre or CREA.