Evidence Based Intervention and Policy Evaluation Master's programmes

We offer two Master's courses in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation (EBSIPE):

  • MSc in EBSIPE (1 year)
  • MPhil in EBSIPE (2 year)

Here's a picture of how the MSc course unfolds over the year:

 

In all societies, policies are developed and professionals from a range of disciplines and backgrounds intervene to ameliorate social problems in areas as diverse as mental health, child protection and support for parents, education, social security, housing, refugees, care for increasing numbers of vulnerable elders, substance misusers, delinquent young people or those affected by HIV and AIDS. The practical imperative of ensuring effective use of finite resources, together with an ethical imperative to demonstrate that intervention is doing more good than harm, require that practice be based on sound evidence.

The course in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation emphasises research methods for evaluating interventions and policies, as well as the advanced study of evidence-based practice, with, for example, children and families, people with mental health problems, refugees, drug users, HIV prevention and young offenders. The course has an interdisciplinary and international prospective.

There are two distinct pathways structured around a shared core that enable students to focus on the evaluation of micro level social interventions or macro level social policies.

The shared core comprises courses on research design, statistics, qualitative analysis and critical appraisal.  The courses prepare students to be critical consumers of research, and to design and implement their own research projects. It covers key research designs as well as quantitative and qualitative techniques for measuring process and outcome. There is a particular emphasis on appraisal and design of randomised controlled trials, quasi-random experimentation and systematic reviews, and their application to social interventions and policy evaluation.

Students will then select one of the following pathways:

  • The Evidence-Based Social Intervention pathway covers theories underlying intervention (e.g. cognitive behavioural, ecological); ethical issues; major applications of evidence based approaches; and challenges in applying and disseminating research into practice and policy. There is also a specialist systematic reviewing course in term two, which helps students to develop their own review, as part of their degree. 
  • The Policy Evaluation pathway introduces students to social policy analysis and to advanced methods of policy evaluation.  Policy analysis examines the process of policy making, the setting of objectives, the choice and design of policy and the mechanisms of implementation, while the advanced methods component provides students with the methodological tools to determine how effective policies are in practice or prospect.

In addition, students take one or two specialist courses (depending on whether you are studying the MSc or MPhil) from a list of options focusing on a particular social policy area or the application of evidence-based intervention with specific client groups, including Children and Families; Prevention of HIV and AIDS; Community Analysis and Intervention; plus options offered by the Comparative Social Policy course. Teaching in some options may not be available every year.

Students on both pathways will write a thesis on a topic agreed with their supervisor.  Assessment of the taught courses is based on project work and two three hour written examination papers.

For an overview of the courses and more information about studying with us and to hear from students on our courses please visit the e-brochure.

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The course has the following aims:

  • To develop critical analysis, problem solving and research skills in the field of evidence-based interventions and policies for social problems, which will allow students both to be critical consumers of research, and to carry out evaluations and other research designs.
  • To develop in students the skills necessary for carrying out further research in this field, and where applicable, to progress as leading practitioners, senior managers in agencies for social intervention, and policy and programme evaluators.
  • To contribute to a better understanding of the ways in which research findings concerning evidence-based interventions and the effectiveness of policies can be transferred into practice and to an understanding of the limits of such transferability.
  • To contribute to the dissemination of research findings in relation to evidence-based interventions and policy evaluation to the wider international community of practitioners, academics, and policymakers, and to promote a better understanding of the difficulties involved in such trans-national and trans-cultural transfers.

Course element

MSc

MPhil

Core papers in either Evidence-Based Social Intervention or Policy Evaluation taught via a series of lectures and classes.

Examined through a written exam

Examined through a written exam

Research Design and Methods taught via classes, seminars and workshops.

Examined through written submissions

Examined through written submissions

Option papers provide the opportunity to explore a particular social policy area or the application of evidence-based intervention with specific client groups, including Children and Families; Prevention of HIV and AIDS; Community Analysis and Intervention and the options available to students on the Comparative Social Policy courses.

One option taken, examined through a written exam.

Two options taken, examined through a written exam.

Thesis on a topic agreed with your supervisor

Design and write a 10,000 word thesis

Design and write a 30,000 word thesis

The course is led by a Course Director who works with a close-knit team of supervisors, takes overall responsibility for the course, co-ordinating teaching, arranging specialist supervision for option papers and thesis writing.

Each student is allocated a supervisor in the department, who provides academic guidance to the individual student and oversees his or her progress.

Other departmental staff are available to give guidance, including those leading the lectures and classes, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the department’s administrative team.

Each student is also allocated a college tutor who is responsible for their general welfare and is available to provide additional guidance over problems that may arise on the academic or social side.

In addition students can draw on University-wide support as needed, such as Women’s Advisors, Chaplains etc. in colleges and ultimately to the Head of the College.  The University has a counselling service which provides advice, both immediate and long term, to students in need.  There are college nurses and all colleges have a college doctor and many a college dentist.

This course is offered as part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. High calibre candidates have the opportunity to apply to both the Comparative Social Policy MSc course and the MBA course offered by the Saïd Business School. For more information, visit the Oxford 1+1 site.

These programmes can be part of a 1+3 ESRC University Doctoral Training Centre scholarship. Find out more on the Social Sciences doctoral training site.

The TrygFonden Scholarship is available for students resident in Denmark studying the MSc in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation. Find out more here.

EBSIPE Course Details

The MSc and MPhil in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation are full-time courses: the MSc extends over three terms and the MPhil over six terms. The MPhil is essentially an extended version of the MSc, sharing the same teaching in the first year, with an additional option taken and a longer thesis written in the second year.

Students can choose one of two pathways: Social Intervention or Policy Evaluation.  Each track has a core course: Evidence-Based Intervention or Advanced Policy Evaluation respectively.  There is an additional core course, Research Methods.  Each core course runs for two terms.  In the second term, students will choose one option course.  Students also work on a thesis.

There are four assessed components of the programme:

  • Core course in either Social Intervention or Policy Evaluation – examined through a three-hour examination;
  • The Research Methods Course – examined through written submissions;
  • Option papers – examined through a three-hour examination (MSc students are examined in one; MPhil students are examined in one option each year); and
  • Thesis – students design and write a thesis of 10,000 words for MSc students or 30,000 words for MPhil students.

For the MSc, three components of the course (Core course in either Social Intervention or Policy Evaluation, the Research Methods course and the option paper) all have equal weight (22% each). As the thesis is more substantial, it carries a greater weight (34%).

For the MPhil, four components of the course (Core course in either Social Intervention or Policy Evaluation, the Research Methods course and the option paper) each carry the same weight, (15% each), and the thesis 40%.

All components are marked using a numerical scale.  The pass mark is 50% (marks below 50% represent a fail).  To pass the examination, candidates must achieve 50% or more in all four components of the course.  The examiners may award a distinction for excellence in the whole examination.  To obtain a distinction, candidates must achieve an overall (weighted) mark of 70% or more.

Please visit the e-brochure for additional details about the course.

There are two distinct pathways structured around a shared core that enable students to focus on the evaluation of micro level social interventions on the Evidence-Based Intervention pathway or macro level social policies on the Policy Evaluation pathway.

EVIDENCE-BASED INTERVENTION

This pathway will examine major theories underlying evidence based interventions and introduce students to a comparative perspective.  It will use exemplary intervention research studies to illustrate important theoretical, ethical, methodological and practice issues.  Topics will include critical examination of:

  • the ethics of intervening and of researching with vulnerable clients;
  • the cultural factors in intervention research;
  • theoretical approaches to intervention including: ecological, cognitive-behavioural, developmental;
  • the application of evidence-based approaches in practice using exemplary research studies (for example, combining quantitative and qualitative methods in large cohort studies to inform mental health practice; community based randomised controlled trials; practitioner evaluation studies);
  • the dissemination and transportability of research into policy and practice and across cultures;
  • the limitations of evidence-based practice.

The paper is taught in the first two terms through lectures, seminars and tutorials. In each of these terms there will be eight lectures/classes on Social Intervention. These will examine approaches to evidence-based interventions using community, family and individual intervention research studies to illustrate important theoretical, methodological and practice issues. Major themes will include examining the ecological and cultural factors contributing to social problems, transfer of research across cultures and into practice, critical appraisal of intervention research studies. The seminars in term two focus on critical appraisal skills for intervention questions, the transportation of evidence across contexts, and to policy and practice, and related areas. 

As part of the first term’s learning and informal assessment, students write two essays for discussion with their supervisor in supervision tutorials as well as prepare class presentations.

In the third term there is a series of sessions on systematic reviewing, designed for students intending to carry out a systematic review for their thesis. This can attended by students on the Policy Evaluation pathway.

POLICY EVALUATION

This course introduces students to social policy analysis and to advanced methods of policy evaluation.  Policy analysis examines the process of policy making, the setting of objectives, the choice and design of policy and the mechanisms of implementation, while the advanced methods component provides students with the methodological tools to determine how effective policies are in practice or prospect.  Topics will include examination of:

  • links between policy questions and evaluation methods and designs;
  • main approaches to the design of policy evaluations and their accompanying logics;
  • methodological issues arising in the use of surveys and administrative data for the quantitative (impact) policy evaluation;
  • process and diagnostic evaluation;
  • management of policy evaluation;
  • systematic and critical review methods for  published work on policy evaluation.  

Students on this pathway join those studying Comparative Social Policy to study Social Policy Analysis in the first term. This course seeks to equip students with the theoretical and analytic tools necessary to engage in formal policy analysis and to provide an experience of applying them to real-world-like problems while receiving constructive feedback. It is taught through a series of eight lectures accompanied by four sessions devoted to illustrative case-studies in the first half of the term, followed by four practical sessions in the second half of the term in which students working in groups present and defend policy analyses of their own.

In the second term, students take a course on Advanced Policy Evaluation. This course will develop understanding of the rationale for, and approaches to, evidenced-based policy evaluation using examples from a wide range of policy areas. It aims to equip students with knowledge necessary to make links between policy questions and evaluation methods and designs, and to introduce students to the main approaches to the design of policy evaluations and their accompanying logics. It willprovide students with a background for systematically and critically reviewing published work on policy evaluation. The eight week course consists of lectures and seminars, including case studies.

The Research Methods course is intended to prepare students both to become critical consumers of research, and to be able design and implement their own research projects.  It will introduce students to major quantitative and qualitative techniques, and research designs for understanding social problems and evaluating interventions.  There will be a particular emphasis on the appraisal and design of randomised controlled trials for evaluating social interventions.

Topics covered on the course include:

  • Formulating a research question: Ethical issues; Exploring and piloting; Literature searching; Critical appraisal of intervention studies.
  • Designing a study: Non-experimental or observational designs: Descriptive studies, Surveys, Cohort, Case-control, Longitudinal designs; Randomised controlled trials and, Single case designs.  
  • Data collection: Questionnaires and interviews; Direct observational methods; Administrative data.
  • Methods for systematic reviews.
  • Issues in cross-cultural research.
  • Qualitative research methods.
  • Statistical techniques for social sciences.

The Research Methods course is examined through the submission of coursework:

  • the methods workbook; and
  • an essay of up to 2,500 words.

The Option papers enable students to link evidence-based solutions to key areas of intervention. In associated work students will be encouraged to consider evidence-based solutions to a range of social problems in their country of origin. The options are built around the specialist interests of academic staff, and as such, different options may be offered each year, depending on availability of staff and the interests of students.

The Option papers are normally taught during the second term of the course, and assessed through a three-hour written examination at the end of the third term. Study is through small seminar groups (usually 6-12 students).

For each option there will be 4-6 sessions with associated work.  The areas from which options may be offered include:

  • Community analysis
  • Interventions in relation to HIV and AIDS
  • Promoting the welfare of children and families
  • Population Challenges in a Global World

Within the Department there is some capacity for certain other options (e.g. Poverty, Labour Market and Developing Countries) to be made available from the MSc in Comparative Social Policy.  The number of candidates offered options from CSP will be dependent on the outcome of internal negotiation at the time offers of places are made are made.

In their thesis students are asked to analyse a topic within the subject of the course. Thesis preparation is supported through the research methods course, which includes a session on thesis preparation, and through individual tutorial support, with the supervisor.  Students are encouraged to seek guidance on their work from other experts in the university, and to attend relevant specialist research seminars. 

Written guidance is provided in the course handbook, and is further developed in material that accompanies the relevant teaching.

MScs write a 10,000 word thesis and will normally work on it during the third term of the course and the first part of the summer vacation for submission by the middle of August.  Students have an individual supervisor for the thesis (normally their course supervisor, but on occasions substituted or complemented by more specialist coverage e.g. someone with an area based specialism where this is relevant to the topic).

MPhil students write a 30,000 word thesis, and are required to develop their topic area during the first two terms of the course. During Term 3 they work up with their supervisor an outline of their proposal, including background reading and other preparation, in addition to input from their supervisor. By the middle of Term 3 they must be in a position to present an outline of their proposal for final approval and over the summer they undertake the fieldwork, data analysis etc. depending on the topic.

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