Dissertation Courses

Details about the Social Justice & Community Action programme’s courses, dissertation and applied research project.

Compulsory courses

Students completing the full MSc will be required to take all of the following compulsory courses. Students taking the Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma will be required to take some of the following compulsory courses. Please visit our Structure page for more information:

Theories and Politics of Social Justice (20 credits)

Social justice is a deeply contested concept and this course will explore the competing ways in which it is defined, theorised and operationalised in local, national and international contexts.

Students will be encouraged to think critically and expansively about the nature of social justice by considering its foundational claims and the historical and contemporary disputes that have shaped the development of this idea.

Community Action and Social Justice (20 credits)

Because of the contested natures of both ‘social justice’ and ‘community’, grassroots activists and practitioners face significant dilemmas in the application of social justice principles to real world contexts.

This course aims to introduce students to some of the key theoretical frameworks, models and methods for applying social justice ideas and principles to activism and practice in community-based settings around the globe.

Through this course, students will have the opportunity to consider and critique the viability, sustainability and ethics of particular approaches to community action.

Policy Analysis for Social Justice (20 credits)

This course focuses on the challenges of enacting social justice ideas, principles and practices in policy-making processes.

Because scholars, activists and practitioners for social justice are particularly interested in disputes about the fair allocation of resources and the experiences of marginalised groups in public and private spaces, this course aims to introduce students to the contested processes, strategies and actors involved in social policy making and implementation at the local, national and international levels.

In addition, this course will offer a range of frameworks and strategies for shaping and influencing the policy process in different contexts.

Activist Social Research (20 credits)

Activist social research combines political commitments to addressing social problems with rigorous research about those problems.

This course aims to provide students with the knowledge and skills to plan, design and execute a programme of activist research for real world application and the dissertation or applied research project elements of the MSc in Social Justice and Community Action.

Drawing on radical social theories such as critical theory, feminism, anti-racism and post-structuralism, this course will also introduce students to some of the ethical and practical challenges of doing high quality research for social change.

The course will enable students to formulate a research question; outline a project plan; understand methods for qualitative data collection and analysis; and develop strategies for communicating and disseminating research findings to appropriate audiences.

Optional courses

Optional courses include:

Learning for Democracy (20 credits)

This course starts from the premise that democracy is as much a social and cultural process as a set of political institutions.

A primary focus for this course will be the changing relations between the state, economy and civil society, particularly in the context of globalisation. Learning for democracy implies an active role for education in resourcing and supporting marginalised and powerless groups to pursue their democratic interests. This approach will allow us to reflect critically on discourses of citizenship and education emerging from different contexts and actors.

Organisational Management for Social Justice (20 credits)

This course provides students with an introduction to the theories and practices of management and of organisations and a critical exploration of notions of ‘organisational justice’.

Through this course, students will have the opportunity to examine how the management of local, national and international organisations, in terms of strategy, goal-setting, human resources and financial planning, can be a viable site for applying social justice principles.

Other optional courses

In addition, you will be able to choose other optional courses from across the University’s existing online provision, including:

Please note, these courses are subject to change and do not run every year.  If you would like to pursue any of these courses, click on the link to check the delivery information.

Dissertation and the Applied Research Project

Depending on your interests and career goals, you will have a choice in selecting either a standard masters dissertation or an applied research project if you choose to pursue the full MSc.

Dissertation (60 credits)

The dissertation is a major piece of research that demands significant time and commitment from the student.

Through the dissertation, the student has the opportunity to identify a research topic, develop and implement a logical fieldwork plan for gathering data and undertake systematic analysis and write-up of the data. Students will be supported through this process through both the Activist Social Research course and individual meetings with a designated supervisor.

Applied Research Project (60 credits)

As an alternative to the standard masters dissertation, the Applied Research Project is a significant piece of work that allows students to undertake real world research directly applicable to the aims, interests and needs of a particular activist network, community group or organisation. The Applied Research Project can also be approached as a substantive investigation and analysis of an important policy development and/or practice issue.

The Applied Research Project will be underpinned by logical theorisations, conceptualisations and evidence and should include:

  • a significant and critical discussion of the relevant context
  • a rigorous and substantive analysis of the identified issue or problem
  • a creative approach for addressing the identified issue.

Students will be supported through this process through both the Activist Social Research course and individual meetings with a designated supervisor.

MSc Social Justice and Community Action Hub

MSc Social Justice and Community Action Hub

Rackham requires that all doctoral students are continuously enrolled for at least 8 credits (see below) for both the Fall and Winter terms.  Students who have completed all academic requirements and have no additional courses to take, or who are taking less than 8 credits of required academic courses in a given term, will need to register for either SI990 or SI995.  All students who have met candidacy requirements will register for SI995; pre-candidates will register for SI990. 

Please send the following information to the UMSI Registrar at umsi.registrar@umich.edu to request permission to enroll in SI990 or SI995:
  • Name
  • UM ID#
  • Select one: SI990 or SI995
  • Number of credits
  • Advisor name

The UMSI Registrar will use the information above to process your override for SI 990 or 995.  Once you receive an email confirmation of your permission to enroll, you may register for the course in Wolverine Access.

  • If you are a pre-candidate student who is enrolled in a 3-credit class for the term and does not need to take another required course, you will need to register for 5 credits of SI990. 
  • If you are a candidate who has met all academic requirements, you will need to register for 8 credits of SI995. 
  • If you are a first or second year student enrolled in 8 or more credits of required coursework, you will not need to register for SI990.

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