Department of Social Science, Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport

The Department of Social Science, Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport is the most diverse of Lincoln University’s academic departments. The disciplinary backgrounds and fields of study within the Department range from national parks management and outdoor recreation to history, sociology, and geography, to urban recreation, sport management, and tourism in all its forms.

The courses of study which the Department oversees are likewise diverse. Bachelor degrees in Sport and Recreation Management, and Tourism Management - that can be taken with specialised major and minor options from across the University - offer challenging programmes of study which combine academic rigour with an excellent preparation for students’ chosen careers.

Postgraduate degrees in the fields of parks, recreation, sport, tourism management and social science include:

  • PhD
  • Masters Programmes
  • Postgraduate Diplomas
  • Postgraduate Certificates

Information about these programmes and other details about postgraduate study in our Department can be found in Postgraduate Study in Social Science, Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport (SSPRTS) at Lincoln.

Head of Department: Dr Gary Steel  

Department Academic Coordinator of Postgraduate Studies: Dr Stephen Espiner

Department staff List


Postgraduate Study

Postgraduate Study in Social Science, Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport (SSPRTS) at Lincoln University.

The SSPRTS Department aims to create and maintain a strong postgraduate programme and a culture which is supportive of students and staff. The postgraduate programme is designed to provide opportunities in which diverse aspects of social science, tourism, recreation and parks can be investigated, critically evaluated, and discussed – within an environment which fosters independent thinking, a collaborative work ethic, and research excellence.

The Department’s postgraduate programmes encompass the multi- and interdisciplinary study of a wide range of phenomena and human activities. Academic staff members have research and teaching backgrounds in disciplinary and applied social sciences, including geography, sociology, psychology, history, policy studies, urban and regional planning, outdoor recreation, sport and exercise science, leisure and tourism studies. A significant focus of the Department is the social scientific aspects of parks, recreation and tourism, and Lincoln University has New Zealand’s longest established programme in this field of study. The research, teaching and supervision skills of the Department’s staff are complemented by social scientists in other Departments and Faculty of the University who specialise in environmental management, design, rural studies, transport studies, economics and business.

The general structure of the SSPRTS Department’s programmes comprises a suite of postgraduate courses which educate you in the central theoretical, methodological and substantive topic areas of social science, parks, recreation, tourism and sport. We purposely offer a modest number of courses, some mandatory core and some elective, to ensure that students from a variety of backgrounds are given the chance to share different perspectives on the topics under study. Postgraduate courses are taught mainly as seminars and you are able to pursue your own interests informed by the content of each course.

Following the completion of course work, you can pursue your thesis or dissertation research in conjunction with supervisors who have similar research interests and backgrounds. Additional information on the opportunities for SSPRTS thesis research students can be found in Opportunities for SSPRTS thesis research students.

Postgraduate students come from our own undergraduate degrees as well as from commerce, the social and biological sciences, the humanities and physical education. We currently have international students from China, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Nepal, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Ghana, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Austria, Spain, UK, Canada, USA and Brazil. There is a wide range of ages and many have diverse work experience.

Postgraduate study can be hugely satisfying, in terms of personal achievements, future employment and social relationships. The potential exists here for you to excel in your chosen area, and make a serious contribution to the fields of social science, tourism, recreation and parks. In our view, international job markets are increasingly looking for people who are equipped to deal with complex problems - people who can work and think independently, and who have research skills. Postgraduate study in SSPRTS develops these attributes. It can also lead to the forging of life-long friendships and social networks that span the world.   


Opportunities for SSPRTS thesis research students

The SSPRTS Department supports its research students through facilitating access to: Research funding for Masters and PhD projects (Research funds must be applied for when you submit your formal proposal, and is currently based around $2,000 for Masters and $2,000 for each of three years for PhDs).

  • Summer research scholarships;
  •  Local, national and international conferences;
  • Teaching assistantships; Workshops designed to advance research skills; and
  • Casual work as research assistants

Research students are also encouraged to explore opportunities to co-author academic articles in collaboration with their research supervisors, and to seek other mechanisms through which their own research findings can be disseminated. 


Becoming a Research Student in SSPRTS

As part of the application process, all research students applying to study for a research-based degree (Masters and PhD) are asked to submit an outline of their research interests. The required level of detail for this outline is dependent on the programme for which you are applying (PhD and ‘Masters by thesis only’ research outlines need more development). In essence, the purpose of the research outline is so that we can make some informed judgements about:

  • your capacity as a research student; and
  • the appropriateness of your topic to the research interests of current staff

The membership of your supervising team is determined through mutual research interest and availability of relevant academic staff. In most cases, the research outline is not a research proposal. The latter is a more comprehensive, formal document that you develop after you arrive at Lincoln University.


SSPRTS research supervision

All SSPRTS research students have a thesis research supervisor. On arrival at Lincoln University, each thesis and dissertation student is allocated an interim supervisor. This is an academic member of staff with whom you can discuss your research ideas, and learn about the process of setting up a supervision team. Your interim supervisor will shepherd you through the early stages of planning your research project, and help you make connections with other staff with relevant research interests in the Department, or in other parts of the University. Ultimately, over the initial period of several months, each PhD student will create a supervision team (this may, or may not include the interim supervisor), including at least two members of the University’s academic staff. Your supervisors will guide you from the proposal-writing stage to the completion of the thesis. Masters students should begin to formulate their thesis/dissertation topic during the second semester of study, and approach staff within the Department to discuss supervision.

In all cases, the research topic has to be one which can be supervised by a member of academic staff. In other words, you need to find a staff member with appropriate research experience and interests. Finding a research topic is a process involving both you and a number of staff. Be prepared to talk to many staff and to explore different ideas. Formal confirmation of the thesis or dissertation topic, supervisor and associate or co-supervisor (where applicable) is part of the research proposal approval process.

Students and their supervisors are expected to undertake a ‘mutual expectations’ exercise early in the team’s development. In our experience, establishing mutual expectations is crucial to successful supervisor – student interaction, and can create the foundation of a good working arrangement. The main objectives of this proposed discussion process are to identify basic practices which underpin effective supervision, and to share understandings so that there is agreement over fundamental (and often mistakenly assumed) beliefs and expectations about research and supervision.


Progress reporting

All SSPRTS postgraduate research students are required to complete six-monthly reports throughout their course of study – including during the semesters they are undertaking coursework. For PhD students, there is an additional progress review meeting (PRM) held between 12 and 18 months following enrolment. The purpose of the PRM is to help ensure that the student has achieved the various milestones expected after approximately 12 months of PhD study. Furthermore, the meeting is an opportunity for students to raise any issues or concerns held about the research and supervision process which may act as impediments to the successful and timely completion of the PhD programme.

Research proposal

All thesis and dissertation students are required to submit a research proposal under the guidance of their supervisor(s) as part of gaining permission to begin field work. The research proposal is a detailed document that normally contains some information about:

i) the nature of the research problem;
ii) available academic literature about the topic;
iii) specific objectives for the research;
iv) the intended data collection methods;
v) an itemised time-line for the completion of the study; and
vi) a budget estimating the costs of undertaking the research.

The research proposal is a formal document submitted to the Department’s Postgraduate Studies Committee for approval prior to the commencement of fieldwork. Depending on the precise nature of the research, many students will also be required to apply to Lincoln University’s Human Ethics Committee (HEC) to gain ethical clearance for their project.


Postgraduate programmes in Social Sciences, Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport: Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates

Qualification Abbreviation Usual
programme length
Doctor of Philosophy - apply for this programme on-line PhD Three years
Master of Social Science -apply for this programme on-line MSocSc Two years
Master of Parks, Recreation and Sport Management - apply for this programme on-line MPR&SM Two years
Master of Applied Science in Parks, Recreation and Tourism - apply for this programme on-line MApplSc Two years
Master of Tourism Management - apply for this programme on-line MTourMgt Two years
Master of Applied Science (Parks, Recreation and Tourism) - apply for this programme on-line MApplSc (PR&TM) (Professional) One year
Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate in Tourism Management - apply for this programme on-line


Two semesters or
One semester

Bachelor of Sport and Recreation Management or Tourism Management - apply for this programme on-line


One year



Postgraduate Courses

Semester 1 Semester 2
 Social theory applications in contemporary society SOCI 602  Social science research methods (Qualitative)
PHIL 602  History and philosophy of science SOCI 641  Advanced society and environment
SOCI 601  Social science research methods (Quantitative)  Advanced society and the individual
  Policy and planning for parks,        recreation, sport and tourism RECN 626  Natural resource recreation and tourism
RECN 604  Sport, physical activity and fitness RECN 640  Events and festivals:  Contexts and concepts
TOUR 603  Tourism management TOUR 604  Tourist behaviour

Page last updated on: 24/07/2014