Degrees Explained: Should I study a Master's of Research (MRes)?
Do you want to gain research skills in a field you're passionate about? Source: Shutterstock

There are many options available if you want to tackle a postgraduate qualification, but one of the lesser-known options is the Master of Research, which lets you specialise in a specific area of interest.

Unlike a classic Master’s course, you’ll spend your MRes degree researching your chosen topic before producing a thesis which then determines your grade.

This is ideal if you’re looking to delve into a particular area of an industry or subject in more detail, since you’ll be able to specialise rather than follow a set course structure.

How does it differ to a standard Master’s degree?

  • In a typical Master’s degree, you’ll complete a range of units assessed through essays and exams, and a research project at the end – in a Master’s of Research, you take fewer or no units and instead spend the entire course focusing on one or a few research projects of your choice.
  • You will work closely with your tutor as they guide you through the research process, rather than being taught by your professors in the conventional sense.
  • It’s a lot more self-guided – there may be deadlines and progress reports you have to meet to continue your course, but it’s not as regimented as in a traditional Master’s degree. This means you have to be self-motivated to ensure you make timely progress.

You’ll be spending a lot of time with the books on a MRes. Source: Shutterstock

What are the benefits?

  • You have more autonomy over what you study – rather than having to take core units, you submit your own proposal for research when you apply. This means you’re studying something you’re genuinely interested in rather than having to take compusory modules you don’t necessarily enjoy.
  • It’s on your schedule – you’re not forced to write essays and sit exams on dates dictated by the university. You can plan your studies around your life and manage your time to suit you. While this comes with its own challenges, it can be favourable if you have prior commitments.
  • You’ll graduate with a deep specialisation in the research area. After spending a whole programme looking into one topic, you’ll graduate as an expert in the field. You’ll likely have uncovered new information or progressed thinking in some way, making it a great way to fast track your career.
  • If you plan to study a doctorate degree after your Master’s, you will already have some of the crucial skills ready to fulfil your potential, including time management, self-motivation and staying organised during a long piece of work.

Who should study this degree?

The nature of this degree means it really isn’t for everyone – but if you have the following traits it may be a good fit:

  • You work best under your own direction – you don’t lack self-motivation and get the most done when you’re left to your own devices. You don’t need someone hovering over you to make sure you’re hitting your deadlines and you enjoy having freedom to complete your own tasks.
  • You have a niche interest area – the thought of studying compulsory modules fills you with dread because you know exactly where your interests lie. You enjoy delving deep into an area rather than gaining broad overviews, and love working under your own steam.
This definitely rings true in a Master’s of Research. Source: Giphy

How are you assessed?

Since this course instilling both academic and professional research skills, it can assess you in through various methods:

  • A portfolio of articles or projects you’ve completed
  • A thesis you have worked on throughout the year
  • Evidence of influence your work has had in the field

Your tutor will be on hand to guide you through assessments which are tailored to your industry and project.

How to choose your Master of Research programme

As you will be spending most of your studies researching for one project, it’s essential you find an institution that specialises in this area.

It’s important your research goals align with the department you choose. Source: Shutterstock

You need to ensure there’s a professor in the department who has a background in your research area, otherwise, you’ll have no one to guide you through your studies. Spend time researching academics in your area of interest and get in touch to see if they have availability.

If you aim to pursue a PhD afterwards, going to a high ranking university is a good idea, or at least finding a leading professor to work alongside.

This will show your commitment to academic research and improve your chances of finding scholarships to continue your studies.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

Quiz: Which postgraduate route will be the best for you?

Here’s how you can keep your job and do a Master’s at the same time