Master of Research
In the Anglo-Saxon countries, the Master of Research degree is an advanced postgraduate research degree in a specific academic discipline. In some universities the conferred degree is called Master of Arts by Research or Master of Science by Research in a specific academic discipline of Science or Social Sciences. The degree Master of Research is usually abbreviated as MRes, whereas the Master of Arts by Research is often abbreviated as MARes or MA(Res), while the Master of Science by Research is sometimes abbreviated as MSc(Res) or MScRes.
Background and purpose
Although a relatively new degree, research Master's degrees are increasingly popular with a number of the Russell Group Universities such as Imperial College London, University of Manchester, University of Liverpool and the University of London as well as in universities with significant art and design departments such as the Faculty of Arts (University of Brighton) and University of the Arts London. In most cases the degree is designed to prepare students for doctoral research. For universities with significant strengths in Practice-led research a research Master's degree preparation provides an opportunity for understanding the nature and potential of research study through, for example art and design practice.
This type of course is also useful if one is considering a career in the commercial world where research is a key focus but a PhD is not specifically required. Additionally, if one is unsure whether a PhD is right or not, a Master of Research degree can give the useful experience of what studying for a doctorate might be like, whilst at the same time allowing the student to earn a valuable Master's level qualification.
In the field of Medicine, the Master of Research degree programme is especially useful to those clinicians who wish to develop academic research skills, progress to PhD study or to enter competitive specialities such as Surgery or Public Health.
Research Master's degree programmes are different from taught Master's degrees by placing particular emphasis on a large dissertation (typically between 35-40,000 words), or an equivalent practice-led research project, in addition to fewer taught modules. Research Master's degrees programmes courses in the UK must guarantee that at least 70% of the content is project based as it is "geared to those wishing to pursue a research career afterwards." This will often include training in Research Methods, as well as instruction in Research Ethics and professional practice issues such as writing proposals, making funding applications and publishing.
Award instead of doctoral degree
In addition to specified research Master's degree programmes, some universities also award this degree to a doctoral candidate who has not completed the required period of study for a doctorate, but has completed a sufficient dissertation and taught content to be acceptable for an MRes - although in most cases a PhD candidate may be dropped down to the level of MPhil at British universities (in this usage, the MRes is similar to a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree that is obtained in instead of a PhD). However, the main difference between an MRes and an MPhil is that MRes sometimes (but not always) has taught components (although the main focus is still on research) and therefore might require a first year taught component during the doctoral studies. Research undertaken for a Master of Research degree is typically shorter in duration to that of an MPhil or PhD - around one year, as opposed to two or three, full time. For humanities subjects, MPhil theses are typically 60,000 words (and PhDs 80-100,000), while MRes or MA(Res) are usually around 35-40,000 by thesis, or lesser for courses with a taught component (a mixture of smaller essays and a dissertation). Some universities require an oral viva in addition to a written thesis for successful completion of an MRes degree.