The 5 Steps of Applying for a Research Masters By Simon Thompson
For a lot of students, a Research Masters, or MRes, is the first step to a PhD programme, and perhaps a career in academic research. For others it is an opportunity to continue studying a subject at a higher level than can be achieved during an undergraduate programme. Whatever your reason for applying, an MRes is an exciting opportunity to continue your university education.
Unlike an MA or MSc, which both maintain a large emphasis on teaching, a Research Masters is more independent, with the student expected to study away from lecturers and curriculums, and research on their own terms. If youíre considering applying for an MRes, there is a lot to think about, and this guide should help you get started on your postgraduate journey.
1.) Consider your options
If youíre thinking about an MRes, you probably have some loose ideas in mind as to what you want to study, and maybe even a specific topic - or perhaps youíre not sure yet and want to see whatís out there. Whatever your situation, itís worth taking your time and considering the various options that are available before applying for anything. Have a look at a variety of universities, and consider what they can offer you aside from a library and a computer screen. Perhaps there may be additional research or teaching opportunities to consider, entrance requirements, or potential sources for funding. Itís important to see whatís available before applying.
2.) Check out potential funding
Unlike an undergraduate degree, you cannot take out a student loan to study at postgraduate level. If you are interested in studying for an MRes then you have to look at other potential funding options, and there are loads of different ones to consider - such as scholarships, bursaries, and fee-waivers. When researching universities and courses, you should also keep an eye out for funding, as this can make a real difference as to what you can realistically study. Look out for our upcoming guide on postgraduate funding for more help with this.
3.) Conduct some initial research
When applying for an MRes, youíll have to put together a proposal, which outlines what you want to research and why. Itís worthwhile to start some initial research on a broad subject area before you apply for anything, just to give you an idea of whatís out there, and help spot any smaller areas that you can potentially research further.
4.) Research potential supervisors
When you start your MRes, youíll be paired up with a supervisor (or sometimes a supervisory panel) to help you during your studies. Your supervisor will be an existing researcher/lecturer at the university whose research interests are similar to your own. Conducting a bit of research on potential supervisors before applying is a good idea, as you may be able to target your proposal towards a specific person who you would like to work with, or you think will be helpful to your work.
5.) Write a proposal
When youíre ready to apply for an MRes, youíll need to write a proposal. Each university has different guidelines on proposals, and there are plenty of books out there to help as well. Remember, itís not uncommon for your actual research to be totally different to what you originally proposed, so donít worry about the proposal defining you later on. At this stage youíre not expected to know it all, and your proposal should serve as a starting point for what you hope to research during your MRes.
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