The MRes offers a fairly unique study experience. Despite its name, the degree actually sits somewhere between more conventional taught and research qualifications.
Studying an MRes will involve some of the taught instruction that defines an MA or MSc. But you’ll spend most of your time on extended research projects like those involved in an MPhil or PhD.
The exact balance between taught and research units varies between different MRes programs. The general requirement is for a programme to be at least 70% research, but individual courses will be organised differently.
Some may start with methodological training before transitioning into an extended research project. Others may intermix core taught units with independent project tasks. In some cases you may be able to choose for yourself whether or not to include taught units in your degree (up to a maximum number).
Whatever the format for your MRes the emphasis will very much be upon your own research work. Taught units will support this, but will not account for a large part of your overall grade.
How long is an MRes?
In the UK, an MRes usually requires at least one year of full-time study. Some courses can be longer, however. A part-time degree will normally last two years.
MRes degrees are much less common in Europe. Those that are available are likely to be longer – lasting up to two years.
Dedicated research Masters are also rare in other parts of the world. Most countries prefer to focus on taught instruction at Masters level, leaving advanced research for MPhil and PhD programs.
How many credits is an MRes worth?
An MRes is normally worth 180 UK credits.
Most of these will be earned through research. A typical MRes might involve around 160 credits of research work (in the form of multiple projects, or a single large dissertation). This will be supplemented by around 20 credits of training.
What are MRes research projects like?
In some ways the research you’ll do for an MRes is a lot like the final dissertation required for an MA or MSc.
You’ll select a topic, be assigned a supervisor and conduct an independent investigation before presenting a thesis of your findings.
As you’d expect, however, the research required by an MRes is much more extensive. (The degree is called a Masters of Research, after all!).
This might mean that you’ll be expected to complete multiple research projects. This is more likely for technical or professional subjects that require training in different types of research.
Or, you might simply complete one large project. If so, you can expect this to be much longer than the dissertation for a taught degree. Whereas an MA, for example, will usually require a dissertation of 15-20,000 words, an equivalent MRes project will be closer to 35,000 words (or more!).
The academic scope of your research may also be more demanding. You won’t be judged by PhD standards (for which a substantial original contribution to knowledge is required). But you may be expected to be closer to this level than an equivalent MA or MSc dissertation.
The advantage of this is that an MRes really does provide a full academic research experience. Whereas the dissertation is a single (but significant) part of a taught Masters, your work on an MRes will make you a proficient and professional researcher.
After that, taking the step up to PhD level may be surprisingly easy.