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MRes in Social Anthropology

Course Description

The MRes in Social Anthropology provides training in research methods combined with work on a specific anthropological research project. It is a one-year programme of rigorous training in research issues and methods featuring guidance in and production of a substantial research project proposal, plus 15,000-word independently researched dissertation (thesis). The taught portion of the MRes programme is the same as the 9-month PhD pre-fieldwork training programme: students take the same courses in ethnographic methods and social theory, and receive the same close interaction with their supervisor, a senior member of department staff. There is also training in quantitative social science methods.

The course offers critical discussion of students' research projects and provides training in:

- how fieldwork contributes to social scientific knowledge
- how to isolate the theoretical questions that inform particular pieces of ethnography
- how to identify the kinds of empirical evidence necessary to address those questions.

Students are allocated a supervisor and faculty advisor in the same way as those registered for the PhD; and will normally continue with this supervisor throughout their PhD.

See the website http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/hssamrsap

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students should have:
(1) developed a deeper general knowledge of the comparative, theoretical and epistemological issues underlying contemporary social anthropological research and, where relevant to proposed doctoral research, developed a deeper knowledge of a specific geographical and/or topical area of anthropology and of the critical debates within it;

(2) developed a knowledge of a range of current methods, methodologies and research findings and a conceptual understanding that enables their proper deployment and evaluation.

(3) where relevant, advanced own plans for field research and undertaken field preparation with reference to (a) overall aims of the course; (b) specific social, ethical and other practical matters relating to their chosen ‘field’.


The taught element of this course consists of these compulsory streams:

- The Pre-fieldwork seminar
- The Ethnographic Methods Course, Parts I (Michaelmas) and II (Lent)
- Statistics for Social Anthropologists (workshop in Michaelmas term)
- The Social Sciences’ Research Methods Centre Course on Basic Statistical Methods, modules on Foundations in Applied Statistics and on Designing Surveys.

Students are also strongly encouraged to attend other optional elements:

- The ‘Experiences from the Field’ seminar, run by writing-up students recently returned from the field.
- Ad hoc sessions in transferable skills or anthropological method, such as journal publication, technologies of research and data management, film-making and research with children.
- The Senior Research Seminar, scheduled for Fridays during term time.. This is the place where the division really gets together, and we usually attract very good speakers from across the UK and overseas.

Students receive written feedback on their three assessed essays and thesis. In addition, students receive termly progress reports online from their supervisor via Cambridge Graduate Supervision Reporting System (CGSRS).


A thesis of not more than 15,000 words in length, including footnotes, but excluding tables, appendices, and bibliography, on a subject approved by the Degree Committee for the Faculty of Human, Social and Political Science. An oral examination on the thesis and on the general field of knowledge within which it falls may be held at the discretion of the examiners.
The mark awarded for the thesis will comprise 60% of the total.

1. One essay of not more than 4,000 words in length, relating to anthropology and social theory chosen by the candidate from a list of questions announced by the Degree Committee for the Faculty of Human, Social and Political Science by the Division of Michaelmas Term.
2. One essay of not more than 4,000 words in length, relating to professional research practice chosen by the candidate from a list of questions announced by the Degree Committee for the Faculty of Human, Social and Political Science by the Division of Michaelmas Term.
3. One essay of not more than 4,000 words relating to research methods. This is the individual report on the extended case study prepared for the Ethnographic Methods course. This essay will count for 10% of the total marks for the examination.
Each essay will count for 10% of the total marks.

One “open book” online test for the Foundations in Applied Statistics course and one written assignment for the Designing Surveys course taken via the Social Science Research Methods Centre Survey Methods.

Assessments will be administered on a pass/fail basis as part of the relevant modules and count for 10% of the total.


Students continuing to the PhD will undertake 12-18 months of ethnographic fieldwork subject to successful completion of a 7,000 word Research Proposal Portfolio and receiving clearance to proceed to fieldwork from the PhD Committee.

On return to Cambridge, students devote the remainder of their research time to writing their PhD dissertation in close consultation with their supervisor.

Upon return from the field, writing-up students are also expected to attend the following seminars during term-time:

- The PhD Writing-up seminar
- The Senior Research seminar
- The Senior Research Seminar analysis session.

How to apply: http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/applying

Funding Opportunities

- William Wyse Bursary -

All applicants for the MRes are eligible to apply for the Wyse Bursary for Social Anthropology for which a separate application is required.

- ESRC-DTC Studentships (UK or EU nationals only) -

In order to be eligible for an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) award, applicants who do not already hold a ESRC-recognised research training Masters will be registered for this course and not the PhD in the first instance. In addition applicants should submit a brief statement explaining their interest in become a DTC student and how this might benefit their future career. Further information on the DTC is available here: http://esrc-dtc.cshss.cam.ac.uk

General Funding Opportunities http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/finance/funding

Visit the MRes in Social Anthropology page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!

Entry Requirements

A First Class Honours degree or High Pass (70) in a Masters degree in Social Anthropology or closely related discipline is normally required. Applicants who do not hold such a qualification must apply for the MPhil in the first instance. Applications are considered as they are received (on a rolling basis), with some candidates being added to a gathered field to be considered after the application closing date. Decisions on any applications which have been included in the gathered field will be released shortly after the application closing date.

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