What is a master’s of research and is it right for you?

When pursuing a master's in research, you'll spent a big chunk of your time engaging in research instead of learning in the classroom.

By U2B Staff 

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If you’re planning to pursue your master’s, you might have noticed that there are typically two types available: a master’s by coursework and a master’s of research (MRes).

As its name suggests, a master’s by research aims to develop your research skills; it can take up to two years to complete. This programme serves as excellent preparation for postdoctoral study as it requires students to undertake supervised research and write a thesis.


A master’s of research is ideal if you’re looking to delve into a particular area of industry or subject in more detail.

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 supervisor 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, which means you have to be self-motivated to ensure you make timely progress.

What are the benefits?

One of the benefits of pursuing a master’s in research is having 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 compulsory modules you don’t necessarily enjoy.

You can also 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.

In addition to this, 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 for 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 is this degree ideal for?

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 the 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.

How will you be assessed?

Since this course instilling both academic and professional research skills, it can assess you 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

How to choose master’s of research programme?

It helps to research professors or supervisors who are experts in your area of interest before applying to any university.

Contact them and discuss your research proposal before applying to the university.