MRes Anthropology


About the Programme

The research-intense and independent nature of the Masters in Research in Anthropology will appeal to students seeking entry in to a PhD programme or a professional research role. Designed for students with a strong background in anthropology, this course trains them in research design and social science or biological methodologies in preparation for an independent research project. The emphasis on research training prepares students to design pilot studies, conduct fieldwork and write dissertations based on one's own research. Students may find that completion of this masters can shorten the process to upgrade from MPhil to PhD status (see the MPhil/PhD programme), or launch them into a career in professional research.

Programme Objectives

This MRes provides students with a thorough grounding in a wide range of social science or biological methodologies and methods, an advanced knowledge of contemporary theoretical and ethnographic questions in anthropology, and training in the skills necessary to utilise postgraduate experience in the professional world. The course aims to provide students with an understanding of the context of research design and to enable them to formulate an independent research project, and the ethnographic and practical skills to carry it out. With the completion of the MRes we expect students to be highly competent professionals, who will either continue to MPhil/PhD or who will be well equipped to apply their knowledge of social science methodologies and methods and their specific anthropological expertise in a range of professional settings.

The MRes is composed of a number of courses grouped under four headings:

  • Core Course: Ethnographic Area Directed Reading
  • Research Methods and Transferable Skills
  • Specialist Taught Courses: Theoretical, Regional and Conceptual Analysis
  • Dissertation

1. Core Course: Ethnographic Area Directed Reading (GR04)

This component of the course will provide an introduction to independent research under the guidance of your supervisor. The student should develop an advanced knowledge of the context and literature related to the proposed research topic and have an opportunity to demonstrate independence and initiative in selecting and defining a research project.

2. Research Methods and Transferable Skills (GR05)

This component of the course consists of the following:

  • Social Science Research Methods (Non Anthropological approaches and two options for a course in Statistics, either one for beginners, or one for those wishing to reach more advanced levels)
  • Anthropological Research Methods (Staff and student led weekly seminar compulsory in Term one and by election in Term two)
  • Research Design and Presentation (weekly seminar)
  • Transferable Skills and Professional Development (elective courses from the Graduate School and elsewhere selected at: http://courses.grad.ucl.ac.uk/list-courses.pht?action=shs
  • Weekly Departmental Seminar in Anthropology plus selected specialist seminar
  • Language Training as appropriate

2a) The SSRM course consists of a minimum of 5 weeks of lectures on general social science methods with associated independent reading. Minimally this might mean the moodle course at http://courses.grad.ucl.ac.uk/course-details.pht?course_ID=1909

Another, non-virtual course we strongly recommend is Philosophy of Social Science Workshop Programme (http://courses.grad.ucl.ac.uk/course-details.pht?course_ID=1172. You will receive an email from the Graduate School to your UCL account when this course is timetabled and you will need to sign up at once to ensure a place on this popular programme. The aim of both of these courses is for you to become familiar with non-anthropological approaches and understand the approaches of disciplines that do not rely on ethnography.

2b) You are also obliged to take an introductory course in statistics designed either for researchers whose primary methods are qualitiative and ethnographic, comprising 9 lectures and 10 seminars, or a more advanced course over 2 terms for more quantitative researchers.

2c) You will attend the Reseach Design and Presentation seminar alongside the MPhil students. In Term one you will begin designing your research project, and gain practice presenting and commenting on ideas in a group setting. In Term two you will have the opportunity to present your research project to your peers in a supervised environment, with particular focus on the theoretical approach and contribution to the discipline.

Together, these course elements provide a broad base of generic research skills, professional development and specific anthropological research techniques (tailored to the specific sub-disciplinary specialism followed by the student).

Students also gain exposure to a range of modes for the presentation of research findings and to the different canons of evidence employed in different sub-disciplinary fields, and specific language training at a level sufficient to facilitate pilot level research for a dissertation.

2d) Transferable Skills and Professional Development

  • Personal and Professional Management Skills - residential weekend skills course (please sign up early as this intensely popular course – which offers you a rare chance to mix with peers from totally different parts of UCL - fills up extraordinarily fast) and pre- and post-course seminars. Presentation skills lecture and workshop
  • Completion of Research Students Log

2e) Language Training, Research Design and Presentation Course, Departmental Seminar

The first of these depends on the student’s project location. Research Design and Presentation provides training in the writing of a successful fieldwork proposal, while the Departmental Seminar provides training in the core academic activity of intellectual critique and constructive engagement with the theories and explanations of other scholars.

3. Specialist Taught Courses: Theoretical, Conceptual and Regional Analysis

This component of the course consists of TWO option courses drawn from Masters Course Options. Together these course elements constitute an extensive preparation for research in the specific sub-field of anthropology in which the student intends to specialise, an in-depth knowledge of a particular area or set of topics, and a further flexible element to complement or expand the students’ existing knowledge. In addition, these course elements combine teaching by a range of staff members to promote collegial cooperation amongst research students and staff across the Department, together with close direction by the supervisor or course tutor on a one-to-one basis in the element of Directed Reading. A common framework and timetable of expectations is followed for this latter course.

4. The Dissertation (GR99)

The major element of this component of the course is the dissertation itself. Production of this is facilitated by the course Research Design and Presentation. This is run as two distinct seminar groups, one for Social and Material Culture, the other for Biological Anthropologists. It culminates in a two-part dissertation – method/literature review by May, and substantive case study by September.


1) GR04. Core Component. Ethnographic Area - Directed Reading, OR Research Topics in Biological Anthropology

  • Critical Literature Review – 2,500 words

This is worth 8.3% of your total mark for the MRes.

2) GR05 Methods Component

i) Social Science Research Methods Statistics Course

For the statistics module, students are assessed by:

  • Portfolio of work based on practical exercises relating to the weekly training (40%).
  • Exam testing your familiarity with statistical approaches in social science (60%).

The statistics module, is worth 8.3% of your total mark for the MRes.

ii) Anthropological Methods Course (Social)

Methods essay based on methods training undertaken (2,000 words)

This element of the degree is worth 8.3% of your total mark for the MRes.

N.B. The statistics module and the methods essay each count for half of GR05. GR05 counts for 16.6% of your total mark for the MRes course.

There is no assessment for the selection of general SSRM lectures that you take.

3) Optional Courses Component

  • Two Essays of 2,500 words [each worth 8.3% of the total mark]

This element is worth 16.6% of your total mark for the MRes.

4) GR99 Dissertation (see below for more details)

  • 15,000 words (inclusive of notes and appendices)

Worth 58.5% of the total mark for the MRes.

Transferable Skills and Professional Development

Not formally assessed but attendance is required at the events listed above.

Language Training, Research Design and Presentation Course, Departmental Seminar

These are not formally assessed by the Department but regular attendance is expected.

Purpose and Scope of the Dissertation

The MRes dissertation is a document of 15,000 words (inclusive of all notes and any appendices) based on independent research and thought and usually including some original analysis of quantitative data. In many cases the dissertation will report on original data collected by the student in order to address a particular empirical question within the scope of the degree. Such a dissertation will include a literature review on other similar work demonstrating the practical or theoretical justification for this particular piece of work, a description of the methodology and appropriate analysis of the results. Other students may analyse appropriate data collected by a third party or do further analysis of published data. In all cases appropriate statistical techniques must be used. In a minority of cases students may do a library-based dissertation which brings together the different strands of the degree at a theoretical level. This is not usually considered to be appropriate for the MRes and will only be permitted under special circumstances after discussion with the course tutors.


Students will usually have a supervisor who will be chosen on the basis of topical, regional or theoretical expertise but may consult other staff within the Department. Students should discuss topics during the first four weeks of the autumn term with the MRes tutor who will advise on a suitable supervisor. It is the responsibility of students to identify and approach supervisors but help and guidance in this will be given by the MRes tutor.

Students must start formulating their research project from the beginning of the course and should arrange a meeting with their supervisor and the course tutor early in the autumn term. This first meeting will be used to discuss the topic, the approaches to the topic, the existence of relevant data sets or the need for the student to collect their own data. In the latter case advice will be given about possible sources of funding for fieldwork. If the student wishes to undertake fieldwork in the pursuit of their dissertation data, it is their responsibility to secure all necessary funding. At least two further meetings with the supervisor will take place before Christmas to discuss appropriate literature searches and formulation of research proposals in order to secure funding (where appropriate).

During the spring term the student will present their research project, especially the methodological aspects, to the Research Design and Presentation group. There should be at least three meetings with the supervisor during this term to review progress. By March 4th the student should have a provisional title for the dissertation and a brief synopsis - to be submitted to the programme tutor on the form provided later in this booklet. By the end of this term the student will have drawn up a detailed time plan for fieldwork (if appropriate), research, analysis and writing over the summer.

Supervisors should be available for occasional consultation over the summer vacation although they may be away for considerable periods. In this case the MRes tutor will provide back-up supervision where necessary. It is the student's responsibility to find out when supervisors will be available and to arrange back-up supervision. You may expect your supervisor to read and comment on a full draft of the dissertation provided it is submitted in good time before the final deadline.

Option registration:

At the beginning of the first Term you will be asked to select your specialist options for the year from the list of available courses. If you are in doubt about what to choose, you can consult the MRes tutor. You must register your choices by entering them onto Portico no later than Friday 5 October. If you change your module beyond this date you will need to complete and hand in the Masters Course Options Sheet (Page 93) to Mr James Emmanuel.


The deadline for submission of the dissertation is second Monday of September.

The assessed essays for the option must be submitted by the end of term in which it is taught. TWO copies should be made of each essay – typed and double-spaced - and placed in the Drop Box at Reception in the Anthropology Department, and one electronic copy submitted via Moodle (see Electronic Coursework Submission on Page 90).

The Methods Essay is to be submitted after the February Reading Week, and the Critical Literature Review is to be submitted at the beginning of Term Three.

The statistics module is evaluated by weekly assignments during Term Two, and an exam near the end of Term Two.

Note: There must not be any substantial repetition of material between examined essays submitted for the taught elements of the course, nor between these essays and the dissertation.


Social Science Research Methods:

Bernard H R 2006 Research methods in anthropology, qualitative and quantitative approaches. Fourth Edition. Oxford: Altamira

Gillies D 2000 Philosophical theories of probability. London: Routledge.

Marsh C  1988  Exploring Data. An introduction to data analysis for social scientists. Cambridge: Polity Press

H. Russell Bernard Methods in Social and Cultural Anthropology (4th ed.)

Burton, D (ed) 2000 Research training for social scientists Sage, London

Seale, C (ed) 1998 Researching society and culture Sage, London

Anthropological Methods Course (Social)

G. Allan and C. Skinner (eds.) (1991) Handbook for Research Students in the Social Sciences. London: Falmer Press

S. Coleman & P. Collins ed. Locating the Field: Space, Place and Context in Anthropology. Andreas Wimmer and Reinhart Kössler (eds.) Understanding Change. Models, Methodologies and Metaphors. (Important cross disciplinary perspectives),

C. Bailey (1995) A Guide to Field Research.

R. Burgess (1984) In the Field: an introduction to field research. London: Unwin Hyman

R. Burgess (1993) Research Methods. Walton-on-Thames: Thomas Nelson

D. Burton (ed.) (2000) Research Training for Social Scientists London: Sage

H. Russell Bernard (1995) Research Methods in Anthropology. Walnut Creek: AltaMira/Sage.

D. Bell, P. Caplan and W.J.Karim (1993) Gendered Fields: women men and ethnography. London: Routledge

M. Conaway (1986) Self, sex and gender in cross-cultural fieldwork. Champagne Ill: Illinois University Press

R. Ellen (1984) Ethnographic Research: a guide to general conduct. London: Academic Press

M. Hammersley and P Atkinson (1995) Ethnography: principles in practice. (2nd Edition). London: Routledge

T. May (1993) Social Research: issues, methods and process. Buckingham: Open University Press.

C. Warren (1998) Gender issues in Field Research. Newbury Park. CA: Sage

Transferable Skills and Professional Development

Brante, T., S. Fuller and W. Lynch. (2002) Controversial Science: From Content to Contention

Chalmers, A.F (1999) What Is This Thing Called Science? Buckingham: Open University Press

Greenberg, Daniel S. (2001) Science, Money and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Harman, G. (1999) “Australian Science and Technology Academics and University Industry Links”, Higher Education 38: 83-103.

Spier, R.E. (2002) Science and Technology Ethics. London: Routledge

Research skills:

  • Analysis and interpretation of field data
  • Bibliographic skills and resources
  • Ethnographic research methods
  • Field data collection
  • Production of research reports, dissertation
  • Research methodology
  • Research project design
  • Oral presentation
  • Specialist  literature review
  • Statistical analysis
  • Drafting research budgets
  • Writing research funding proposals

Personal effectiveness and communication skills:

  • Critical writing
  • Drafting research budgets
  • Language training (where appropriate)
  • Oral presentation
  • Planning
  • Time-keeping, time-management
  • Writing research funding proposals

Application guidelines

Applications to the MRes Anthropology programme MUST include a 2-3 page research proposal giving details of your project and proposed fieldwork location. You are also strongly encouraged to seek provisional agreement from an academic member of staff to supervise your project for the duration of the MRes programme and potentially beyond for MPhil/PhD. A list of academic staff in the Department can be found at

Please submit your application at the following link

Key Information

Programme starts

September 2018

Location: London, Bloomsbury


With the completion of the MRes, we expect students to be highly competent professionals, who will either continue to the MPhil/PhD level or who will be well equipped to apply their knowledge of social science methodologies and methods and their specific anthropological expertise in a range of settings.

Recent career destinations for this degree
  • Civil Service Resilience Officer, Department for Communities and Local Government
  • Research Analyst, Mind
  • PhD in Anthropology, University of Oxford

The MRes enhances the profile of students who already have a strong background in anthropology by training them in professional skills, statistics and various other social science methods. Exposure to positivist social science methodologies makes graduates attractive candidates for positions in NGOs or work in applied social science. Emphasis on research design and data collection through field research prepares graduates to be independent researchers. The general social science orientation of the degree qualifies students to apply for research positions on grants in various disciplines, and it opens the way to doctoral study in anthropology and other social science subjects.

Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.