Postgraduate Research Study

There are three types of research degree awarded by the University of Exeter and which are delivered by the College of Life and Environmental Sciences: MSc by Research (MbyRes), the Masters of Philosophy (MPhil), the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), and the PhD by Publication.

MSc by Research

The MSc by Research offers the opportunity to obtain a research degree, without the commitment of a longer-term PhD. Not to be confused with the taught MRes degree, it’s ideal for those in employment interested in pursuing a specific shorter-term research project. An MbyRes is a bit like a mini-PhD. You will undertake a research project and write a thesis on which you will be examined.

You will submit in the form of a standard thesis which shall not exceed 40,000 words.

Your Board of Examiners will consist of an external and an internal examiners and in assessing your thesis they will require evidence of:

  • A systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study, or area of professional practice;
  • A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship;
  • Originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline;
  • Conceptual understanding that enables the student:
    - to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline; and
    - to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses;
  •  a satisfactory level of literary presentation.

MbyRes examinations do not normally require a viva, however, a viva is required if:

(a) a viva examination is judged to be necessary by one or more of the examiners; or

(b) there is substantial disagreement between the examiners; or

(c) the examiners are not inclined to recommend the award of the degree for which the work was submitted (aside, if necessary, from minor amendments).

Students who are interested in extending their studies have the option to apply to transfer registration to an MPhil or PhD.

The MPhil

The MPhil, although a qualification in its own right, is often used as a route to the longer PhD.

You will undertake a research project and write a thesis on which you will be examined.

You will submit in the form of a standard thesis which shall not exceed 60,000 words.

Your Board of Examiners will consist of an external and an internal examiners and in assessing your thesis they will require evidence of:

  • A systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study, or area of professional practice;
  • A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship;
  • Originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline;
  • Conceptual understanding that enables the student:
    - to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline; and
    - to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses;
  •  a satisfactory level of literary presentation.

MPhil examinations do not normally require a viva, however, a viva is required if:

(a) a viva examination is judged to be necessary by one or more of the examiners; or
(b) there is substantial disagreement between the examiners; or
(c) the examiners are not inclined to recommend the award of the degree for which the work was submitted (aside, if necessary, from minor amendments).

The PhD

The PhD is an independent research project. You will work towards an original contribution to knowledge. The end-product of the project is the doctoral thesis (max word count of 100,000).

Your Board of Examiners will consist of an external and an internal examiners and in assessing your thesis they will require evidence of:

  • the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline, and merit publication;
  • a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or area of professional practice;
  • the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems;
  • a detailed understanding of applicable techniques and advanced academic enquiry;
  • a satisfactory level of literary presentation.

The examination of the research degree focuses on the quality of the thesis and the defence of it by the candidate at the viva voce examination.

PhD by Publication

This type of doctoral degree is awarded on the basis of a series of peer-reviewed papers which have been accepted for publication, gathered together, and accompanied by a substantial chapter explaining how the work forms a coherent whole. At Exeter, this route is applicable to those candidates who already have a portfolio of published work prior to registration as a student. Assessment is by the same means as a normal PhD. See the Exeter regulations for further details.