A student examines a growing plant

Master's by Research

A Master's by Research degree is for those who want the chance to carry out their own in-depth research project. This can offer an excellent grounding for continuing to PhD study and provide the foundations for developing expertise in specific fields leading to careers in the public and private sectors.

Enrolling for a Master's by Research allows you to immerse yourself in a subject. You will receive the kind of specific skills training you need to be able to fully investigate your subject. You will conduct innovative, original research and then write up and submit a thesis, and be examined by a viva - an oral test in front of a panel of examiners.

As a Master's by Research student, you are treated as part of the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) research community, sitting alongside your PhD contemporaries and enjoying the same research facilities and activities. You may, if you choose, also be co-supervised with an external research, policy or business partner, working on a specific problem for them.

If you are interested in pursuing this route, we will work with you to help design the most appropriate research project, whether in the natural or social sciences, making sure that you get the very most out of all the Graduate School has to offer in that area.

How to apply

To begin the process, we need to help you find a relevant supervisor whose research interests align with your own. You can find a supervisor in our Research Groups, which cover the areas we offer expertise in. We then suggest you email Dr Andrew Jarvis, the Master's by Research Director of Studies, to arrange an online meeting where you can discuss your research interests, emerging ideas and training needs. This will lead to us being able to put you in touch with specific relevant supervisors to talk to, leading to the development of your formal application. A central component of your application includes the preparation of your Research Proposal.

An important part of a Master's by Research application is the preparation of a Research Proposal. Not only does this help us to assess your suitability for the Master's by Research, but it also helps you better understand what it is you want to look in detail at and the kind of training you are after.

Preparing a good Research Proposal takes time, so only start the process of putting one together once we have discussed with you your research interests and training needs and you have talked this through with potential supervisors. This is to ensure that you get the best return on your investment.

Your Research Proposal should be no more than 1000 words long and it is recommended that you include the following:

  • A provisional title
  • A section that defines and characterises your selected research area
  • A section that briefly surveys and sums up the state of the research in this area
  • A section that identifies deficiencies in the research area which you would like to address in your Master's by Research
  • A section that outlines some possible research directions that you might pursue
  • A section detailing the methods you envisage using in your studies
  • Your preferred supervisor(s)
  • A list of references that you cite in the above sections

Please note that your proposal is open to negotiation with the supervisor(s) and may change before and during your Master's by Research.

More information

To submit an application, simply create an account on the My Applications website and then select 'Create a new application' from your homepage once you are logged in.

Using your account on the My Applications website, you are able to submit applications for the programme(s), which you wish to study, upload supporting documentation and provide us with information about referees. You may apply for all our postgraduate programmes using this method. The Master's by Research programmes available in LEC are MSc by Research in Ecology, Environmental Science or Plant Sciences.

Current Lancaster Students

If you are a current Lancaster student, or you have recently graduated from Lancaster, we can reduce the amount of information that you will need to provide as part of your application. You will need to provide only one reference and will not need to supply your Lancaster degree transcript. We will also pre-fill your personal details, ready for you to check.

If you use the My Applications website then you will be advised which documentation you need to upload or send to us. We can automatically contact your referees once you have submitted your application if you ask us to.

The supporting documentation screen will provide you with a list of required documents. These will usually include:

  • a personal statement to help us understand why you wish to study your chosen degree
  • a CV
  • a research proposal with named potential supervisors
  • degree certificates and transcripts of previous higher education (college/university) degrees or other courses that you have completed/are currently studying
  • for transcripts in languages other than English, a certified English translation will be required
  • two references
  • copies of English language test results, if English is not your first language. Lancaster University accepts these English language tests

Applications will be considered once complete. As part of the application process, applicants will require an interview with the potential supervisors, which will be either in person or by phone/skype.

You can apply at any time of the year for Master's by Research study, but you have to start at one of the predefined start dates of October, January or April. In some circumstances, a July start date will be considered. If you are applying for funding, are applying from overseas or require on-campus accommodation, we recommend that you apply as early as possible.

Information on the funding available, tuition fees and living costs in Lancaster is at Postgraduate Fees and Funding.

Study Areas

Research Groups

In each of the research groups, you can find a list of academics which may match your area of interest.

Previous MRes examples


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