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Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between an MPhil/PhD and an MSc by Research?

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (MPhil/PhD)

Students on the full-time MPhil/PhD are registered for a maximum of 4 years, though many students submit in 3.5 years. The registration length for students on the part-time course varies depending on the student's individual situation, but the standard length is 5 - 7 years.

To satisfy the requirements for the degree of PhD, students will submit a thesis that constitute a substantial original investigation, characterised by rigorous methodology, and contribution to knowledge which is, in principle, worthy of peer-reviewed publication. The thesis will be clearly and concisely written, well argued, and should show a satisfactory knowledge of both primary and secondary sources. In addition, it shall contain a full bibliography and, where appropriate, a description of methods and techniques used in the research.

The thesis shall not exceed 70,000 words. This limit shall be exclusive of appendices, footnotes, tables and bibliography.

After submission of thesis, all candidates for doctoral degrees are required to attend an oral examination (viva) after the first submission of the thesis.

MSc by Research

Students on the full-time MSc by Research are registered for 1 year. Part-time students should expect to be registered for 2 years.

Similarly to the MPhil/PhD, an MSc by Research is a PG research degree, so the key difference between doing a PhD versus a MSc degree is in their length and scope.

The thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of a degree of Master shall be clearly and concisely written, show evidence of originality in knowledge and interpretation, and shall also be judged on its scholarly presentation. In addition, it shall contain a full bibliography. The thesis shall not exceed 40,000 words, exclusive of appendices, footnotes, tables and bibliography.

In the case of the MSc, an oral examination (viva) is not required unless one or both examiners consider this to be necessary to the examination process, at the discretion of the examiners.

Why do you refer to it as an MPhil/PhD?

Students who apply for a PhD are initially registered for an MPhil (PhD track) when they join the University. The expectation is that students will have their registration upgraded to a full PhD contingent on satisfactory progress, which is usually confirmed by an Annual Progress Review 9 - 12 months (or 18 - 24 months for part-time students) after they start. Should a student not pass their first Review, they will be given 6 more months to solve any identified issues, after which a Follow-Up Review will be held. If the student passes this, they will be upgraded to a full PhD, whereas if progress is still deemed unsatisfactory, the student may be asked to graduate on an MPhil or convert to an MSc by Research, depending on the circumstances.

What is the workload like?

Working for a MPhil/PhD/MSc by Research is a full-time job. Unlike undergraduate study, working as a postgraduate research student is not tied to terms or semesters. The notional period of study is 44 weeks full-time per year, but it should be understood that the number of hours and weeks worked depend on the requirements of the research.

What teaching and learning opportunities are there?

Whilst the department has no compulsory training modules for standard MPhil/PhD/MSc by Research students, students are able to enrol on or audit some of the postgraduate taught modules offered by the department, at the module convenor's discretion, if they believe these will be beneficial to their studies. A list of postgraduate taught modules running in 2019/20 can be found here. Students are also able to enrol on or audit relevant modules from other departments, subject to approval from their supervisor and the module convenor.

Furthermore, the department offers a number of opportunities each year for PGR students to act as TA's to undergraduate modules, which you can find out more about on our dedicated Postgraduate Teaching page.

Students who are looking to undertake their MPhil/PhD in Psychology through the ESRC DTP should be aware that there is a specially designed training program as part of that course, more information on which can be found on our website.

What developmental opportunities are there?

All PGR students in Psychology are strongly recommended to undertake 60 hours (36 if part-time) of skills development annually.

As part of this, students will be encouraged to engage with 10 days (or part-time equivalent) worth of training each year under the University's PGR Professional Development Framework, which recognises the broader skills base students will need to ensure they generate original research for publication, and helps prepare students for their future, whether that is in academia or otherwise. Five of these days will be completed by developing discipline-specific academic skills through research. A further two days will be satisfied by networking and attending events, e.g. conferences and research seminars. The remaining three days are to develop transferable skills outside of Psychology.

To help with this, students will have access to Warwick SkillsForge, a bespoke platform for PGR development which will allow students to complete a Development Needs Analysis (DNA), book onto training, record their development activities (including personal reflection on what they’ve learned) and will allow them to see and reference all development opportunities they have undertaken.

In addition, the department organises a number of workshops, seminars, and events each year, specifically tailored to our PGR students. A partial list of such activities running in 2019/20 can be found here.

My background isn't in Psychology, can I still apply for the MSc by Research/MPhil/PhD in Psychology?

We will consider students with a non-Psychology background (e.g. first/postgraduate degree in computer science, linguistics, education, biology, etc.) where their training and experience is particularly relevant to the area of research that they wish to tackle AND the area of research is one where we can provide expert supervision, i.e. a member of staff has an active research interest in that area and has the time and capacity to supervise you.

If you still have specific questions that none of the information on our website can answer, then please contact us and we will be happy to look into it for you.