skip to content


Collection of Ethnographic Material 

Students should be aware that because the dissertation is an exercise in advanced independent study, some field-based study may be desirable as one among several possible ways to gather ethnographic material for their dissertation. You should discuss this as early as possible with your principal supervisor. 

Most but not all MPhil dissertations in our Department involve some on-site collection of ethnographic material. The methods used may vary, but in all cases students should concentrate on subjecting the material they collect to effective anthropological discussion and analysis. Any work that requires absence from Cambridge must be done during the Christmas, Easter or summer vacation periods, not during the eight-week periods of full term (October-December; January-March; April-May). During Michaelmas term, the Department offers all MPhil students a short course on anthropological research methods, including ethnographic fieldwork. Please ensure that you have read information on the University's Safeguarding Work Away website. You need to agree the details of your planned field-based study with your supervisor and bear the following points in mind:

Leave to Work Away

Before students depart for their period of field-based study, students must obtain official ‘Leave to Work Away’ and complete an MPhil Risk Assessment Form and Department Form MP13A - Research Ethics (available on your Moodle Course).  You should apply for ‘Leave to Work Away’ for all absences over two weeks. This must be initiated through your CamSIS self-service account during the term prior to departure.  For more information please see the University's advice for those applying for Leave to Work Away. If your absence is less than two weeks you do not need to complete a Leave to Work Away request but should still complete a Risk Assessment and MP13A - Research Ethics form.

Risks and Safety

In order to carry out field-based study you must have attended the University of Cambridge Postgraduate Safety Course, which should be completed at the start of Michaelmas term.

Please ensure that you have read information on the University's Safeguarding Work Away website.

Before leaving to conduct field-based study you must have discussed with your supervisor any possible risks and dangers involved in your field-based study and you must be adequately insured. You must make contingency plans should things go wrong, inform the Department, your College and your next of kin of these plans, and ensure that all the parties concerned have the relevant contact details.

Before you depart, you are required to submit an MPhil Risk Assessment Form and Department Form MP13A - Research Ethics signed by your supervisor and which will be sent to the MPhil Coordinator for approval. The form is your guarantee that you have considered the risks involved and put in place the necessary arrangements.  MPhil students traveling to high risk areas, or where the travel is high risk because of health concerns, should complete the High Risk additional Section Form.  Please be aware that approval of high risk travel by MPhil students is only given in exceptional circumstances.

Coronavirus, travel and risk assessment

The University policy and advice on Coronavirus can be found here -


You should ensure that you have sufficient insurance in place before departing. The University offers free travel insurance to students conducting overseas fieldwork.  Please note that some claims associated with unregulated accommodation such as AirBnb will not be covered by university travel insurance if there has not been a suitable consideration of potential risk (financial, crime, safety).

Dissertation Expenses Grant

MPhil students in the Department needing help with the costs associated with their dissertation, including costs of field-based study during vacations, should apply to the Dissertation Expenses Grant.