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Department of Social Anthropology

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For successful completion of the course MRes students must submit the following written work for examination:

  1. Two essays, each of not more than 4,000 words (including footnotes, but excluding tables, appendices, and bibliography), on subjects of social anthropological research chosen by the candidate from a list which will be published on the PhD1 and MRes Moodle Course following approval by the Degree Committee for Archaeology, Anthropology and Sociology.

    The list covers topics from the pre-fieldwork seminar series and students must answer one question on anthropology and social theory and one on professional research practice.

Each essay will count for 10% of the total marks for the examination.

  2. One essay of not more than 4,000 words (including footnotes, but excluding tables, appendices, and bibliography) relating to research methods. This is the individual report on the extended case study prepared for the Ethnographic Methods course.

    This essay will count for 10% of the total marks for the examination.

  3. Assessments for the SSRMP modules - Reading and Understanding Statistics and Survey Research and Design are two mandatory SSRMP modules for MRes students. Assessments will be administered by the SSRMP as part of the relevant modules on a pass/fail basis.

    These assessments will count for 10% of the total marks for the examination.

  4. A thesis of not more than 15,000 words in length, including footnotes, but excluding tables, appendices, and bibliography, on a subject approved by the Archaeology, Anthropology and Sociology Degree Committee. The examination may include an oral examination on the thesis and on the general field of knowledge within which it falls.

    The primary aim of the thesis should be the theoretical analysis of ethnographic material; it may also be a new synthesis of data, and/ or new interpretation of existing material.

    The mark awarded for the thesis will comprise 60% of the total.

  5. Fieldwork Proposal

    The fieldwork proposal (7,000 words, including footnotes) is submitted separately. It distills your research training to date and is at the core of your own plans. All students submitting a fieldwork proposal and hoping to proceed to doctoral research will be given a fieldwork clearance interview by the PhD Committee as part of the oral examination. Whichever way you organise your fieldwork proposal and thesis, you must have covered all items specified as elements of the fieldwork proposal

The formal regulations for the MRes in Social Anthropology can be found in the University’s Statutes and Ordinances. 


  • The minimum font size for text is 12pt and 10pt for footnotes
  • The font should be Times New Roman
  • Margins should be 1 inch/ 2.5 cm all round 
  • Chapters always begin on a new page
  • Paragraphs should be indented three spaces, except for the first paragraph of each new section which should be flush with the left-hand margin
  • Section headings must be clearly indicated, but not numbered
  • Use single spacing, with an extra space between paragraphs
  • All figures, tables, illustrations, etc should be clearly numbered and listed in the table of contents.

On this page:

Research ethics and integrity approval



Research ethics and integrity approval

In terms of formal approval procedures, the PhD Committee, consisting of four UTOs in the Department, acts as Ethics Committee for doctoral and MRes students. Ethical clearance is an intrinsic part of the Fieldwork Clearance procedure all PhD students must clear before they begin fieldwork. This body and the Departmental Committee have final responsibility for ethics clearance at the departmental level.

The University of Cambridge Research Integrity website provides extensive ethics and integrity guidelines to support staff and students. The Association of Social Anthropologists also provides extensive ASA ethics guidelines. Please consult these carefully in advance of applying for research clearance from the Department. Also see ESRC framework for research ethics and AAA ethical guidelines.  As the statement from the ASA chair usefully points out, the guidelines are not intended to provide ready-made answers or to absolve researchers from ethical responsibilities, but should be a starting point for a concrete reflection on the specific ethical issues which may have to be borne in mind in the case of your specific research:  

“Codes of practice and guidelines are of necessity succinct documents, couched in abstract and general terms. They serve as a baseline for starting to think about ethical issues, but cannot of their nature encompass the complexities of concrete situations and the dilemmas of choice and positioning that anthropologists routinely face as they navigate through a variety of intersecting fields of power and responsibility and start to consider how their own work both reflects and affects power relations. If ethics is seen simply as a question of avoiding a lawsuit and our codes are simply a list of restrictions on conduct designed to protect us from interference, our ethical purpose will simply be a matter of self-serving professional interest.” (Statement from the Chair, ASA) 

Researchers should also be aware of data protection issues that arise as a result of conducting research. In particular, you should keep in mind that when using cloud-based storage, or programmes such as Evernote, data will be crossing international borders even if your research does not. This means you should be aware of any issues raised concerning not only the security of your own research data, but also the legal issues surrounding data protection of all personal data. Further information on data protection can be found at the following places:
The University of Cambridge Staff and Student Information
Research data Q&A from Jisc Legal
SOAS information on personal data in research which covers some issues of particular interest to anthropologists in more depth.

If, having read these guidelines, you have any questions or would like any advice relating to research ethics, please consult the Department’s research ethics officer, , . 



Submission deadlines are announced annually in the MRes Diary.

Social Theory and Professional Research Practice essays: Friday 22 January 2021, or Friday 30 April 2021

Ethnographic case study: Friday30 April 2021
Thesis:  Friday 27 August 2021

All items submitted for assessment for this course must include a signed statement of the exact word count of the piece.

You must also submit an electronic version via the MRes/PhD1 Moodle Course by the deadline.

You are expected to manage your time to meet the deadlines. This includes, for example, preparing a draft well in advance, to allow reasonable time for feedback from your supervisor, and final revisions. Please note that sloppy presentation (bad spelling or grammar, incomplete bibliography etc.) will be penalised by the examiners.

No extensions will be given to the deadlines, with exceptions being made only for certified medical emergencies. Essays and theses submitted after noon on the deadline days will be penalised by 5 marks for the first day, followed by 1 mark for each day of delay thereafter.

If you experience personal or other difficulties that interfere with your work, you should consult your supervisor and/or College Tutor in good time for advice and assistance. In exceptional circumstances, a case for late submission may be made through these authorities, but it must reach the graduate administrator well before the deadline. In extreme cases personal problems may require periods of intermission of studies.

Please also note that the word counts for essays and theses are strict. There are upper limits and you must not exceed them. The Department requires an electronic copy of the essay or thesis to verify the word count.

The Haddon Library holds copies of theses produced by past graduate students and also has an online list of these theses


Formally, the MRes is a pass/ fail course. The standard for a pass begins at 60. Internally we note the difference between a pass (60-69) and a high pass (70-74), and a mark above 75 is awarded a distinction. If you wish to proceed to doctoral research you will be expected to achieve a high pass overall.

Assessment descriptors

Mark Class Description
75%+ Distinction At the upper end this is work which consistently exceeds expectations and challenges received views. At the lower end it indicates work which is excellent in its range and its command of the material, and in the argument and analysis that it brings to bear.
70-74% High Pass Work showing evidence of a good, broad-based engagement with and understanding of the relevant material organised in a clearly-argued, well-illustrated and relevant fashion.
60-69% Pass At the upper end this includes work which, though competent and broadly relevant, is somewhat lacking in focus, organisation or breadth of reference. At the lower end it indicates work which, while demonstrating some knowledge of the material, is yet deficient in understanding, analysis and breadth of reference.
41-59% Fail An answer that shows some knowledge of the broader subject area but displays inadequate evidence of directly relevant knowledge and understanding, and is unable to give a plausible and satisfactory answer to the question. A "marginal fail" mark is at the top of this range, 58-59.
21-40% Fail As per 41-59, aggravated by poor organization, poor expression, uncritical approach, serious mistakes, misunderstandings and/or irrelevant material.
1-20% Fail An answer of very limited substance. It may be a very brief answer of no more than a single paragraph of conventional paragraph length, and/or an answer which especially at the lower end contains little or nothing relevant to the question.
0% Fail No answer provided.



Course Resources


For reading lists, additional teaching materials and assignment upload please see the MRes/PhD1 Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on the MRes will automatically be enrolled on the MRes/PhD1 Moodle course and you will find a link to the course in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.