If you're coming to end of your undergraduate degree or have already dabbled in research through an honours program, you may be one of the many students who consider completing a higher research degree.
But before you begin applying for programs or ironing out your research focus you have a few things to consider. At the most basic level, this includes the type of research degree and the institution where you want to complete your research.
Depending on the qualification you already hold, you will choose from the following:
- an honours program — usually taken the year after a bachelor degree
- a masters by research — a research-focused program with a minor coursework element, usually requiring a smaller-scale research project than the PhD
- a PhD — consists of a much larger research project that may take several years to complete
When making your choice, you will need to first to look into the entry requirements of the institutions and courses you are considering. A masters by research, for example, may require completion of a bachelor degree for entry into some institutions and courses, while at others you may be expected to hold an honours degree, graduate certificate or graduate diploma.
Many students choose to conduct their research at the institution where they completed their undergraduate degree. But, while this is common, it's not expected. You may find that another institution performs more strongly in your research area or has a better reputation for producing high-quality research in general. The most important things to look out for in an institution include:
- its reputation in your field
- its general research specialisations and research investment
- the quality of its laboratories, facilities and equipment
- the availability of grants, scholarships or industry projects
- the research supervisors available.
If you're not sure about the best step to take, whether based or personal circumstances or how to best approach research within your field of study, it can be helpful to have a chat to your course coordinator (if you're a current student) or relevant faculty staff at the institution where you hope to complete your research. They will be able to advise you on your options and discuss ways you can approach your intended research topic. It might be that you are advised to gain work experience in your field before undertaking a research project or that your topic would be best developed by undertaking a coursework program that includes a research component rather than a strictly research-based degree.