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A related question asks about differences in required background knowledge between PhD students, postdocs and RAs. This question asks about differences in the required background knowledge between MPhil students and the former.

My understanding is that postdocs, research assistants, MPhil students and PhD students are mostly paid positions. Regardless, MPhil students and PhD students, like postdocs and research assistants, are expected to assist with the specific research that the professor is doing.

But, considering that both a MPhil studentship and a PhD studentship is the pursuit of a degree rather than the application of acquired knowledge from a degree, I would like to know how much background knowledge is expected of MPhil and PhD students at the time of applying.

How much is expected of background knowledge for an MPhil applicant?

closed as unclear what you're asking by user68958, scaaahu, Solar Mike, user3209815, Peter Jansson Dec 17 '18 at 8:36

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  • I edited to hopefully be clearer. I think readers will have to refer to the other question, although I think I risk close or downvotes for doing that. – Jack Bauer Dec 16 '18 at 11:20
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    I don't quite understand what the purpose of the second paragraph is in this question. Having said that, I don't think that there is a more precise answer to your question than 'PhD applicants are, by and large, expected to have more advanced knowledge than MPhil applicants' and 'it depends on the country and the institution'. – henning -- reinstate Monica Dec 16 '18 at 12:02
  • @henning That is helpful, but I think I did not make it clear how your statement would be helpful. Thank you! – Jack Bauer Dec 17 '18 at 16:16
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How much is expected of background knowledge for an MPhil applicant?

This depends a lot on the domain and the institution, and MPhil doesn't exist in every country. So it's impossible to answer this question precisely, but I think one can broadly define the differences in terms of how operational the person is expected to be at producing research:

  • A postdoc is a professional researcher hired on a temporary basis. For all intents and purposes they must be able to carry out their research work on their own (i.e. produce research), under the direction of a PI.
  • A PhD student is training to become a researcher, and this training includes producing research. They are not expected to be autonomous in the production of research, their PhD advisor is here to train them. However they are supposed to have acquired the background knowledge and to be able to complete their knowledge in their specialized field on their own.
  • An MPhil student is at the initial stage of research training. They are expected to require more supervision and are not necessarily required to publish papers.
  • A research assistant is simply somebody hired to assist in research. They are not expected to produce research by themselves and might have a very limited knowledge of the research questions. For instance a software developer can be hired as research assistant in a physics project where they provide a service according to their skills. In general this is not a training position.
  • That is helpful, but I think I did not make it clear how your statement would be helpful. Thank you! – Jack Bauer Dec 17 '18 at 16:17

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