Module DXX-4535:
Research Methods & Communicati

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

15 Credits or 7.5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1 & 2

Organiser: Dr Paula Roberts

Overall aims and purpose

The primary aim of this module is to introduce of MSc students to the research process and to and enhance their capacity to conduct independent research for their dissertations. A secondary aim is to consider the implications and communication of their research to various audiences.

Course content

Introduction to the research process, collection, entering and analysis of data in small scale projects; consideration of different kinds of research suitable for MSc dissertations, specific techniques used in research, assessment of ethics and risk in research, communicating the findings from research, research and policy.

Assessment Criteria


Mark of B- to B+ A reasonable level of involvement in many aspects of the experimental process. Scientific report reasonably well developed, showing good understanding and knowledge of the chosen topic. Evidence of supplementary reading, original information and some critical thought. Best practice note written in an inaccessible style or format OR contains superfluous detail. Policy briefing document omits certain relevant detail OR contains superfluous detail.


Mark of A- to A** A full involvement in all aspects of the experimental process. Scientific report very well developed, showing excellent understanding and depth of knowledge of the chosen topic. Evidence of substantial supplementary reading, sound collection and use of original information, and much critical thought. Best practice note written in an easily accessible style or format with contains no superfluous detail. Policy briefing document effective in conveying all relevant information with no superfluous detail.


Mark of C- to C+ A sufficient level of involvement in some aspects of the experimental process. Scientific report covers the fundamentals of the experiment, but is based mainly on material provided during the module, showing little evidence of supplementary reading or original information and lacking critical analysis. Best practice note written in an inaccessible style or format AND contains superfluous detail. Policy briefing document omits certain relevant detail AND contains superfluous detail.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the logic underpinning the scientific method

  2. Demonstrate the skills to devise, plan and conduct an appropriate experiment or investigation on an aspect of a forestry or agroforestry system, suitable for a dissertation and also for scientific and no-scientific audiences.

  3. Demonstrate the ability to convey the results of a scientific study to both scientist and non-scientist audiences

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

A poster intended for a scientific audience based on findings from the small scale research project.

WRITTEN PLAN Research matrix for dissertation

Summary of hypotheses, research questions and methods underpinning dissertation research, conceptualised as a research matrix.

Brief or Practice Note 30

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Lectures and Seminars

Practical classes and workshops

Two types of practical work: 1) collection of data in the field; 2) GIS computer practicals. Field work may be two to three days in duration.

Private study 67

Class presentations of dissertation proposals


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Awareness of the concepts of spatial and temporal scale in understanding processes and relationships.
  • Apply appropriate techniques for presenting spatial and/or temporal trends in data.
  • Employ appropriate social-survey methods.
  • Preparation of effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.
  • Understand the provisional nature of information and appreciate competing and alternative explanations.
  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • Collect and record data generated by a diverse range of methods.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: