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Module OSX-4008:
Research Design & Planning

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Luis Gimenez Noya

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To develop a critical understanding of the available information and prior research in the field selected for the research project.

  2. To prepare a literature review that will form the basis for the research project introduction & discussion.

  3. To prepare a project proposal form to define the plan of the project

  4. To present an outline of the project proposal to a critical audience for comments.

  5. To know how to critically review the project proposals of peers.

Course content

The purpose of this module is to ensure that the students are aware of background literature in the general area of their research project topic and are capable of developing a realistic project proposal.

Undertaking a literature review will ensure that they are well briefed before embarking on research, and should focus their attention on very specific areas of knowledge or lack of it and areas of contradiction. The literature review will enable them to place their study in the context of what is known, and thereby stimulate them to develop hypotheses which can be tested by specific questions. It is an essential step in project design.

Following introductory lectures each student will spend their time in self-study and literature searching. Project supervisors will meet with their students on a non-formal basis throughout the semester and provide guidance and feedback about progress in the completion of the literature review.

The project proposal ensures that students produce a realistic research plan that include clear testable hypothesis or realistic questions, appropriate methods, reasonable time frame, appropriate evaluation of logistic limitations, risks of milestones not being reached, contingency plans and risk assessment. At the conclusion of the literature review the student will be able to complete a project proposal form outlining the specific hypotheses to be tested and the overall plan for the project. This will be presented as a 10 minute talk with 5 minutes of questions and will help to confirm sound plans, spot problems and suggest better approaches, such that the student has a much clearer idea of how to proceed. Staff and fellow students will review the proposals, in particular to rein in overambitious plans, to identify problems in experimental design, raise awareness of likely logistical problems, and to draw attention to unconsidered safety issues.

Assessment Criteria


Provide a basic coverage of the available literature and show some integration of the material. Develop at least one testable hypothesis from review. Basic formulation and presentation of project proposal.


Provide considerable coverage of the available literature and show clear indications of a critical integration of material across the topic area. Develop several testable hypothesis from review. Clear formulation and presentation of project proposal


Provide exhaustive coverage of the available literature showing full understanding and extensive critical integration of material across the topic area. Develop logically, prioritised, testable hypothesis from review. Excellent formulation and presentation of project proposal

Learning outcomes

  1. Be able to critically review and make value judgements about information from a range of sources.

  2. Be able to write an in depth literature review.

  3. Be able to prepare and present a detailed project proposal

  4. On completion of the module students will:

    Have a good understanding of the selected topic.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Background and project proposal 75
Project Proposal Presentation 25

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 3
Individual Project 181

Student presentations


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • 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.
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Apply appropriate techniques for presenting spatial and/or temporal trends in data.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: