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Module BSM-4000:
Masters Research Project

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

100 Credits or 50 ECTS Credits

Semester 1 & 2

Organiser: Dr Katherine Jones

Overall aims and purpose

Students successfully completing the master research project should be able to plan, cost, execute and analyse original research. They should have developed a conceptual understanding of the challenges and ethical implications of research, and they should have reached a technical competency in their chosen study area, which enables them to embark on a PhD research project.

Course content

The research project MBiol/Zoology will allow students to develop their scientific skills to a high level and it will enable students to plan, execute and analyse hypothesis-based research in their chosen research area. During the first part of the course, students have to plan the research project in collaboration with the supervisor. The written research plan is expected to cover (i) underlying rationale, (ii) specific objectives of the project, (iii) methodology and approach, (iv) management of the project and resources, (v) programme of research and (vi) justification of resources. Towards the end of the first semester, students are expected to make an oral presentation of the project's progress to explain background and rationale, overall methodology and hypotheses and anticipated outcomes of the project. For the dissertation, data collection in the field or in the laboratory or by in silico methods would generally be done between October and March. The experimental work is generally followed by two months of data analysis and writing up. The final results is presented in a written dissertation, which should follow the format of a research publication, and the final research conference presentation (in the form of a poster).

Assessment Criteria


A threshold student should have a basic knowledge of the essential facts and key concepts in the chosen research area. The research proposal, the oral presentation, conference poster and response to comments letter should demonstrate an ability to analyse the literature, to plan, conduct and analyse the research to present it into a coherent argument


A good student should have a thorough factual knowledge of all aspects across of the project and how it relates to the chosen research area. The oral presentation, poster and response to comments letter should demonstrate an ability to think critically about the subject and to relate the research undertaken to the wider subject area.


An excellent student should have a detailed and conceptual knowledge of the subject and the ability to design and write-up research highly original to the area of chosen study. The oral presentation, poster and response to comments letter should demonstrate an ability to not only think critically about the subject but also a thorough understanding of the novelty of the research undertaken. The whole dissertation or its parts should be at the level of publishable original scientific manuscripts ready to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal after some modifications.

Learning outcomes

  1. To carry out the planned research.

  2. To analyse the obtained data in the context of the relevant literature.

  3. To communicate orally and in writing the aims, results and conclusions of the research project.

  4. To plan a research project that explores the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms, their molecular, cellular and physiological processes, their genetics and evolution, and the interrelationships between them and their environment.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK Research Proposal 10
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Oral Project Progress Report (15 |Min) 10
DISSERTATION Dissertation 60
COURSEWORK Conference poster 10
COURSEWORK Reply to comments letter 10
FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT Dissertation draft 0

Teaching and Learning Strategy


In this course, students undertake individually supervised research projects. This involves one-to-one contact with the supervisor on project planning, execution and analysis.


Each student will plan his/her research project in collaboration with the supervisor BEFORE the experimental work commences.


Laboratory-based students have to be supervised by an experiences researcher.


Students who undertake fieldwork have to plan and discuss the project with the supervisor before the work starts.


All students will take part in regular group meetings and seminars.


The dissertation should be submitted as a well worked out draft to the supervisor before submission.


All students will present their work in a mini-symposium at the end of the course.


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.
  • 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
  • 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

  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • 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
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Apply appropriate techniques for presenting spatial and/or temporal trends in data.
  • Prepare effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies to ensure competence in basic experimental and/or fieldwork skills.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation
  • Engagement with current subject developments and their application.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Demonstrate the independence and skills required for continuing professional development

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: