Module BSX-3165:
Advances in Primatology

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1 & 2

Overall aims and purpose

This seminar module builds on BSX-2040 Introduction to Primatology and is only open to students on the BSc/MZool Zoology with Primatology degree pathway. It will extend and deepen students' core knowledge of the discipline by delving extensively into the primary literature and encourage students to develop their critical analysis skills. Topics covered will span the breadth of the discipline and may vary from year to year depending on current advances and areas of debate in the literature, as well as the specific interests of the students.

Course content

Each seminar session will focus on a specific topic from the field of Primatology and build on staff research expertise and theoretical interests to present a thorough synthesis of current issues in the discipline.

Topics will range across primate biology, ecology, social systems and conservation, and themes to be covered will include a selection from the following non-exhaustive list: primate evolution; anatomy and adaptation; cognition; the emergence of culture; social systems and their histories; life histories and differences between sexes, ages and species; conservation in the Anthropocene. The idea is that each specific seminar will take a current or recent advance in one of these areas as a starting point for consideration of the wider issues, themes and evidence that makes primatology the exciting, fast-moving field it is.

Assessment Criteria


A threshold student should have knowledge of the essential facts and key concepts discussed in the module. Written work should demonstrate an ability to synthesise and interpret data from the primary literature in a structured and logical manner, and all assessments should demonstrate the general capacity to organise acquired knowledge. Presentations should both elucidate important background concepts and promote original discussion of unresolved issues (Grade D or C; mark range 40-59%)


An excellent student should show a nuanced and critical understanding of current debates in primatology, drawing on extensive factual knowledge of the historical context and the most recent advances in the field. Written work should demonstrate an ability to synthesise and interpret data from the primary literature and construct original interpretations. Presentations should promote engaged and insightful discussion that spans both the specific findings of studies and their broader implications for larger issues. In all aspects of their work students should be able to use their knowledge and understanding of issues to identify weaknesses in current theory and propose solutions to address major gaps in current knowledge (Grade A; mark range 70-100%)


A good student should understand and be able to describe the significance of current debates in primatology by showing an in-depth knowledge of both the historical context and the most recent advances in the field. Written work should demonstrate an ability to synthesise and interpret data from the primary literature in a structured and logical manner, and all assessments should demonstrate advanced capacity to organise acquired knowledge. Presentations should promote engaged discussion that spans both the specific findings of studies and their broader implications for larger issues (Grade B; mark range 60-69%)

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a critical, reflective and nuanced understanding of cutting-edge primatological debates, including the ability to apply information in new contexts and synthesise data from distinct lines of evidence.

  2. Compare and contrast the assumptions and data sources available to primatologists with those accessible to scientists working in other domains of the biosciences, and explain how the unique nature and conservation status of the primates affects our ability to study them.

  3. Critically evaluate the most recent advances in primatology in the historical context of key debates and formulate original arguments about their significance and credibility.

  4. Summarise, synthesise and present key ideas, concepts and recent advances from the primary literature in primatology for discussion in seminar and in writing.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK Critical Review Paper

Critical review of the literature on a topic of the student's choosing.

COURSEWORK One page proposal for critical lit review

One page proposal outline for the topic of the paper students will develop for their main assignment. It forms the basis for feedback on their plans.

INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Seminar presentation and discussion

Students will lead at least one seminar discussion on a topic of their own choosing. They will prepare a presentation of 10 minutes duration to introduce the class to the topic and then lead discussion of the readings they have selected and distributed in advance.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Bi-weekly seminars (2 h) will run through both semesters. Students will prepare by reading the assigned readings ahead of each class meeting and participate in discussion. Some of the seminars will be student-lead (student picks topic, readings, prepares a short presentation and then leads discussion).

Private study

Reading papers, preparing for seminar discussion etc.


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.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • PS1 Communication skills, covering both written and oral communication with a variety of audiences
  • PS2 Skills in the employment of common conventions and standards in scientific writing, data presentation, and referencing literature
  • PS3 Problem-solving skills, relating to qualitative and quantitative information
  • PS4 Numeracy and mathematical skills, including handling data, algebra, functions, trigonometry, calculus, vectors and complex numbers, alongside error analysis, order-of-magnitude estimations, systematic use of scientific units and different types of data presentation
  • PS5 Information location and retrieval skills, in relation to primary and secondary information sources, and the ability to assess the quality of information accessed
  • PS7 Basic interpersonal skills, relating to the ability to interact with other people and to engage in teamworking
  • PS11 Problem-solving skills including the demonstration of self-direction, initiative and originality
  • PS14 Independent learning skills required for continuing professional development
  • PS15 The ability to think critically in the context of data analysis and experimental design


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Reading list

A reading list of primary sources will be available on Blackboard. This will focus on journal articles and change year-on-year.

A broader reading list providing details of books to be read for background or to provide additional orienting information or pointers to classic papers will also be provided via Talis.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: