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Study information

Academic Research Project

Module titleAcademic Research Project
Module codeGEOM052
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Liam Reinhardt (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Learning to conduct original scientific research is essential for your scientific training and future career. In this module, you will gain hands-on experience of conducting cutting-edge scientific research under the guidance of professional researchers. You will work closely with one of more academics in small groups sessions learning how to conduct an independent research project on a subject of your choice related to practical or theoretical environmental science. You will be responsible for designing, planning and implementing the study, as well as analysing the data and writing it up for a world class peer-reviewed academic journal. This project may follow on from and expand beyond your third year dissertation project. Through submitting your dissertation in the format of one named scientific journal you will gain an in-depth understanding of how Environmental Science is practiced and how research is reported.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of this module are:

  • To familiarise you with the existing scientific literature in a particular study area related to environmental science, and teach you to assimilate this knowledge in a succinct and critical manner.
  • To give you experience in undertaking a substantial research project and to put into practice the knowledge you have acquired from the taught elements of the programme. In some cases you will conduct your research project alongside practical environmental scientists in collaborating governmental and non-governmental organisations. In all cases you will be supervised by a member of academic staff from the University of Exeter.

By the end of the module, you will have reviewed and assimilated a substantial portion of the existing literature on an aspect of environmental science, and carried out a piece of original research (or research which extends our knowledge on a topic), analysed the results using appropriate methods and learned how to disseminate the results in an appropriate manner. Please note that parts of this programme may be conducted in the field or in remote locations. You should therefore consider the physical demands of certain projects before committing to them in this module. This module will normally be related to and advance beyond your third year research dissertation project, however, with your supervisor’s permission you may follow an entirely new research direction.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Undertake critical and self-motivated exploration of topics of relevance to your research community and/or governmental/non-governmental organisations, which qualify you to be a knowledgeable expert in the subject matter of your chosen topic
  • 2. Critically and independently assess the field in which your research project will be conducted
  • 3. Independently design and present a means of dealing with a critical research issue
  • 4. Follow systematically and consistently the phases of a research project, i.e. experimental design, data collection, data analysis and report writing using methods and techniques agreed by the supervisor

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Analyse and evaluate critically essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of the environmental sciences
  • 6. Analyse and evaluate critically and independently a range of literature relating to current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline and embed research-informed examples from the literature in written work
  • 7. Identify and apply, autonomously and with originality, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex and demanding problems in the environmental sciences
  • 8. Deploy, autonomously, established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within the environmental sciences
  • 9. Evaluate in detail and critique approaches to our understanding of the environmental sciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Devise and sustain independently a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 11. Communicate very effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions in a range of complex and specialised contexts using a variety of formats to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • 12. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data and complete a range of research tasks independently
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to graduate-level professional and practical skills, and act autonomously to develop new areas of skills as necessary demonstrating the skills and attitudes needed to advance own knowledge and understanding
  • 14. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate critically personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Overview of arrangements:

Your supervisor will be the primary source of guidance on the project. Depending on the project, you may also work closely with individuals from another sector of the University or from a collaborating governmental or non-governmental organisation.


This module follows on from introductory research-design modules and lectures in stages two and three. In this module you will work closely with one or more academics in small group sessions to prepare and implement your project. You will then work with your supervisor in the implementation of that project.

  • You are required to submit a research proposal in term 1 following detailed discussions with your tutor; thereafter you will be assigned a dissertation supervisor familiar with the chosen research topic.
  • You are required to submit your final project report, in the form of a paper targeted towards one of two named journals (see the module ELE page for details).

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Project work is conducted in conjunction with a research supervisor, who will provide in small group or 1-to-1 sessions guidance in project development, implementation, and in data analysis, interpretation, and presentation.
Guided independent study590Additional reading, research and preparation of a literature review. Experimental design, data collection, data analysis and preparation for the final paper assessment.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during meeting with the project supervisorOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Dissertation research proposal 102000 wordsAllWritten
Scientific paper targeted at a specific scientific journal90Maximum of 8000 wordsAllWritten

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Dissertation research proposal2000-word essay expanding upon one key aspect of the dissertation researchAllAugust assessment period
Scientific paperScientific paperNot applicableAugust assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The research proposal cannot be submitted after the dissertation research results have been submitted thus on deferral it will be replaced by a 10 minute video of a presentation of key research findings. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to write a further scientific paper. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Reading will be as agreed between student and project supervisors. Reference will be made to the most recent articles and reports in the field and will focus on the primary literature.

Also of use when planning and writing up the project will be:

  • Ruxton, G.D. and Colegrave, N. (2006) Experimental Design for the Life Sciences. OUP. ISBN 01992 52327
  • Barass, R (2002) Scientists Must Write: A Guide to Better Writing for Scientists, Engineers and Students

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources


Key words search

Research, data analysis, experimental design, data collection, environmental science, scientific writing

Credit value60
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

GEO3513 Dissertation in Environmental Science

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date