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Study information

Research Project

Module titleResearch Project
Module codeBIOM560
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Alison Hill (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module introduces you to all of the processes required for undertaking an independent, but supervised, research project at Masters level in the field of Biological Sciences. Research projects are all individual, and can be based on laboratory work, field work, or in silico (e.g. computer modelling, bioinformatics). You can either select your project based on existing projects advertised within Biosciences, or based on your own design of project. However, for self-designed projects you must find a supervisor who agrees to approve the project design. Both group-based and individual projects may be offered.

This module is for students on the MSc Advanced Biological Sciences programme.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to put into practice the knowledge and skills acquired from the taught (lecture and practical) elements of the programme. It will give you experience of many aspects of research work including processes for experimentation and laboratory/data analysis, statistical analysis, data interpretation, presentation and discussion of results in five formats (literature review, grant proposal, oral presentation, poster, and writing a scientific report).

Students on this module will be fully immersed in a professional setting for three months, which will strongly prepare you for life after university. You will develop and enhance your employability skills for future careers through both generic and biosciences-related skills training. The module will train you in time management, professional interactions and communication skills.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. In the format of a scientific research report, demonstrate an in-depth knowledge and critical understanding of the background literature within a chosen area of the research project that leads to the hypotheses and/or aims of the project
  • 2. Design a research hypothesis to be tested within a proposed research project, and document and justify the financial requirements of carrying out that project
  • 3. Execute all the developmental phases of a research project which will include technical aspects, data collection, statistical analysis, as well as critical analysis and ultimately presentation of the results and conclusions both orally and in written scientific formats

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Demonstrate through oral and written assessments a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights in a sub-discipline of Biological Sciences, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of the field of study
  • 5. Describe in detail some techniques applicable to research in a sub-discipline of Biological Sciences
  • 6. Apply knowledge with originality and explain how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline
  • 7. Develop through oral and written assessments a conceptual understanding that enables you to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline, evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, propose new hypotheses

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate your conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • 9. Tackle and solve problems with self-direction and originality, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level
  • 10. Demonstrate self-direction in advancing your knowledge and understanding and in developing new skills to a high level
  • 11. Put into practice good oral presentation techniques for communicating science to an appropriate audience

Syllabus plan

A list of project areas and potential supervisors will be distributed during the first semester. You will choose, in consultation with potential supervisors, a project by the middle of January. Once a project has been selected you will commence work on the literature review, project definition and grant proposal, with a submission deadline before Easter.

You must present a research talk and poster on your project roughly 2-3 weeks after the project submission deadline to obtain feedback from research staff and other students. A timetable of talks and poster presentations will be provided by the module coordinator during the early part of the summer vacation, in consultation with students, supervisors, staff and the external examiner.

A project report presented in the form of a paper or review to a specified journal, as agreed by the student and supervisor, with a deadline usually around mid-August. 

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 Teaching 40Experimental design and interpretation
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 50Demonstration and implementation of experimental techniques
Guided independent study810Independent study (including directed reading, literature searching, laboratory/field work, learning techniques, preparation for assessments etc)

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research strategy meetings with project supervisor12 hours1-10Oral

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
Literature review174000 words1, 4-10Written
Grant proposal174000 words2, 4-10Written
Poster presentation810 minutes3-11Oral and written
Oral presentation815 minutes3-11Written
Research report508000 words1-10Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Literature reviewLiterature review (17%)1, 4-10August Ref/Def
Grant proposalGrant proposal (17%)2, 4-10August Ref/Def
Poster presentationPoster presentation (8%)3-11Next available assessment period
Oral presentationOral presentation (8%)3-11Next available assessment period
Research reportResearch report (50%)1-10Next available assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons that are approved by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. If deferred, the format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). The mark given for a deferred assessment 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 (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) and the module cannot be condoned, you will be required to complete a re-assessment for each of the failed components on the module. The format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). If you pass the module following re-assessment, your module mark will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Appropriate reading will depend on the research project selected/designed and will be agreed between supervisor and student. It is likely to include the most recent papers and articles in the field as well as additional background reading.

For information on generic aspects of writing a paper and giving presentations:

  • Alley, M (2013). The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid. Springer.
  • Schimel, J (2012). Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited and Proposals That Get Funded. Oxford University Press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Biosciences research

Credit value90
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIOM509 Professional Skills

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date