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Study information

The Art of Science

Module titleThe Art of Science
Module codeLESM006
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Andy Russell (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The abilities to extract information from the environment and to communicate with conspecifics are probably ubiquitous features of animal life. Humans, through the emergence of language coupled with the formulation of the scientific method have simply linked these fundamental capacities to extract and communicate information to an extreme. The ability to do each successfully is central to excelling both in your MSc degree and in your future career, be it in science, conservation or the ecology-facing sector.

This module will provide training in key transferable research skills ranging from the fundamentals of the scientific method (from question inception, through formulation of hypotheses and predictions, to data collection) to the means to communicate your findings effectively to diverse audiences (from academic posters and talks to social and traditional media-facing materials). The course also covers the skills needed to progress your career, from laying out your CV to writing cover letters and putting your best foot forward at interview. The teaching style will combine real-life examples coupled with extensive discussion to foster the self-reflection necessary to become a confident and independent student in the modern world.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The overall aim of this module is to provide you with a set of key skills that will help you succeed in your MSc degree and future careers. To these ends, you will receive comprehensive training in such aspects as:

  • How to ask and justify questions
  • The difference among, and importance of, your question, hypotheses and predictions.
  • Methods of data collection, and the role of sampling and sample sizes
  • The importance of communication: from posters to prose and talks to tweets
  • How to progress: CV, cover letter and interview techniques

The training provided will be example-led and discussion-based, with ample opportunity for direct learning through observation of others (social) and personal (trial and error) learning. A key aim will be to foster self-reflection and confidence. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Know the importance of knowledge, and a big question
  • 2. Know the difference between question, hypothesis and prediction, and understand the benefits of each
  • 3. Tailor your methods of data collection to your question
  • 4. Understand the importance of sampling, sample sizes and statistics, and decide on each
  • 5. Understand the form and function of communication
  • 6. Communicate through prose, poster and orally
  • 7. Communicate to progress: from thinking before you tweet, through writing emails, cover letters and CVs to interview techniques
  • 8. Be self-reflective

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 9. Assess critically the presentation of your own and others’ research

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 10. Study autonomously and undertake projects with minimum guidance
  • 11. Select and properly manage information drawn from books, journals, and the internet
  • 12. Interact effectively in a group
  • 13. Critique and edit the work of others

Syllabus plan

The module will typically include classes on:

  • The origin and purpose of knowledge and the scientific method
  • Asking BIG questions: applied angles and the intrigue of humanity
  • Roles of questions, hypotheses and predictions
  • Methods of data collection and sampling
  • Planning structure of communication
  • Posters and Talks
  • Reviews and Critical Syntheses
  • Projects and Papers
  • Press releases and social media
  • Selling yourself: cover letters, CV and interview skills

The module will include a mixture of lectures and discussion sessions. It is anticipated that this varied teaching approach will maximise the learning experience of the topics covered.  

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 Teaching20Lectures, discussion and role play covering topics of the scientific method and communication
Guided independent study130Additional research, reading and preparation for module assignments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lecturesOngoing throughout the module1-13Oral
Discussion during classesOngoing throughout the module1-13Oral

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
Poster50A3 size1-13Written
Writing a paper50Biology Letters template1-13Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PosterPoster1-13Referral/deferral period
Writing a paperWriting a paper1-13Referral/deferral 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 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 redo the relevant assessment. 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

  • Cristina Stuart Speak for Yourself: How to Give Persuasive Presentations and Entertaining Talks – With Confidence 2005
  • Robert Barass Scientists Must Write: A Guide to Better Writing for Scientists, Engineers and Students (Routledge Study Guides) 2002
  • Ruxton, G.D. and Colegrave, N. (2006) Experimental Design for the Life Sciences. OUP. ISBN 01992 5232
  • Cresswell, J. (2003) Research Design: qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods, Sage.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE page

Key words search

Key skills, scientific method, experimental design, sampling, statistics, research project, communication, employability

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date