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Study information

Literature Review in Life and Environmental Sciences

Module titleLiterature Review in Life and Environmental Sciences
Module codeLESM501
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Tomas Chaigneau (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

A good review paper is the ‘go to’ article about a particular topic, summarising our current understanding of a subject and offering suggestions for fruitful areas for future research. In this module you will write a review article on a topic related to your MSc research project. You will be responsible for researching and writing your article, which will enhance your research skills and provide valuable experience of conducting independent research. This module will also allow you to develop considerable expertise in your chosen research topic in the Life and Environmental Sciences, which will be agreed with your allocated project supervisor.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to provide you with an opportunity to prepare a review article on a research topic of modern interest and relevance to life and environmental sciences. You will develop your skills in reviewing the literature relevant to your chosen topic, and in writing a scientific report. You will choose your topic through discussions with the academic staff. The format and scope of the literature review will depend on the degree programme and will be agreed by the module convener and the allocated project supervisor.

The module aims to increase your transferrable and employability skills including:

  • practical skills (formulating a literature research question, assembly of a literature review outline, use of literature databases, deciding the format of the review, writing skills)
  • audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively, responding to questions)
  • general knowledge (being familiar with the state-of-the-art of a research field).

Overall the module seeks to equip you for a wide range of careers through critical appraisal of key concepts, and developing a broad base of understanding in different environmental policy arenas.

The module seeks to develop your skills at the interface of research and education. Review articles are used heavily by researchers to set the context of their own research, and can be highly cited research outputs. Literature reviews developed during this module might be publishable in their own right.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Research in detail a specific topic in life and environmental sciences

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 2. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts and theory across a specific research topic
  • 3. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 4. Identify and implement, with limited guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex problems
  • 5. With minimal guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry
  • 6. Describe and evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of a specific research topic with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 8. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 9. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data and complete a range of research-like tasks with very limited guidance
  • 10. 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
  • 11. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Following discussions with dissertation supervisor in the first week of the term, you will define a topic to be researched and discussed in the literature review. You will then independently research the topic through standard sources, primarily expected to be primary research papers with some guidance from review papers. You will be expected to meet with supervisors to discuss progress during the term.

You will be expected to discuss a plan for the dissertation, including a detailed outline, with the supervisor early in the term.

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 teaching1Introductory guidance from the module convener
Scheduled learning and teaching4Guidance specific to the literature review topic from the supervisor - the number of meetings will depend on the student and dissertation project
Scheduled learning and teaching1Editorial meeting to review first draft of literature review with supervisor
Guided independent study294After introductory guidance from the dissertation supervisor, students will work independently with further one-on-one guidance and assistance as and when required

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Regular meetings with dissertation 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 Proposal202000 wordsAllWritten
Literature review805000 wordsAllWritten

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Review outlineNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Literature reviewLiterature reviewAllAugust 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 review outline is not deferrable because of the cumulative nature of the module. 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 resubmit the original dissertation. 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 for the dissertation will be determined by the topic chosen by the student and supervisor, but will include mainly primary literature on the dissertation topic, supported by review papers.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Dissertation, experimental design, independent research, data analysis, literature review, geography, biosciences, psychology, sports science, health science

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date