Research Methods for Postgraduates

Module summary

Module code: ENVI1096
Level: 7
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): Peter Burt



The aims of this module are to:
• Enable the students to understand the nature of research and the value of different routes to knowledge;
• Equip students with the confidence and ability to make judgements and decisions required in research and to assess critically the information they obtain;
• Enhance the students’ research abilities enabling them to undertake academically and/or professionally merited MSc dissertations, characterised by evidence of high-quality structure, content, organisation and presentation;
• Enhance the students’ ability to work independently on the preparation of research proposals and dissertations.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:
1 Use a range of scientific and/or social scientific literature in a balanced critical manner in
research projects;
2 Adopt and apply appropriate forms of analysis relevant to a range of data types;
3 Identify and apply appropriate statistical methods and other techniques for the purposes of
data analysis;
4 Plan and design an effective research strategy, using a range of methodologies, appropriate
to Level 7 work;
5 Communicate the results of research effectively and at an appropriate level via presentations and written work.

Indicative content

This module is offered to students on five MSc programmes. As a result, its content is organised into “generic” sessions addressing issues of concern to all post graduate students.
• Approaches to research, including the scientific and qualitative research methodologies, discussing the nature of research.
• Role of the critical literature review in the research dissertation, including critical writing from the literature, searching for literature in books, journals and the internet.
• Research proposals, characteristics of good proposals.
• Effective research design, using the experience of staff and previous students’ MSc dissertations.
• Project management, approaches to management of projects.
• Statistical analysis of research data, including univariate and multivariate statistical methods.
• Approaches to social research, qualitative and quantitative including questionnaire survey design and implementation, interviews, focus groups, participant observation, analysing documentary sources.
• Participatory methods, including needs assessment, sustainable livelihoods analysis, stakeholder analysis, value of participatory research.

Teaching and learning activity

• Students will be taught by a combination of lectures, discussion-based workshops and practical sessions associated with statistics. In addition, a supporting tutorial system will operate parallel to the module (but not part of it) to permit further follow-up on key skills development.


Literature review - 60%
LO - 1-5
Pass mark - 50%
2,500 words.
Preliminary review of literature based on proposed research project topic.

Seminar - 40%
LO - 1-4
Pass mark - 50%
Seminar presentation of 15 minutes presenting research question.

Nature of FORMATIVE assessment supporting student learning:
Students are asked to prepare a critical review of three published papers on a topic related to the students programme. The review should not exceed 600 words. Feedback is used by students to improve their approach to data analysis, essay planning and writing and referencing.