Fundamental Skills for Medical Scientists

Module titleFundamental Skills for Medical Scientists
Module codeCSC1004
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr David MacDonald (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Designed to help you to get the most out of your BSc Medical Sciences degree, this module will take you through your first steps in developing essential scientific and professional skills that will be useful in your future career. Using a series of workshops and laboratory classes, you will explore topics relating to safe and accurate laboratory work, data handling and presentation, communication in formal and informal environments, and employability.

This is a core module for first year students of BSc. Medical Sciences programmes, BSc. Sports & Exercise Medical Sciences and BSc. Neuroscience. 

You must complete the ELE (Exeter Learning Environment) module 'Academic Honesty and Plagiarism' prior to submitting your first piece of coursework and you will seek guidance from your Academic Tutor or the module lead if further advice is required. 

In order to take this module you must normally have an A Level (or equivalent) in Biology.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module introduces you to the key principles of safe laboratory practice, data handling and presentation, scientific writing and communication skills, and employability. You will gain a good working knowledge of scientific writing, critical appraisal and referencing, and effective visual representation and statistical analysis of experimental data. Further emphasis will be placed on personal development planning to make sure you have the transferable skills necessary to enhance your performance in all academic stages as well as to improve your Professional Training Year and your future employability prospects.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Work competently and safely in the laboratory to collect data, employing basic laboratory procedures such as aseptic technique, microscopy, pipetting, solution-making and serial dilutions.
  • 2. Communicate effectively and with probity to expert and non-expert audiences (by written, oral and visual means)

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Accurately analyse, interpret and present scientific data (data handling).
  • 4. Use on-line literature databases to gather scientific information.
  • 5. Synthesise and critically evaluate current scientific knowledge, with appropriate referencing.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Manage time, workload and information effectively, both independently and as part of a team.
  • 7. Identify transferable skills acquired from academic and extra-curricular activities and apply these to future academic development and career planning through reflection and review processes.
  • 8. Conduct yourself in a professional manner

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an overall structure is as follows: 

The module is broadly divided into three sections.  In the first section, you will develop your practical laboratory and data handling skills.  In the second section, you will work in small groups, under the guidance of an expert researcher, to develop skills in literature searching, critical analysis and scientific writing. A series of supporting workshops will lead you step by step through this process.  In the final section, you will learn how to communicate and present information to scientific and non-scientific audiences and learn how to enhance your employability skills.

Throughout the module, you will be required to attend the Translational Science Seminar series, Arena Seminars (clinician-scientist-patient forum) and other academic and employability-focused sessions.

Learning and teaching

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 Teaching15Laboratory-based practical classes
Scheduled Learning and Teaching65Lectures and workshops on academic/personal skills and employability, including module induction and feedback
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Attendance at academic/employability events (e.g. Translational Science Seminars, research seminars, lab visits, Arena sessions etc.)
Guided Independent Study20Practical writing-up
Guided Independent Study10Virtual learning environment tasks relating to practical classes and data analysis
Guided Independent Study100Literature search and reading for literature review
Guided Independent Study60Completion of formative and summative assessments
Guided Independent Study20Workshop preparation and consolidation


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Virtual learning environment tasks4 x 1 hour1,2,5Online
Literature review elements500 words 2-6Written and oral
Statistics exerciseOn-line MCQ quiz2,5Online

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
Practical problem sets20Online assessments and in-practical competencies1,3,6,8Online and model answers
Data handling and presentation201hr written exam3Written
Scientific literature review302000 words2,4-6,8Written
Oral presentation107 minute individual oral presentation2,4-6,8Written and oral
Job application102 page CV + 1 page cover letter (750 words)2,7-8Written
Professionalism Award10Academic Tutor professionalism report7-8Written and oral


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Practical problem sets (20%)Practical problem sets1,3,6August Ref/Def
Data handling and presentation (20%)Data handling and presentation exam (1 hour)3August Ref/Def
Scientific literature review (30%)Scientific literature review (2000 words)2,4-6,8August Ref/Def
Oral presentation (10%)Oral presentation (7 minutes)2,4-6,8August Ref/Def
Job application (10%)Job application (750 words)2,7-8 August Ref/Def
Professionalism Award (10%)Professionalism remediation meeting7-8August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

In the event of you failing the professionalism award assessment component and failing the module overall, you will be required to meet with your Academic Tutor as soon as possible to remediate this failure as a referred assessment.  This will involve submitting any outstanding components required for this award, and, if necessary, undertaking any actions required by the Academic Tutor to remediate for any unprofessional behaviour. In the event of you failing the Professionalism Award component but passing the module overall, you will be required to meet with their academic tutor for an individual meeting to remediate this outcome at the beginning of the following academic year.

Please also refer to the TQA section on Referral/Deferral:


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Cottrell, S. Study Skills. Palgrave

Cottrell, S. Critical Thinking Skills. Palgrave.

Boyle, J. & Ramsay, S. Writing for Science Students. Palgrave.

Harris, M., Taylor, J. & Taylor, G. Catch Up Maths & Stats: for the life and medical sciences. Scion Publishing.

Rumsey, D. J. Statistics For Dummies. For Dummies Publishing.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

All basic material required for this module will be provided on the Exeter Learning Environment (ELE)

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Safety, laboratory skills, pipette handling, aseptic technique, electrophoresis, titration, microscopy, statistics, research skills, scientific communication, scientific writing, presentation skills, experimental design, data analysis, employability, study skills, personal development

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date