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Academic Research Project

Module titleAcademic Research Project
Module codeBIOM052
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Ben Raymond (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Learning to conduct original scientific research is essential for your scientific training, employability potential and and future career. In this module, you will gain hands-on experience of conducting cutting-edge scientific research under the guidance of professional researchers. This involves conducting an independent research project on a subject of your choice after discussion with your supervisor and will be related to conservation biology, ecology, evolution, marine biology or behavioural ecology. You will be responsible for designing, planning and implementing the study, as well as analysing the data and writing it up for an international peer-reviewed academic journal. As such, this project provides valuable experience of managing an original scientific research project, from its inception through to completion.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of this module are:

  1. To familiarise you with the existing scientific literature in your study area, and teach you to assimilate this knowledge in a succinct and critical manner.
  2. To give you experience in undertaking a substantial research project and to put into practice the knowledge you have acquired from your previous undergraduate stages and the taught elements of the programme. In some cases you will conduct your research project alongside conservationists in collaborating governmental and non-governmental organisations. In all cases you will be supervised by a member of academic staff from the University of Exeter.

By the end of the module, you will have reviewed and assimilated a substantial portion of the existing literature on an aspect of conservation biology, ecology, evolution, marine biology or behavioural ecology, and carried out a piece of original research (or research which extends our knowledge on a topic), analysed the results using appropriate methods and learned how to disseminate the results in an appropriate manner. Please note that parts of this programme may be conducted in the field or in remote locations. You should therefore consider the physical demands of certain projects before committing to them in this module.

In addition the module will allow you to further develop the following academic and professional skills:

  1. Problem solving: linking theory to practice, developing your own ideas with confidence, being able to respond to novel and unfamiliar problems
  2. Managing structure: identifying key demands of the project, setting clearly defined goals, responding flexibly to changing priorities
  3. Time management: managing time effectively individually and within a research group
  4. Collaboration: taking initiative and leading others, potentially maintaining group cohesiveness and purpose.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Undertake critical and self-motivated exploration of topics of relevance to your research community and/or governmental/non-governmental organisations, which qualify you to be knowledgeable experts in the subject matter of their chosen topic
  • 2. Critically and independently assess the field in which your research project will be conducted
  • 3. Independently design and present a means of dealing with a critical research issue
  • 4. Follow systematically and consistently the phases of a research project, i.e. experimental design, data collection, data analysis and report writing using methods and techniques agreed by the supervisor

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Analyse and evaluate critically essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of the biosciences
  • 6. Analyse and evaluate critically and independently a range of literature relating to current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline and embed research-informed examples from the literature in written work
  • 7. Identify and apply, autonomously and with originality, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex and demanding problems in the biosciences
  • 8. Deploy, autonomously, established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within the biosciences
  • 9. Evaluate in detail and critique approaches to our understanding of the biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles
  • 10. Illustrate and discuss, in detail, effectively and independently, the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 11. Devise and sustain independently a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 12. Communicate very effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions in a range of complex and specialised contexts using a variety of formats to specialist and non-specialist audiences both in the written report and in an oral presentation
  • 13. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data and complete a range of research tasks independently
  • 14. 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 demonstrating the skills and attitudes needed to advance own knowledge and understanding
  • 15. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate critically personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Overview of arrangements:

You will be allocated a supervisor from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation who will be the primary source of guidance on the project. Depending on the project, you may also work closely with individuals from another sector of the University or from a collaborating governmental or non-governmental organisation.


You will receive introductory sessions on how to prepare for your projects. A list of projects and potential supervisors will be distributed. You may also choose to generate your own project, in consultation with an appropriate supervisor. You will then work with your supervisor to design your project. You will also have support sessions each term run by the module co-ordinator.

Stages of the project:

  1. You are required to arrange and attend meetings with your supervisor in order to establish the requirements of the project and design a program of action to achieve the aims of the project.
  2. You are required to submit your final project report, in the form of a paper which could be submitted to a specific scientific journal.

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 Teaching20Project work is conducted in conjunction with a research supervisor, who will provide individual guidance in project development, implementation, and in data analysis, interpretation, and presentation. Additional general project support will be provided by the module co-ordinator and the project presentation session will provide for an intensive period of interaction and feedback from academics and their peers.
Guided independent study580Additional reading, research and preparation of a literature review. Experimental design, data collection, data analysis and preparation for the final paper assessment.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during meeting with the project 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
Project report904000 wordsAllWritten
Project presentation1010 minutes1-3, 5-13, 15Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Project reportProject reportAllAugust assessment period
Project presentationProject presentation1-3, 5-13, 15August 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 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 your project report. 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

As agreed between student and project supervisors. Reference will be made to the most recent articles and reports in the field and will focus on the primary literature.

Also of use when planning and writing up the project will be:

  • Ruxton, G.D. and Colegrave, N. (2006) Experimental Design for the Life Sciences. OUP. ISBN 01992 52327
  • Barass, R (2002) Scientists Must Write: A Guide to Better Writing for Scientists, Engineers and Students

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Research, data analysis, experimental design, literature review, conservation biology, biodiversity, evolution, marine biology, behavioural ecology, data collection

Credit value60
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date