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Research Skills and Bioethics

Module titleResearch Skills and Bioethics
Module codeBIO2071
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Mark Ramsdale (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will help you develop key transferable skills that will assist you with your studies and career development. You will receive training in essay writing skills, encouraging you to argue your case in a logical and coherent manner. The training will culminate in an essay exam, based on a pre-determined exam question, that will help you prepare for your January exams. The “mock” essay exam will provide formative experience through the completion of a mid-term summative exercise. You will also participate in a group “Dragons’ Den” style exercise that will develop your organisational, team working and presentation skills through the preparation of a scientific grant proposal that will be assessed through both peer review and a group presentation. As biological research is becoming more and more quantitative in approach, you will also receive training in statistical analysis, practical computing and bioinformatics through a combination of lectures and workshops. You will be introduced into the world of ethics so that current progress in biology can be appreciated in a broader, societal/ethical context. In addition this module will give you career advice and employability guidance. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to prepare you for research and employment in the biosciences. It aims to enhance your performance in exams, independent research project or dissertation by providing essay training. It will provide you with training in key mathematical, statistical and bioinformatic methods. The “Dragons’ Den” will give you some insight into the design, costing and communication of bioscience projects, and at the same time develop your organisational and presentation skills. An element of the Dragons’ Den assessment will be based on peer review marking, giving you the chance to critique others’ work, and to evaluate your own competencies. Lectures on bioethics aim to introduce ethical, philosophical and social issues emerging from modern research in the biosciences, such as biomedical questions and concerns in biotechnology and environmental conservation. In addition, the module aims to provide basic training career planning, and employability awareness. Parts of this module can count towards the Exeter Award.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. With some guidance, design, analyse and present projects to an academic audience
  • 2. Explain the term 'ethics' and describe different philosophical and ethical positions in bioethical debate and, with some guidance, apply a bioethical analysis to questions emerging from the biosciences
  • 3. With some guidance, evaluate your own employability skills
  • 4. With some guidance, evaluate your own preparedness to undertake final year projects and dissertations and understand the basic requirements of a good essay
  • 5. With some guidance, execute basic bioinformatic and statistical procedures and understand their use in biosciences

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of the biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles
  • 7. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a subdiscipline of the biosciences
  • 8. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 9. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation and enquiry within the biosciences
  • 10. Illustrate and discuss 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. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently by written and oral means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 13. Collect and interpret appropriate data, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 14. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)
  • 15. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 16. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

2 x sessions covering how to write essays for exams

3 x essay, plagiarism and scientific paper sessions

3 x small group feedback with academic tutor

6 x maths/statistics/programming workshops

2 x sessions on bioethics

3 x sessions covering career, CVs, interviews and presentation skills

4 x sessions on the “Dragons’ Den” activity

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 Teaching13Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Tutorials
Scheduled Learning and Teaching12Workshops
Guided Independent Study28Reading and research for both formative and summative essays
Guided Independent Study28Reading and research for computing/statistics
Guided Independent Study38Reading and research for Dragons’ Den
Guided Independent Study28Reading and research for bioethics


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1 hour4, 6-8, 10-11, 13Via academic tutor
Self-evaluation of employability skills3, 15-16Oral via optional appointment with Careers Consultant

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
Dragons’ Den group presentation4010 minute pitch and peer review of grant proposals1-2, 4, 6-9, 11-14Written and via tutor and peer review
Essay examination401 hour4, 6-8, 10-11, 13 Written and via tutor
Statistics case study report2090 minutes4-9, 13 Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Dragons’ Den group presentationNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Essay examinationEssay examination4, 6-8, 10-11, 13August Ref/Def
Statistics case study reportStatistics case study report4-9, 13August Ref/Def

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 presentation assessments are not deferrable because of their practical nature. 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 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. 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 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Study and Communication Skills for the Biosciences, 3rd Ed. S. Johnson and J. Scott. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-879146-1

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Bioethics, practical computing, bioinformatics, statistics, employability, exam performance, transferrable skills

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO1333 Fundamental Principles for Bioscientists

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date