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Research Project

Module titleResearch Project
Module codeBIOM4009
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Andrew McGowan (Lecturer)

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 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 related to conservation biology, ecology, evolution 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 a world class 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:

  • To familiarise you with the existing scientific literature in their study area, and teach you to assimilate this knowledge in a succinct and critical manner.
  • To give you experience in undertaking a substantial research project in a research-led environment, deal with real world problems and put into practice the knowledge you have acquired from the taught elements of the programme. In some cases you will conduct your research project alongside scientists 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 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.

The skills you gain from lectures and seminars will develop or enhance your employability. Transferable skills to other sectors include: problem solving (linking theory to practice, responding to novel and unfamiliar problems, data handling), time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group), collaboration (taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work), self and peer review (taking responsibility for own learning, using feedback from multiple sources) and audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats).

The module will expose you to some of the latest developments in the fields of conservation biology, ecology, evolution or behavioural ecology, and ultimately pave the way into a deeper understanding of evidence-based scientific enquiry.

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. Discuss ideas and construct coherent arguments based on your independent and critical assessment of the discipline.
  • 6. Independently prepare scientific journal articles (a short-format review and a research paper) based on individually motivated research and work.
  • 7. Apply sophisticated and appropriate analysis and development techniques to a research project.
  • 8. Critically assess the scientific presentation of your own and others research.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 9. Professionally present new ideas and results.
  • 10. Prioritise, generate, and summarise data relevant to the testing of rational hypotheses.
  • 11. Present written reports in a clear, concise, and logical manner.
  • 12. Think critically, and critically appraise and logically solve problems.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Overview of arrangements:

You will be allocated a supervisor from the College of Life and Environmental Sciences (either from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation or the Environment and Sustainability Institute) 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 in different modules on how to prepare for your projects (scientific paper writing, oral presentations, experimental design and statistics). A list of projects and potential supervisors will be distributed in October, and you will choose a project area by early December. 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.

Stages of the project:

  • You are required to submit a literature review (in the format of an article in the journal TREE) on your project subject in February, before beginning data collection.
  • You are required to make a short formal presentation of your proposed project to staff and students shortly after submitting your literature review, before beginning data collection.
  • You are required to submit your final project report, in the form of a paper to a specific journal, at the end of July.

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 Teaching20Meetings with the project supervisor.
Guided independent study880Additional 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
Literature review152000 words1-3, 5, 8-12Written
Contribution mark15AllWritten
Project Report708000 wordsAllWritten


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Literature reviewLiterature review1-3, 5, 8-12September
Contribution markNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Project reportProject reportAllSeptember

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 re-submit the project report. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the mark and will be capped at 50%.

Re-assessment of the contribution element is not possible. If your failure in the project report is as a result of a flawed or incomplete data collection such that a re-submission of the project report would not be possible, you may required to retake the module completely, in which case both the project report and the contribution elements would be re-assessed from the outset.


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, behavioural ecology, data collection

Credit value90
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIOM4025 Statistical Modelling

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date