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Literature Review in the Life Sciences

Module titleLiterature Review in the Life Sciences
Module codeLESM003
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Andrew Pye (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

A good review paper is the ‘go to’ article about a particular topic, summarising our current understanding of a subject and offering suggestions for fruitful areas for future research. In this module you will write a review article on a topic related to your MSci project. You will be responsible for researching and writing your article, which will enhance your research skills and provide valuable experience of conducting independent research. This module will also allow you to develop considerable expertise in animal behaviour, conservation, ecology, evolution, marine biology, environmental science or zoology.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to provide you with an opportunity to prepare a review article on a research topic of modern interest and relevance to animal behaviour, conservation, ecology, evolution, marine biology, environmental science or zoology. You will develop your skills in reviewing the literature relevant to your chosen topic, and in writing a scientific report. You will choose your topic through discussions with the academic staff.

The module aims to increase your transferrable and employability skills including:

  • practical skills (formulating a literature research question, assembly of a literature review outline, use of literature databases, deciding the format of the review, writing skills)
  • audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively, responding to questions)
  • general knowledge (being familiar with the state-of-the-art of a research field).

Overall the module seeks to equip you for a wide range of careers through critical appraisal of key concepts, and developing a broad base of understanding in different environmental policy arenas.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Research in detail a specific topic in animal behaviour, conservation, ecology, evolution, marine biology, environmental science or zoology

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 2. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts and theory across a specific research topic
  • 3. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 4. Identify and implement, with limited guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex problems
  • 5. With minimal guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry
  • 6. Describe and evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of a specific research topic with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 8. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 9. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data and complete a range of research-like tasks with very limited guidance
  • 10. 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
  • 11. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Following discussions with dissertation supervisor in the first week of the term, you will define a topic to be researched and discussed in the literature review. You will then independently research the topic through standard sources, primarily expected to be primary research papers with some guidance from review papers. You will be expected to meet with supervisors to discuss progress during the term.

You will be expected to discuss a plan for the dissertation, including a detailed outline, with the supervisor early in the term.

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 teaching2Introductory guidance from the module coordinator
Scheduled learning and teaching2Guidance specific to the literature review topic from the supervisor – the number of meetings will depend on the student and dissertation project
Guided independent study146After introductory guidance from the dissertation supervisor, students will work independently with further one-on-one guidance and assistance as and when required


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during meetings 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
Dissertation outline101 pageAllWritten and oral
Literature review904000 wordsAllWritten


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Dissertation outlineNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Literature reviewLiterature reviewAllAugust 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 dissertation outline is not deferrable because of the cumulative nature of the module. 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 the original literature review. 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

Reading for the dissertation will be determined by the topic chosen by the student and supervisor, but will include mainly primary literature on the dissertation topic, supported by review papers.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Dissertation, experimental design, independent research, data analysis, literature review, animal behaviour, conservation, ecology, evolution, environmental science, marine biology, zoology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date