Research Project

How to see the woods and the trees


Introduction to the module

This introduction is to make you aware of the aims of the module, the approach that will be taken and the expectations that the tutor will have of your input.

This module is designed to enable you to develop the skills of planning, performing, analyzing and reporting on practical investigations. The module is based around a set text which you should have ready access to:

Chalmers, N. and Parker, P. (1986) The OU Project Guide. 
Field Studies Council
ISBN: 1851538099

There are other texts which can offer details of the traditional (and vital) skills associated with environmental fieldwork and some of these will be discussed in one of the Video conference (VC) support sessions. Statistics and experimental design are treated in:

Ruxton, G. D. & Colegrave, N. (2003) Experimental Design for the Life Sciences.
Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0199252327

The VC tutorials are intended to help you tackle your research by providing a forum for sharing ideas, insights, and problems. You may not be able to come to all tutorials (especially if your practical work demands attention), but your colleagues can help you; you can help them.

It is especially advisable to come to the statistical analysis tutorials.

The three goals of the module are:

  • The design, carrying out and reporting on of your own practical investigation.

  • The development of a "toolkit" of skills to enable you to carry out your chosen practical work, and diverse work in the future.

  • Developing an appreciation for the role of practical investigation in gaining a greater understanding of the world around us.

  • An indicative structure for the module is posted on Blackboard, in the form of a Timetable. The focus of each VC session is flexible, and we will deal with individual problems each week as best we can, so be prepared to bring your troubles with you.
    Please check Blackboard regularly for alterations to the topics of VCs.

    The list of VC topics is in this order:

    1. Introduction: Appropriate Research Questions

    2. Topics and Formulating Hypotheses

    3. Planning your Research

    4. Practical Work Tips

    5. Analysing Results

    6. Risk Assessment

    7. Literature and Referencing

    8. Reports

    9. Analysis of Results Revisited

    10. Preparing for Finish

    11. Any Questions?

    12. About Your Viva Voce Exam

    The date for handing in the report is the end of week 12. From this you will see that you must work from the very start of the module if you are to present a report on time and be ready for your viva. If you keep in touch with your tutor, and, ideally, attend the VCs, you will know what stage your investigation should be at from week to week, and you should be prompted, supported, and guided through the process.
    If you do not follow this advice, however, you may find it a little difficult to hand in quality work on time. But don't let this put you off; I hope you find the module rewarding and enjoyable. Finally........

    Please be aware that practical work of any kind might entail hazards. It is your responsibility to assess these hazards and only carry out work when these are deemed to be minimal given reasonable behaviour and adequate preparation. Your tutor will be available for advice on this and all other module related matters.