Learning outcomes

The aims of this course are to help you to:

  • Understand the key concepts in scientific research
  • Understand why it is important to formulate a good research question and how to do so
  • Be able to identify, evaluate and select appropriate experimental designs for your research
  • Be able to assess the type and quantity of data needed for you research project, and how to analyse it
  • Be aware of practical problems that can affect your research and be better able to respond to them.

Using the module

Welcome to Research Methods in the Sciences. This course will aim to support postgraduate researchers undertaking independent research in the sciences.

If this is the first time you have accessed Research Methods in the Sciences course, or if you need a brief reminder, here is some information on how the screens are organised, and some of the tools and features that are used throughout:


Content

  • The centre of each screen contains the core content for each course, presented either as text, interactive activities, graphics, videos or animations
  • Text highlighted in a box preceded by an arrow contains instructions on how to navigate the activities that follow
  • Note that your responses to the note-making and text entry activities (where you type responses in the space provided) can be printed and used as part of your ongoing work
  • At the top of each screen you will see an indication of the approximate time it will take to complete the core content. These estimates include time to watch videos and complete activities in the central section, but not to complete the 'Optional activities'.

Pods

Throughout this course, you will see additional learning opportunities in 'pods'. The pods in this course contain useful links to further resources and sources of guidance, as well as additional information expanding on the material in the main part of the screen. Exploring the information provided in the pods will enrich the learning experience.


Quiz

At the very end of each module, you have the opportunity to test your learning further with a multiple-choice quiz. This consists of five questions and can be taken more than once (a new set of questions will appear).

The Research Methods in the Sciences course is designed to gradually build up your understanding and skills. We recommend that you complete the modules in the order given, but they have been designed so you can access each of them independently according to your own requirements and those of your institution.

Expert panel

Authors

Revised Edition

Dr. Keith Hart

Dr. Keith Hart

Dr. Keith Hart works for Cardiff University School of Medicine in the Institute for Translation, Innovation, Methodology and Engagement. He provides support to the research community in South Wales via his role within Central Biotechnology Services, and is the Principal Investigator on a research project aimed at developing novel cancer immunotherapeutics. He is actively involved in furthering the public understanding of science in health and enjoyed a British Association for the Advancement of Science Media Fellowship at the BBC World Service. Keith has been a Research Fellow in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine at Oxford and has co-authored many papers including publications in the high-impact journals Science and Immunity.


First Edition

Dr. Gordon Rugg

Dr. Gordon Rugg

Gordon Rugg has a multidisciplinary background, which includes work as an English Lecturer and in Archaeology. He also holds a doctorate in Psychology, and has carried out postdoctoral work on information science and human-computer interaction. A significant strand of his work involves a critical understanding of research and research methods from a student perspective; his books with Marian Petre (The Unwritten Rules of Ph.D. Research and A Gentle Guide to Research Methods) arose from this. He is also interested in how research actually happens, particularly in relation to how research can go wrong at various levels, ranging from logic and the use of evidence, through to psychological and social factors.


First Edition

Dr. Nick Sevdalis

Dr. Nick Sevdalis

Nick Sevdalis is an experimental psychologist, currently Senior Lecturer in the Department of Surgery, at Imperial College London. Nick is an expert in cognitive and behavioural skills assessment and training in healthcare. His research group is an international leader in developing scientific assessment tools and training modules for operating theatre, resuscitation and cancer teams. Nick has been conducting qualitative and quantitative research within healthcare and experimental settings for many years. He has been lecturing on statistics and research design and methods for more than ten years. Currently, Nick teaches applied statistics at postgraduate level at Imperial College London.


First Edition

Dr. Raj Rajarajan

Dr. Raj Rajarajan

Raj Rajarajan is Assistant Dean at City University London. He has a BEng degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and a Ph.D. in Information Engineering, and leads the mobile networks research team at City University which has an international reputation in the field of mobile SIM-based authentication. He has supervised several Ph.D. students and teaches the research methods module for postgraduate students at City University. In addition, Raj is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical Electronic and Information Engineering in the US and has published more than 100 journal and conference papers in engineering-related areas. He is also a regular reviewer for many well-respected engineering journals in the UK and the US.


First Edition

Prof. Paul Langford

Prof. Paul Langford

Paul Langford is Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London. His research interests include understanding the pathogenicity of, and developing vaccines and diagnostics for, bacteria that cause meningitis and lung diseases of pigs and man. Most of his work involves collaboration with universities, industry and government agencies not only in the UK but also abroad. He has been involved with professional skills development training for postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers for many years. This also includes contributing to the provision of training programmes and the design and delivery of specific courses in China, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK.


Reviewer

First Edition

Prof. Chris Thomas

Prof. Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas is Professor of Molecular Genetics in the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham. His research focuses on antibiotic biosynthesis, antibiotic resistance and the mobile genetic elements of bacteria. He read Biochemistry at Oxford where he also completed his DPhil in Microbiology. He was Director of the Biosciences Graduate Research School and the first Director of the University Graduate School. He is currently Director of Graduate Research in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences. He has a strong interest in helping postgraduate students develop their general skills as well as specialist skills for research. He teaches a scientific writing course drawing on his experience as Editor in Chief of the international journal Microbiology-SGM. He also has considerable experience of working with non-UK students through the Darwin-Trust funded programme for overseas students.


Accessibility advisor

Revised Edition

Wilma Alexander

Wilma Alexander

Wilma Alexander is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy with Master's degrees in Human-Computer Interaction, Linguistics and Information Science. She has over 15 years of experience as a manager with the online learning team at the University of Edinburgh, where she specialised in usable and accessible digital practice, tutored on the groundbreaking Master's degree in Digital Education and developed online staff training on accessible e-learning and online tutoring skills. Since retiring from the University at the end of 2015, Wilma has provided consultancy services on all aspects of online learning, with a special focus on accessibility and usability issues.


Developed in conjunction with:

The Research Skills programme has been developed in conjunction with the following institutions:

  • Cardiff University
  • City University London
  • Cranfield University
  • Durham University
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Imperial College London
  • King's College London
  • Lancaster University
  • London Metropolitan University
  • Loughborough University
  • University College Dublin
  • University College London
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Bath
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Limerick
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Reading
  • University of Strathclyde