Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes

  • Identify the type and quantity of data needed to answer your research question
  • Evaluate a variety of data collection and sampling methods from across a number of STEM disciplines
  • Identify and consider a variety of sampling procedures and the statistical implications, including calculation of sample size
  • Reflect critically on the practicalities and challenges of data collection
  • Describe how to select the data collection methods appropriate for your research question and research methodology
  • Identify different data management issues relevant to security and accessibility of research data.

Using the module

Welcome to Research Methods in Practice: STEM. This course explores the practical applications of research methods in STEM disciplines. Through practical examples, scenarios and case studies, it will help you to reflect on the challenges you might face during your research project.

Research Methods in Practice: STEM is intended as an introduction to research methods in STEM disciplines. Principles of Research Methods provides a more in-depth overview of research methods, with examples in multiple disciplinary areas. We suggest that you complete Principles of Research Methods before starting this course.

Research in STEM enables us to explore and better understand the living, material and physical world around us, and to develop high-level analytical and problem-solving skills. Research Methods in Practice: STEM consists of two interconnected modules exploring data collection and analysis methods across a range of STEM disciplines, including the biomedical sciences, natural and physical sciences, engineering and applied mathematics. We recommend you complete both modules for a fuller understanding of the topics covered.

This module is designed to introduce you to a variety of data collection and sampling methods employed in STEM research, as well as issues relating to data management and to assumptions, preferences and bias. It will help you to identify and evaluate the methods and the type and quantity of data appropriate for your own research project.

If this is the first time you have accessed Research Methods in Practice: STEM, 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 the course, presented as either 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
  • Terms highlighted like this are clickable glossary terms, and can be clicked on to access pop-up boxes containing definitions of key terms
  • Note that your responses to the notemaking 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 read the content in pods.

Pods

Throughout this course, you will see additional learning opportunities in 'pods'. Exploring the information provided in the pods will enrich the learning experience.

  • Useful information Contains extra content to expand or emphasise key points from the main screen.
  • Learn more Contains links to useful external resources and suggestions for further reading to help you explore issues raised in the main screen.
  • Your context Contains links and information specific to your context and/or institution.
  • Download Contains the glossary for the entire course.

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 six questions and can be taken more than once (a new set of questions will appear).


Research Methods in Practice: STEM 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

Author

Dr. Rosemary K. Clyne

Dr. Rosemary K. Clyne

Rosemary K. Clyne earned her Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and conducted postdoctoral work as a Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Fellow at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP Vienna). She has broad experience teaching a range of subjects in biomedical science to diverse cohorts of students in Ireland, the UK and China. She is currently Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, where she has been awarded three consecutive Queen Mary Education Excellence Awards for her pedagogical work. She is the recipient of the 2020 Teaching Excellence Award from the Biochemical Society and is a Principal Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy.


Contributor

Dr. Catherine Dawson

Dr. Catherine Dawson

Catherine Dawson is a researcher and writer specialising in research methods, digital research methods and teaching research methods. She has worked as a researcher and tutor for a number of UK universities and colleges, including the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and Northern College, an adult residential college located near Barnsley. Over the years she has developed and delivered a number of research methods courses for postgraduate students, and has delivered bespoke training courses in the public and private sectors. She has also published a variety of research methods books aimed at undergraduates, postgraduates and tutors.


Lead advisors

Professor Fiona Denney

Professor Fiona Denney

Fiona Denney is a Professor of Business Education at Brunel Business School, Brunel University London, where she has a particular focus on supporting and enhancing the student experience. From 2014 to 2020 she was the Director of the Brunel Educational Excellence Centre, supporting learning and teaching enhancement for both staff and students. Fiona is a member of the Executive Committee of the UK Council for Graduate Education, a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). She has a Ph.D. in marketing and has held academic posts in marketing and management studies. Fiona has worked in academic staff development since 2003 and has research interests in academic leadership.

Professor Douglas Halliday

Professor Douglas Halliday

Douglas Halliday is Director of the Durham Global Challenges Centre for Doctoral Training, supporting a cohort of 25 students from developing nations to undertake multidisciplinary doctoral research exploring solutions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. He is also a Co-Director of Durham Energy Institute and the Director of the Multidisciplinary Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy, which trains doctoral candidates across science and social sciences. He has helped organise the UK Council for Graduate Education International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education and Training. Previously, he was Dean of Durham's Graduate School from 2005 to 2010 and a recipient of a 2009 THE Award for Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Higher Education Academy and the Energy Institute.


Reviewers

Professor Ali Bahadori-Jahromi

Professor Ali Bahadori-Jahromi

Ali Bahadori-Jahromi is a Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of West London and course leader for undergraduate and postgraduate civil and environmental engineering, including the civil engineering degree apprenticeship. He is head of the Building Performance and Climate Change research group, which has produced several research outputs and a number of Ph.D. graduates and attracted collaboration and research funding from leading companies and research centres. Ali is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a Chartered Engineer (CEng). He is also a member of the Joint Board of Moderators, which is the UK accreditation body for civil engineering courses, and Chartered Examiner for the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Professor Mary McNamara

Professor Mary McNamara

Mary McNamara (CChem, FRSC) is Head of the Graduate Research School, Technological University Dublin, Ireland. She graduated with an honours degree from the Royal Society of Chemistry and obtained a Ph.D. in Physical Inorganic Chemistry from University College Dublin. Mary was a member (2012–2018) of the steering committee of the Council for Doctoral Education of the European University Association and, in Ireland, she is a member of the National Forum on Research Integrity. Mary is also a member of the National Advisory Forum for Ireland's National Framework for Doctoral Education. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and an active researcher in the development of novel drug delivery systems.

Dr. Alison Reynolds

Dr. Alison Reynolds

Alison Reynolds earned her Ph.D. in Ocular Genetics at Trinity College Dublin. Following this, she moved to University College Dublin, where she performed postdoctoral studies, gaining experience in pharmacology as well as drug discovery and development. Since 2016, she has worked as an Assistant Professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at University College Dublin, where she teaches anatomy, physiology, developmental biology, genetics and occasionally pharmacology to veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and science undergraduates. In addition, she runs a research team focused on learning more about inherited and acquired forms of blindness.

Dr. Erik Wapstra

Dr. Erik Wapstra

Erik Wapstra is a behavioural and evolutionary ecologist and Associate Professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the University of Tasmania. He is a former Australian Research Council Future Fellow. He co-leads the Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology Research Group, which includes a vibrant and dynamic cohort of postdocs and higher degree by research (HDR) students. He has supervised more than 20 HDR students to completion. Erik is currently Associate Dean of Research (HDR) in the College of Sciences and Engineering and provides leadership and mentorship to graduate research coordinators responsible for more than 600 HDR students.


Accessibility advisor

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.