Skip to main content

Module

MMB8100 : Research Skills and Principles for the Biosciences

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor John Matthews
  • Lecturer: Dr Christopher Morris, Professor Simon Woods, Professor Ted Schrecker, Mr Jan Deckers, Dr Cristina Fernandez-Garcia
  • Owning School: FMS Graduate School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

The aim of the module is to equip students with a framework for research project planning, recording, experimental design, and data management and interpretation to be applied as they progress to individual, specific research projects and academic or industrial research careers in the biosciences. The module is also aimed to contribute to the personal development of students as independent researchers through exposure to and engagement in mechanisms for research dissemination and discussion. The module has been designed to acquaint students with some key principles underlying good practice in biosciences research and to prepare students for critical reflection and ethical decision-making in relation to research in this area.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module introduces and explores the basic principles of good practice in relation to experimental design, statistical analysis and ethics that underlie all aspects of research in the biosciences and develops critical reflection on the application of these principles in specific research contexts.

Students will be introduced to the importance of biostatistics for quantitative research and the value of appropriate experimental design and analysis. They will develop and apply skills in these areas interactively. The specific topics covered will include: populations and samples; mean, SD and normal distributions; standard error and estimation; confidence intervals; t-tests; simple linear regression; correlation; residual plots; qualitative data; 2x2 tables; Fisher's exact test; odds ratios; interaction; general issues and principles of experimental design; randomization and blocks; factorial and other special designs; replication and sample size in planning studies; multi-level designs, including identification of units.

Students will receive instruction on recording original research and on data management and storage.

Students will also receive instruction on and be required to consider critically relevant ethical issues, covering the use of human organs and tissues, the use of human embryos, the use of animals, the role of ethics committees, ethical issues related to research in genetics and stem cell research, ethical issues related to public health research, informed consent, confidentiality, and data protection.

Students will promote their personal development as independent researchers through attending and reflecting on seminars external to the MRes programme and by participating in small group presentation and discussion.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture251:0025:00Present in person (PIP): delivery of key knowledge
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities51:307:30Non-synchronous online: computer-based practicals in statistics
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities41:004:00Non-synchronous online: student-led small group presentation/discussion sessions.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery51:307:30Present in person (PIP): further support, especially for the online practicals
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1149:00149:00Reading on topics covered, practice of statistics, prep for assessments
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study41:004:00Student-led small group presentation/discussion sessions
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study31:003:00Attending three seminar from a choice of all across the University for external attendance
Total200:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures provide the means of delivering to students the core information required to acquire the intended knowledge outcomes and thus be able to identify within medical or research scenarios relevant ethical, design and statistical issues and to match these to appropriate regulatory procedures and/or statistical tests and to evaluate the extent to which research presented adheres to the principles of good practice in these areas. The computer-based practical exercises in statistics will reinforce the theoretical teaching delivered didactically and allow students to test the extent to which they have acquired the necessary knowledge and understanding of these topics. Five drop-in problem sessions will be timetabled for those wishing further advice. Interactive tools, suitable to encourage active reflection and poll group opinion will be used when appropriate in lectures on subjects related to bioethics, since these forms of interaction will encourage an understanding of the diversity of opinion around such issues and thus the need for tight regulatory procedures.

Should public health circumstances dictate that it is necessary, in person sessions will be moved to online alternatives.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Exams
Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination601A50Present in person time-restricted MCQ test (60 mins). 30 questions.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Computer assessment2M50Present in person 1 hour computer-based online EMI & short answer question test. (Up to 10 EMI & up to 10 short answer questions)
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
Reflective logMShort discussion group report listing meeting dates and topics presented and discussed
Reflective logMOne abstract (150 words) for each of the three seminars attended (external to MRes)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The MCQ assessment will test the extent to which students can identify experimental designs most suitable for specific research questions and select and apply statistical tests suitable for particular forms of data.

The in-course EMI and short answer test will assess knowledge of regulatory procedures and ethical principles, and ability to identify and discuss diverse ethical issues within a biomedical context.

Both of the above are online assessments. Should public health circumstances dictate that it is necessary, these invigilated on campus assessments will be moved to remote time-limited alternatives.

In addition to the formal examination and short answer test there are 2 pass/fail exercises to complete.

Students will be required to complete for each of three selected seminars external to the module that they have attended a pro-forma including a 150 word summary in scientific abstract form, a comment on the requirement to consider ethical issues to undertake the work presented and, as appropriate and as far as can be evaluated from the information provided in the seminar, evaluative comments on the extent to which the research presented adhered to principles of sound experimental design and statistical analysis. Students will be required to attend additional seminars and submit completed pro-formas until attainment is satisfactory.

Students will also be allocated to groups of approximately 8 and required to organise a series of discussion sessions at which they each take a turn to present then lead discussion on a topic/paper of their choice. Each group must submit a pro-forma listing dates of meetings, discussion leaders and topics presented. Students who do not engage in the student-led group discussions will be required to present and discuss a selected research paper at a forum monitored by a member of academic staff.

These exercises will not carry a mark but must be completed to a satisfactory standard, as judged by the MRes Degree Programme Director or nominee

Reading Lists

Timetable