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PHY8002 : Research Skills I: Scientific Methods

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Thomas Billam
  • Owning School: Mathematics, Statistics and Physics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The overall aim of the Module is to furnish the students with an understanding of the general scientific method and the principles of scientific literature and communication. Students will learn the style of scientific writing and what information and structure must be included in technical reports and journal publications. They will learn how to conduct extensive literature searches and how to cite references in documents. They will develop their skills at producing publication-standard figures. They will learn the style of a scientific talk and develop their communication skills. They will also become familiar with principles and practices of storing, manipulating and presenting research data, and gain understanding of the importance of making research data freely available where possible and abiding by ethical and data protection regulations. By the end of this module, the student will have a detailed understanding of the expectations of publishing research articles and the generic skills to perform this.

Outline Of Syllabus

The content of this module is centred around the courses offered by the PGRDP, and will cover five areas:
•       The scientific method and principles
•       Preparing documents with LaTeX and BIBTex
•       Scientific writing and literature Review
•       Data Manipulation and Graphs
•       Scientific presentations

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion601:0060:00Case study report preparation
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion201:0020:00Journal Club preparation
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading451:0045:00Literature search and reading
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Tutorials- present-in-person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops102:0020:00PGRDP workshops
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study451:0045:00Follow up on workshops and tutorials
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

All knowledge outcomes, i.e computing software, report writing tools, literature databases, data management, etc. will be introduced in workshops or tutorials, allowing the students to immediately engage. These activities will be mainly organised by the Postgraduate Researcher Development Programme, and supported by the small-group tutorials with the module leader where this is necessary to support the learning aims. Independent study will allow the student to deepen their expertise with these tools.

In a small group teaching setting taught by the module leader, the students will discuss the reading materials and datasets that form the basis of a case study research article. The students will then bring this together with the lecture material as they undertake tasks covering the intended skill outcomes:

1. Give a scientific “Journal Club” presentation describing the article, providing a critical evaluation of its findings and impact.

2. Construct a scientific synopsis of their case study paper, in which they assimilate aspects such as background and context, numerical results, a critical evaluation of the impact of the article, and produce publication-quality figures and tables to summarise the findings, all produced in LaTeX.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M75Scientific report based on a case study paper and dataset(s). 6-10 pages, 4-8 figures, ~2700 words
Prof skill assessmnt1M25Scientific “Journal Club” presentation based on a case study paper. 15 minutes + 5 minutes Q&A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Project supervisors will provide a “case study” paper and dataset(s) based on previous work which the students will analyse. The students will give a “Journal Club” presentation on the case study paper, and produce a report based on the case study paper and dataset that is formatted like a scientific publication. The presentation and report will test the student’s ability to critically evaluate a scientific article, to assimilate background information relating to the article, to critically evaluate the range of methodologies available to the article, and to present a concise synopsis of the article, in both of the main media of modern scientific communication. The presentation will test the student’s ability to plan, prepare and deliver a high-level scientific presentation. The report will test the student’s ability to plan, format and produce a high-level scientific report presented up to a publication standard, including figures and tables that demonstrate ability to store, manipulate and present research data. The “Journal Club” presentation has a secondary formative purpose for feedback ahead of the case study report, as well as its primary summative purpose.

If necessary present-in-person activities and oral assessments may be moved to synchronous online. Students should consult their individual timetable and Canvas for up-to-date delivery information.

Reading Lists