MMB8100 : Research Skills and Principles for the Biosciences

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials131:0013:00Non-synchronous online: Delivery of key knowledge
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical51:307:30Non-synchronous online: Computer-based tutorials in statistics
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Synchronous online: Semester 2 ethics teaching
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities41:004:00Non-synchronous online: Student-led small group presentation/discussion sessions.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery51:005:00Present in person: Further advice on statistics and experimental design
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1160:30160:30Reading on topics covered, computer-based practice of statistics, prep for in-course ethics test
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lecture materials 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.

Assessment Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Computer assessment2M501 hour computer-based online EMI and short answer question test.
Computer assessment1M25Online time-restricted MCQ test (40 mins)
Computer assessment1M25Online time-restricted MCQ test (40 mins)
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
Reflective logMShort discussion group report on meeting dates and topics presented and discussed.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The MCQ assessments 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.

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. 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.
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.

Reading Lists