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

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00Delivery of key knowledge in standard lecture format
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical51:307:30Computer-based tutorials in statistics
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading31:103:30Reflection on the three external seminars attended and preparation of the abstracts
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study31:003:00Attending three seminars from a choice of all across the University for external attendance
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study41:004:00Student-led small group presentation/discussion sessions.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1581:00158:00Reading on topics covered, computer-based practice of statistics, prep for incourse ethics test
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 and to seek further guidance (within the sessions) as required. Interactive tools, such as Turning Point, 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. Attending seminars external to the module allows students to select research presentations of particular interest or of relevance to the MRes programme being undertaken and will provide material for practice and assessment in summarising research in scientific abstract format and evaluating adherence to ethical principles, sound experimental design and appropriate statistical analysis.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination601A501 hour computer-based MCQ text completed online
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Computer assessment2M501 hour computer-based EMI and short answer question test.
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
Reflective logMOne abstract (150 words) for each of three seminars attended (external to MRes)
Reflective logMShort discussion group report on meeting dates and topics presented and discussed.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The MCQ exam 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.

In addition to the formal examination, 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 from, 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 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 will be required to attend additional seminars and submit completed pro-formas until attainment is satisfactory.
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